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State of Play - Russell Crowe interview

State of Play

Interview by Rob Carnevale

RUSSELL Crowe talks about some of the reasons that influenced his decision to appear in State of Play and why journalists should do better if they want to avert the current crisis facing their professio.

He also reveals why he took pleasure in hearing his co-star Helen Mirren saying rude words, and what it was like to work with emerging British director Kevin Macdonald… as well as offering a brief insight into Robin Hood.

Q. I gather director Kevin Macdonald got on a plane to Australia to persuade you to take the part in State of Play. Did you need much persuading?
Russell Crowe: I didn’t need persuading but I certainly wanted to meet him. I don’t base my decisions on a very complex set of rules. So, let’s go back to how the request came to me, because I have a very strong working history with Universal [the distributor]. The complete list of films we’ve done together are Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and American Gangster.

So, when the request came in to consider this, it wasn’t just coming from people I’d worked with before, it was coming from people I had a long-term friendship with. The studio were in a bit of bother. They’d spent a considerable sum of money. But there were also people I knew in the crew. So, I got the odd call from friends of long-standing saying: “Listen man, the difference between you doing this or not doing this is whether or not I should buy Christmas presents for my kids.” But you should be able to write that sort of email if you’re a good friend.

Q. Were you aware of Kevin Macdonald’s work?
Russell Crowe: I watched his work [The Last King of Scotland] and was impressed by what I perceived as a sense of style and understanding of the medium. But the key thing for me was reading the script and having a physical reaction to it. I was getting goose-bumps after one sequence. I liked the ground that it was covering already. But then there was a very cinematic section in the script that made me feel: “Well, now I’m compelled to do it, I have to do it, so there goes my summer.” So, Kevin bravely flew all the way down to Australia because we both thought it best to have a face-to-face conversation. I think he was only on the ground for 24 hours, but in that time we went for long walks together, had meals together and talked a lot.

Q. So, did you instantly strike up a bond?
Russell Crowe: I have no problem admitting that someone like Kevin and I don’t see eye to eye on hardly anything. But that’s never stopped me from having a good creative relationship before. Ridley Scott and I have the same thing and we’re about to make our fifth movie [Robin Hood] together [laughs].

Q. Did the role give you a newfound appreciation for journalism and how tricky the job can be?
Russell Crowe: Not at all. I think that if there are problems in journalism they’re created by journalists‚Ķ the trivialisation of the news and the sort of snyed, cynical allowance of untruth to be in a newspaper because it might be titillating. I think if there’s some kind of crisis in news journalism at the moment… a crisis of credibility, then it’s been created by journalists. I’m empathetic, I understand it and I see it, but I’m not sympathetic about it. If you want people to think of journalism with higher regard then do better work.

Q. How was having Helen Mirren, or The Queen, as your editor?
Russell Crowe: Lovely. She’s absolutely lovely, especially when she started saying rude things [smiles]. I’ve known Helen for a long time so it was great to finally be able to work together.

Q. How did Kevin Macdonald actually compare to working with someone like Ridley Scott?
Russell Crowe: Well Kevin’s a young director and that was his first situation with a studio and beginning to feel the responsibility of the power of having that many people at your beck and call. So, no doubt he’s only going to improve from here. But gee whiz that’s a pretty good first job when faced with such a gigantic challenge. This is, quite frankly, the most subversive studio film I’ve ever been involved with. It really hits home with some very important things that we need to keep discussing, the least of which is the privatisation of war.

Just looking at the film overall, it’s a great ensemble cast. Not only do you have Helen [Mirren], you’ve got Robin Wright Penn, you’ve got Jeff Daniels, Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams and Ben Affleck has never been better in a feature film than he is in this. He reaches a level of emotional complexity and manipulation, which is really stunning and absolutely true.

Q. You mention working with Ridley Scott again. So, what can we expect from Robin Hood? I gather you’re not wearing tights and the film will be in the style of Gladiator?
Russell Crowe: I’m not wearing tights. But it’s almost a thousand years later from Gladiator. But will it be a visceral experience like that? If you give Ridley Scott this amount of money and 1,000 swords, he’s going to make something that has a certain level of physical excitement to it, no doubt.