The Oscar-winning actor tells his story at the Rome Film Festival: from his beginnings as a barman and deejay to his success.
Russell Crowe puts on a show at the Rome Film Festival. He is the star of this revamped edition. And he allows himself to subvert the line-up of the masterclass organised at the Auditorium della Conciliazione, in front of St. Peter's. The actor from The Gladiator takes the microphone in his hand and warns the audience composed mostly of film students: 'Nothing will happen that they have organised,' he warns the moderators seated behind him, 'I will speak about myself and answer your questions. At that moment the auditorium turns into a stadium.
Obsession with acting
Russell Crowe begins to talk about his beginnings, visiting sets with his catering mother as a child and appearing as an extra in the TV series Space Force when he was six years old. "From that moment, a journey began that continues to this day," he says, "I was born in Wellington, New Zealand, not Australia. He never went to acting school, 'everything I knew I learnt on set while working as a deejay and as a bartender: I was good at making cocktails, but I was obsessed with acting and music'. At 25 comes his first feature film 'after two thousand live performances', the actor emphasises, 'don't let anyone tell you that certain things are impossible to achieve. Don't waste your energy, channel it into what you like'.
The most difficult challenges? A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man
'Every single performance was a challenge,' says the actor, but he picks out two in particular. From a psychological point of view, the toughest film was A Beautiful Mind: 'It drove me crazy because I had to enact the various tics of pathology'. From a physical point of view, the biggest challenge was Cinderella Man: 'We shot for 70 days, 36 of them in the cold rain. Sometimes I couldn't even open my mouth". But there is a third, more recent one: it is the film The Pope's Exorcist, in which he plays Father Gabriele Amorth. 'Every time I had to get close to that little boy of ten who was possessed by demons, with bloodshot eyes, I was sick'.
I also felt like an outsider
Gladiator also felt like an outsider. "I was born in New Zealand in 1964, I don't even know if there was a TV channel then," he reassures young people who feel lost in pursuing the dream of acting or directing, "of course I was an outsider, that's life. It happens to everyone to feel out of place, while you think others know what they are doing. Then suddenly something happens that changes you'.
With Ridley Scott it was tough
Popularity came with The Gladiator in 2000 and the Oscar for his performance as Maximus. "It was tough working with Ridley Scott," he admits, "over time he improved and learned how to relate to actors. Today everyone says it's great to work with him'. He then tells about the time when Joaquin Phoenix didn't feel right in the role of Commodus: "He didn't show up on the set for the dress rehearsal, he didn't want to wear that armour and that ice cream man's costume. "What am I doing here?" he told Ridley Scott, "I don't think I'm in the right place. I'm a Florida boy myself." It took half a day to convince him to put on that armour and get him over his insecurities."
Russell Crowe closes the masterclass by promising that he will return one day to perform with his band. We look forward to hearing him. Meanwhile, tomorrow he will be back in the capital to present his directorial film Poker Face, premiering at the Festa del Cinema and in cinemas from 24 November.