Something else was happening during this period however, Russell and his co-star Meg Ryan had fallen in love filming Proof of Life in isolated Quito, Ecuador. Meg’s marriage had ended and they found themselves in a situation neither had planned. The isolation of the set gave them a period of peace, unfortunately that didn’t last. When they finished in Ecuador, they went to England to finish the scenes for Proof of Life. But because of the exposure from Gladiator, Russell was no longer anonymous, and Meg certainly wasn’t, everyone knew who Maximus was and they were bombarded with press, most of it bad, and the rest just intrusive and unwanted. They both refused to discuss their private lives.
I believe that this was one of the hardest times for Russell. His Uncle David to whom Russell was very close died of cancer during the filming. The must have been a very difficult and emotional time for him. He had built a relationship with a woman he cared about, and coming back to the world from the jungle was like getting hit in the face with a damp towel. When they arrived in England where he had moved freely only a few months earlier it was totally different, he was faced with paparazzi following him, fans everywhere he went, and the press bound and determined to find out every detail of he and Meg’s life together. There were even stories at the time of him having all his underwear stolen from the hotel laundry. I don’t know if it true, but somehow considering the climate of that particular time it wouldn’t surprise me. But the major joy of civilization must have been the nasty headlines, not only about himself but the woman he cared about.
Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts kicked off their concert season by doing a one night only in London at The Borderline Then it was off to Austin, Texas.
Russell came to Texas and thankfully, seemed to spend several good weeks with his band mates. He was beginning to prepare for the movie he was to do with Jodie Foster riding his mountain bike, and working out.
Russell and the grunts recorded a new album, and shot a documentary during 2000. Bastard Life or Clarity was the result.
Russell had injured his shoulder while shooting Gladiator and re-injured it rolling down a hill repeatedly in Proof of Life, unfortunately shortly after the concerts were finished he damaged it to the point of great pain and severe lack of use. He had to bow out of Flora Plum and go home to Australia for surgery.
Some of the press started making noise about how he had “faked an injury” to get out of the lower wages he was reported to have taken for Flora Plum, or that he was more interested in spending time with Meg Ryan than filming it. Of course it was all bull, Russell is not perfect, but his work ethic is rather well known and almost aggressive in its nature. After Russell had extensive surgery on his shoulder he shut the lot of them up by putting detailed pictures of the shoulder from the INSIDE on the inter-net. J You have got to love a man with a sense of humor.
The press however never missed a chance to bring up his relationship with Meg Ryan and much of it was the stuff that covers the bottom of birdcages very effectively. And the headlines were more disgusting then anything the birds might drop on them.
Just as the press was dying down a bit, Meg went to Australia for a visit and to see the Olympics, and it all started up again. Shame that two grown adults can’t live in peace, but in their case it seemed a non-stop feeding frenzy.
By December Russell and Meg had returned to being just friends and she spent the holidays with her son while Russell shared them in Australia with his family. Later Russell would admit that the constant press and the horrible things being said took a toll on the relationship.
You will not find much press from this era archived on this web site, as most of it was without worth. I go into all this private stuff because a short synopsis of the truth is better then reading 50 articles containing virtual loads of crap.
Proof of Life premiered in Los Angeles, it was set up as a charity event benefiting the Wildlife Way Station (He would later also donate a cut from his band for a CD released for the same cause) and many fans were able to see the movie with the cast and crew.
Proof of Life proved however, to be a failed proposition, there are many theories as to why it was not a success in the box office, but in my opinion it was the cut. They decided to change the focus from an adventure/love story to a straight adventure story and it was not successful. The movie was shot to one purpose, and then abruptly changed when the publicity surrounding the romance between the principle actors broke out. Editing is always tricky, but when the focus of the story is one thing, and then it gets re-directed to another the transition is not often a good one. What could have been a good movie became an OK one. Personally I think it should have been cut to the original intent, and the devil-take the hind most. But, my opinion and $2.50 will buy me a Starbuck’s Latte.
Was Russell’s performance in Proof of Life bad? Absolutely not, even a bad cut could not kill Russell’s Terry Thorne, the raw material was so good it shone through. His reviews were good, although they were lack luster for the movie on the whole. Watching him as Thorne is not to be missed, he is a wonderfully contained, very smart, highly efficient. dangerous man. And the last 5-7 minutes of the film make anything you have to go through to get there worthwhile. If the cut did anything perfect, this was it. The last scene of the movie is nothing but the stark beauty of Ecuador and a close up of Russell as Terry, the emotions playing across his face, and in those eyes. It is truly extraordinary.
The premiere of Proof of Life in England brought with it a major change in Russell’s persona. Suddenly Russell was surrounded by large men, serious men, official looking men. I watched the footage and got immediately worried. He looked all-the world like a politician in a war zone. He had never been surrounded by bodyguards usually he was accompanied by his assistant Mark Dumbrell, not a bevy of muscle bound-dark suited-square jaws—something was very wrong.
The Golden Globes was worse, if you could blanket a person in bodies; this is what it would look like. He came in late, herded by this mass of men, and left early to miss the crowd leaving the pavilion. (Of course at the time it was reported he left because he didn’t win the globe, *spit*) Tom Hanks won the award for Castaway.
The concern was rising and we were whispering back and forth wondering what exactly was going on. Days later the kidnapping threat was announced. Someone, or some group was planning to kidnap Russell. Their initial plan had been to do it while he was in England at the premiere. The FBI had received the information and passed it on to the authorities in England. Scotland yard had taken it seriously and accompanied him while he was in London.
After the news broke there were rumors that the whole thing was a publicity stunt, the FBI in an uncharacteristic way came out and announced that it was not a hoax of any kind and that they were treating it as a serious threat. Thankfully it was not carried out, and Russell slowly went back to a bit lower level of security.
Things were a little better at the Screen Actors Guild awards. He had less people with him and seemed a bit more relaxed. Benicio Del Toro won for Traffic.
Finally Oscar night, he showed up at the Oscars with Danielle Spencer and the press scrambled to find out who she was. They could have asked us we knew who she was. J. About 1 hour and 45 minutes later I believe the decibels of sound across America took a big jump, finally after 3 disappointing nights in 2000, and 2 in 2001, the big one goes to Russell, he is dumfounded stuck in his chair. We the fans for the most part are anything but, I have heard stories of screaming, dancing, laughing, crying and other calisthenics, I know my Cocker Spaniel and I had quite a good time jumping up and down after hearing the magic words, “The Oscar goes to Russell Crowe”. Sparky actually didn’t know why he was jumping up and down, but hey any excuse right?
I had suspected that Maximus might be the vehicle to bring Russell his first Oscar, but after the disappointment of the Golden Globes and the incomprehensible weirdness of a supporting role getting actor of the year at the Screen Actor’s Guild, I figured they were not going to give Russell what he deserved. Thank God I was wrong. It was a great night. And the glow seemed to last for weeks. It was nice to have something good to think about. And no more “Russell Who?” (For more on awards including movies of his acceptance speeches and etc, click Awards on the side bar of any index page.)
The day after the Oscars Russell left for Princeton and the filming of A Beautiful Mind. There was a charming little interview done at the Bel Air shortly before he left. He actually had Mr. Oscar tucked into a cloth laundry bag from the hotel and in the middle of the questions he whipped it out and jokingly made it “talk” to the cameras. Funny stuff classic Russell.
Filming started on time and without a hitch. The students for the most part were considerate of the shoot. There was a small incident where a student kept interrupting the shoot yelling at Russell, he finally lost patience and flipped her the bird, the infamous “Princetonian Salute”. This of course was blown into an incident of global proportions. Note to reader, when you see tabloid headlines about Russell, count on it being mostly BS and the rest slanted. The tabloid stories after this incident tried to convince people that Russell was bad to the fans, and inconsiderate to the people around him at the shoot. Dozens of people I know were at Princeton, and if anything the opposite is true, Russell was warm and receptive and treated his fans very well. The man is not a saint only human, but while he may not have wings of an angel, I have never seen a tail extending out of his jeans either.
Summer brought another concert season. And this one was a biggie, Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts again took over Stubb’s in Austin, as well as the historic Stone Pony in New Jersey, the 60’s venue The Filmore in San Francisco. They performed at The House of Blues in LA and Chicago. They also had concerts in Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, and New York City. The documentary from the year before was sold on DVD at the concerts. “Texas” has become the most sought after DVD in the history of E-bay. Selling for as much as $800.00 on the open market. The band also did a couple of concerts in Europe including a benefit done for the charities of Sarah Ferguson. The concert in Austin on the 18th of August was dedicated to the daughter of the governor of Texas, and the proceeds went to a program for female teens in trouble.
Danielle Spencer who had been such an important person in his life for many years appeared with him opening with her band. A few months later Russell would announce he was in love and quickly it became apparent that Danielle and he were back together.
A Beautiful Mind was considered from the beginning to be an iffy proposition for marketing. I mean, let’s be serious a movie was about a mathematician with a mental illness? This is not exactly Batman, or The Phantom Menace. But the interesting thing about ABM is the initial response was overwhelming, there is no telling what movie will catch on, and this one did. Its limited release was surprisingly successful, the theaters selling out on a regular basis. It ended up making more screen-by-screen then any movie out at the time (and this included Lord of the Rings). It opened a short time later nation wide, and there was no doubt the little movie was going to shoot the moon.
Russell is brilliant as John Forbes Nash, Jr., it is truly a performance to build a career on. But fortunately in his case with the resume of L.A. Confidential, The Insider and Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind was just icing on the cake.
When the nominations started coming in for the years award season, A Beautiful Mind was all over the place, the movie, the director, the supporting actress, the score, the screenplay were nominated over and over. And Russell and Jennifer Connelly were winning over and over. The Broadcast Film Critics awarded Russell Actor of the year for the 3rd year running. He then in rapid succession picked up the Golden Globe, The Screen Actor’s Guild, and The British Performing Arts. He was also awarded the first Global Achievement Award by the Australian Film Institute.
Unfortunately, by some freak of fate Russell after winning all the others lost the Oscar. The reason has been discussed to death. Now with the release of the DVD and an even broader audience, I am being asked regularly by non-fans, how in the world he was not recognized for this? My answer is long and varied, but basically, I have no idea, it is incomprehensible. The short answer is the academy must have had an epidemic of headuptheirassitis.
Oscar night in 2002 was truly a dismal affair. It was very difficult to watch A Beautiful Mind win Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Director and then Movie of the Year and be forced [even though his character was in all but 3 scenes, and is the backbone of the movie] to see Russell snubbed. His contribution to The Movie Of The Year was immeasurable. I was and am disgusted.
In final note about Russell and his persona. He is a complicated man, intense, intelligent, and has very pointed ideas. If you believe all his press you might be a bit confused because a good bit of it contradicts itself, if you believe all the rumors you may be even more confused. But, somewhere between what the press says and the rumors expound may be some truth, but don’t count on it. Just enjoy the gift he brings through music and film and forget the rest.
Currently Russell is filming Far Side of The World, also known as Master and Commander from the books by Patrick O’Brian about a sea captain in the British Navy during the war of 1812 and later. We had heard it would be a summer release in 2003 but recently it appears have been pushed back until Fall.
Any further schedule for films is up in the air, but The Cinderella Man is currently supposed to start in late 2003 directed by Ron Howard. Rumor also has it that Russell will be reuniting with Ridley Scott in late spring to film Tripoli.
In the more distant future still, is a plan for Russell to make his movie-directing debut, converting a famous Australian book, The Long Green Shore to the silver screen.