Letters to the stars: Dear Russell Crowe

Art & Culture


Dear Russell Crowe, 
Is it too soon to suggest that you've given up any ambition to be taken seriously as an actor? As the years and the pounds pile up, you've decided to settle for being a middle aged film star whose name can adorn film posters without the necessity of having to work too hard. Shame.
I do understand that it's tough to maintain high standards, and your standards were pretty high. The 90s were your best period, with a little overspill into the 21st Century. For a while, you were the go to guy for a character who was a) manly (not something most American stars can manage), b) tough (ditto) and c) potentially obnoxious (double ditto). Can we imagine Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt (all a similar age) playing General Maximus in Gladiator? Exactly. In fact, I think that you deserved the Oscar for the fact that you are almost literally the only person who could have played that role and carried the film so successfully.
Take that role and put it alongside the mild mannered, middle aged tobacco industry executive turned whistleblower in The Insider and you have a complete change of pace and character. Maximus would eat Wigand for breakfast and spit out the bones. So would Bud White (from L.A.Confidential) for that matter. And a showdown between Bud and Maximus would be fun, though the Roman's superior intelligence would probably seem him through. Let's throw in Captain Jack Aubrey for good measure. As Patrick O'Brian's all-too-human leader in Master & Commander, you combined intelligence with charisma, thus completing the circle of interesting varied and vibrant characters.
Ten years later, and you're heading down the route that Marlon Brando took, and not just because you're playing Jor El in the new Superman movie. Like Brando, (and Depardieu for that matter) you seem to have decided that acting is for mugs, and that mugging is for actors. And one of the ways you show your contempt for your audience is by neglecting your physique. This is not a question of being prejudiced against fat people, simply that an actor's body is as much a part of his repertoire as his voice and his ability to project different personalities. And there's also the issue of the public persona. Again, it's your choice if you want to be the Big Bad Tough Hombre who takes no shit from no one, but you can only get away with that sort of stuff when you're young, and when your movies make us incline to overlook your foibles.
Because when we look at the output since Master & Commander, we're looking at a very second and third rate bunch of forgettable films with unmemorable performances. Distinguish, if you can, between Richie Roberts, Ed Hoffman, Cal McAffrey and Robin Longstride (the respective films being American Gangster, Body of Lies, State Of Play and Robin Hood). All of them are chunky men in early middle age with a variety of hairstyles, full of attitude and sounding and looking similar. They are mostly directed by your mate Ridley Scott – and we haven't even mentioned your unwise trip down RomCom Lane with Ridley in  A Good Year – and they lack an ounce of imagination and originality. They are formulaic and disposable.
And now there's Les Miserables, two and a half hours of emotive nonsense, loosely based on Victor Hugo's novel, complete with you, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway singing your hearts out – or trying to, anyway. Followed by another bog standard Hollywood thriller with Mark Wahlberg, and the aforementioned Superman movie. None of these parts are tapping your potential. I agree that as things stand, you are better cast as a bad guy than a hero, but you no longer look like a plausible human being, which is a big disadvantage when you are acting.
I'm sure you know that you should lose weight, and can't be arsed to do so, reckoning that if you can earn several million quid a movie looking the way you do, then why should you bother with all that dieting rubbish? The point is, that if you did get back in shape, it would be a sign that you are taking yourself and your work seriously. There are too many great actors gone to seed (let's add in Anthony Hopkins) who seem to despise the art form/business that has given them wealth and fame. I can imagine that it must be hard to take the film industry seriously, but if you don't like it, you shouldn't do it. The world won't end if we don't have any more Russell Crowe films for a few years while you sort out your priorities. At the moment you run the risk of becoming a caricature of yourself. I'm sure you would hate that, and if you don't, then you should.

Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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