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Profiles of Robert Redford, Russell Crowe

Aired October 5, 2002 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, he's the Hollywood icon who has never been comfortable with his golden boy image.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not the Sundance Kid.


ANNOUNCER: Before the bright lights of Hollywood, a restless teen searching for direction.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He felt that he was going to die young.


ANNOUNCER: And now a film legend, giving independent filmmakers their big break.


ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: It was meant to give a voice to people who weren't able to have one.


ANNOUNCER: From the Sundance Kid to the Sundance Institute.


MARY TYLER MOORE, ACTRESS: He has garnered a tremendous amount of respect for the independent producer.


ANNOUNCER: A look at veteran actor and director Robert Redford.

And then, he is a rough and tumble Aussie who became one of Hollywood's leading men.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a rock 'n' roller, he's motorcycler. He's also an artist. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A high school athlete who had early dreams of being a rock star.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He named himself Russ le Roq, and he was this Elvis look-alike, with this hair.


ANNOUNCER: With one Oscar and three straight nominations, what's next for the man from Down Under?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have another Tom Hanks on our hands, but with an Aussie accent.


ANNOUNCER: Inside the complex mind of Russell Crowe. His story and more now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi. Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn.

Robert Redford seems to have been born to play the leading man. His looks, his presence. But Redford is what you might call a reluctant movie star. True, he's world-famous. His Sundance film festival rivals Cannes in popularity and prestige, but Redford is also intensely private. It lends an intriguing bit of mystery to this very powerful force in Hollywood and independent films. Here's Bill Hemmer.



PAUL NEWMAN, ACTOR: I'll jump first.


NEWMAN: Then you jump first.

REDFORD: No, I said.

NEWMAN: What's the matter with you?

REDFORD: I can't swim.


BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Robert Redford. To his legions of fans, he'll forever be known as the Sundance Kid. The 1968 classic made him a movie star, but it's what he's done with his fame that has made him a legend.

LARRY HACKETT, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: I don't think it's unfair to argue that Robert Redford could be seen as the single most important person in independent film.

MOORE: He has garnered a tremendous amount of respect for the independent producer.

HEMMER: Redford founded the Sundance Institute in 1981, a tranquil haven for film making, nestled in the mountains of Utah. Twenty-one years later, it boasts a who's who of famous alumni, and one of the most respected film festivals in the world.

REDFORD: There was no Hollywood in the beginning, no celebrities. Certainly no fashion, and no press. And so, it was like a big nothing out there, but it was sure fun.

LEAH ROZEN, MOVIE CRITIC, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Two things come to mind when you think of Robert Redford. You think blonde, but you also think this is the guy more than almost anyone else in the industry has given back to the industry. This is a guy who doesn't just take from Hollywood.

HEMMER: Charles Robert Redford Jr. was born on August 18, 1937 in Santa Monica, California. The only child to Martha, a homemaker, and Charles Sr., a milkman.

JAMES SPADA, BIOGRAPHER: He was closer to his mother than he was to his father. His father was a very hard-working man, rarely around. His mother, he said, was a very loving woman, a woman who had a great capacity to enjoy life.

HEMMER: As a young boy, Redford loved the great outdoors. He also loved making up his own rules, and developed a habit for being late.

MOORE: He said he remembers exactly when it happened to him. He would go off riding his little tricycle, and his mother would say, you be sure you be home before dark, you hurry home. And something in him just reared and said, no. I won't hurry. I will not go home.

HEMMER: Following World War II, Charles Redford Sr. began work as an accountant and moved his family to the middle class suburb of Van Nuys, California. The move, however, did not solve growing family problems. Martha Redford was diagnosed with cancer. And a rebellious teenager soon emerged.

SPADA: He and his friends used to break into Hollywood studios, just broke a lot of stuff, just, you know, petty vandalism.

BEVERLY KNUDSON, HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND: He would always tell me he was going to die young. And when he was upset, he'd always drive so fast. It was amazing he never got killed, because we'd go over those Hollywood hills as fast as can be, and he'd always be in convertibles with the top down.

HEMMER: But the rebellious teen had an artistic side, too. He loved to write poetry and draw.

SPADA: He was a doodler and he would sketch a lot. There are sketches in the yearbook that he did, which aren't really very good, but I'm sure he got better.

HEMMER: He would often sketch during lectures, and on weekends draw portraits of friends.

KNUDSON: He had his pad and a pencil, and one day he said, I'll sketch you. I don't know what I was doing with my hair. I just like it. I think it's a good picture.

HEMMER: Redford was also passionate about sports. In 1955, he headed to the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship.

REDFORD: Sports was a way, a kind of salvation for me during a troubled period when it was difficult to express my ambivalences and darker feelings.

HEMMER: But those dark feelings would only deepen. That same year, his mother, Martha, died of cancer. She was 41.

KNUDSON: He told me then that summer that his mother had died, and he was very sad. I felt badly, because I knew how much he loved her. I think Bob is a very private person, and I think he keeps a lot of his emotions to himself.

HEMMER: Following his mother's death, Redford turned to alcohol, skipping classes and baseball practice. He eventually lost his scholarship and dropped out. Working in the oil fields back in California, Redford saved money and headed to Europe to study painting.

SPADA: He talks about living in a garret in Paris and being so poor that he had to steal vegetables to eat. He would spend so much time alone in this tiny apartment that he would start to hallucinate. He literally felt he was losing his mind.

HEMMER: The 20-year-old returned home one year later, broke and disillusioned with the life of an artist.

KNUDSON: Bob was directionalist. He just didn't know where he was going or what he was doing.

HEMMER: Until 1957, when he met Lola Van Wagenen, a college student from Utah, who lived in his Los Angeles apartment building. Persuading her new beau to stop drinking and continue as an artist, Redford moved to New York City and enrolled in the Pratt Institute to study scenic design. But his good looks would soon get in the way of an art career.

SPADA: A friend of his suggested, well, if you're going to design sets for the theater, why don't you take some acting classes?

HEMMER: Encouraged and content, Redford married his 18-year-old sweetheart on September 12, 1958. One year later, the couple welcomed a baby boy, Scott. But this joyous occasion was soon met with sorrow, when the infant died suddenly of crib death.

In 1959, people started talking about Redford the actor, when he debuted on Broadway in the comedy "Tall Story." More offers followed, including David Merrick's "Sunday in New York." The television industry had also taken notice. A televised play of the week, "The Iceman Cometh," brought Redford front and center.


REDFORD: Oh, I get you. But, hell, I'm just about broke.


HEMMER: Followed by a memorable episode of "The Twilight Zone."


REDFORD: I've been shot.


SPADA: You realize that this woman is about to die and that this policeman is really death in disguise, and she's let death into her.


REDFORD: Mother, give me your hand.


SPADA: I'm getting goose bumps just talking about it. It was a very effective half-hour. And he was terrific in it.

HEMMER: Coming up, Hollywood anoints Redford their golden boy, an image that angers and frustrates the reluctant superstar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fan passed him on the street once and said, "are you Robert Redford?" And he said, without any hesitation, "only when I'm alone."


ANNOUNCER: And still ahead, Russell Crowe, talented and temperamental.


RUSSELL CROWE, ACTOR: I do not do my job to garner praise or garner awards.


ANNOUNCER: A gladiator on and off the screen, later on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.


HEMMER: In 1961, 24-year-old Robert Redford made his big screen debut in the low budget film "War Hunt."


REDFORD: How do you kill a man with a knife?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes knowledge and practice.


HEMMER: It was on this set that Redford met a young actor by the name of Sydney Pollack. Their friendship would span 40 years.

SYDNEY POLLACK, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: I didn't know who to talk to. I was slightly uncomfortable. And the only other guy on the set that was as quiet as I was, was Redford.

HEMMER: A quiet man, looking to put down roots, that same year Redford spent $500 on two acres in Utah. There, he built his family a house.

Following "War Hunt," Redford headed back to Broadway, appearing for 11 months in the hit Neil Simon comedy, "Barefoot in the Park." His role as an uptight honeymooner gave him enough exposure to land bigger roles in Hollywood, including a controversial one, "Inside Daisy Clover," opposite Natalie Wood.


REDFORD: All right. I'll play along. I'm cynical, I'm irresponsible to your heart. I stop at nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you're just insecure like most doctors.


ROZEN: It is really quite an interesting role. He plays her closeted, bisexual husband, and, you know, it was kind of a questionable role to take at that time. You're looking at the mid- '60s when not every actor was running around begging to play gay roles.

HEMMER: Controversial or not, in 1967, Robert Redford became a household name.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These footprints lead to the happiest motion picture in many, many a year.


HEMMER: "Barefoot in the Park" went to the big screen, and it was a hit. Reprising his Broadway role, this time opposite Jane Fonda, Redford became a movie star and sex symbol.


JANE FONDA, ACTRESS: Wait a minute, Paul.


SPADA: And at this point in Redford's career, it's all uphill. It's all a graph that goes up. Because it seems like every move he made after that just established him as a bigger and bigger star.

ROZEN: He had passed on a couple of other roles. He passed on "The Graduate." He passed on "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," because he felt those were sort of more in the conventional, pretty boy mold. And that was not what he was looking for.

HEMMER: Redford was looking for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," but with his buttoned-up image, producers hesitated.

ROZEN: He had to audition, I believe, repeatedly for "Butch Cassidy."

SPADA: They wanted Marlon Brando to play the Sundance Kid. They would go down the line, well, who do you want -- Brando, Brando, Brando. And George Roy Hill would say, "Redford."

HEMMER: Director George Roy Hill eventually got his wish, and the Newman/Redford chemistry was explosive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?


ROZEN: Newman was just so comfortable on screen, and suddenly here was this guy who was even better looking than Paul Newman, something you had never thought possible.

HEMMER: Following the success of "Butch Cassidy," a reluctant superstar emerged. His image was everywhere.

SPADA: Redford was walking down the street in New York and he came upon a newsstand, and there was his picture on the cover of "Life." He said, I wanted to run away and hide. He found that whole experience of being famous enough to be on the cover of "Life" really disconcerting.

HEMMER: At odds with his public image, Redford retreated with wife Lola and now three children back to Utah. There, he purchased 3,000 acres of land, and named the property Sundance. He also formed his own production company, Wild Wood Enterprises, which produced a series of films starting in 1969, with "Downhill Racer." And in 1972, "The Candidate."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE CANDIDATE") REDFORD: This country cannot house its houseless. Feed its foodless.


HACKETT: "Downhill Racer" and "The Candidate" -- these were movies he wanted to make, and in some cases he made on his own as independent pictures.


REDFORD: I say, there's got to be a better way!


HEMMER: An indie film maker ahead of his time and on a date with destiny. But what Redford didn't reckon upon was 1973, the year he would make two mainstream films catapulting him from mere superstar to icon.

POLLACK: When I first read "The Way We Were," I couldn't -- I just couldn't see anybody else. I knew I was going to have trouble, and I did, when I sent it to Bob. He kept saying, there's nothing to play here. There's just a guy who's just an object. He's just a pretty boy.

HACKETT: Pollack knows who he is. I think he feels comfortable with him. You know, they don't live in the star world; they live in the world that they knew together. They can relate to each other when they were poor and when he was not Robert Redford movie star.

POLLACK: I kept promising him that we'd try to fix if and I kept holding out, holding out, holding out, and finally, out of exhaustion, really, just -- he looked like a guy who had been running a marathon -- he didn't want to do it, but he said, OK, OK, I'll do it.

HEMMER: The on-screen pairing of Redford and Barbra Streisand was electric. Their star-crossed characters going down in history as one of the greatest love stories of all time.

SPADA: One of the great stories to come out of "The Way We Were" was that in the love-making scene, Redford was concerned. He was supposed to be naked under the sheets, and he was a little bit afraid that he might become aroused during this filming. So he said that he had to wear a jock strap. And he put it on and they went back under the sheets, and Pollack told him, Redford, we can't do this because it shows and you're supposed to be naked.

So, unfortunately, we don't know whether his worst fear was realized in that scene. But I said in my book on Barbra Streisand that her look of ecstasy on her face may have been more reacting than acting in that scene.

HEMMER: Following "The Way We Were," an even bigger success. Reteaming with Paul Newman -- 1973's "The Sting" garnered seven Academy Awards, and an Oscar nomination as well for the 36-year-old. The Newman/Redford duo was back, which begs the question, will they ever reunite again?

REDFORD: We'd do a film together if somebody came up with an idea that wasn't a remake or a repeat or a sequel. That's the part that neither one of us wanted to do, a sequel to either "Butch Cassidy" or "The Sting." So if it's something else, before it's too late.

HEMMER: Coming up, the Sundance Institute is born, and Hollywood scratches its head as Redford emerges as a director.

MOORE: I would just rear back and say to myself, it's Robert Redford. And he's listening to you.


ZAHN: Robert Redford's debut as a director turned an extraordinary ensemble cast into a family of "Ordinary People," which leads us to this week's "Where Are They Now?"


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While actor Judd Hirsch garnered an Oscar nomination for his role as Berger in "Ordinary People," he'll always be known as clever cabbie Alex Rieger on the hit TV show, "Taxi."

Where is Judd Hirsch now? Hirsch has remained busy acting. He's had a few television series like the successful "Dear John" and not- so-successful "George and Leo." Hirsch has recently revived his Tony Award-winning role in "I'm Not Rappaport" on Broadway. He also made a cameo in the movie "Man on the Moon," playing a role he knows very well, himself.

Our look at Robert Redford will continue after this.





HEMMER: By the mid-1970s, Robert Redford was the biggest movie star in Hollywood, but following "The Sting" a flop.

ROZEN: "Great Gatsby" is one of the great movie failures.


REDFORD: Shall we have some tea?


ROZEN: There was enormous publicity before they made it. Then the movie comes out, and it is like this -- it just lies on the screen like a big lox. HEMMER: While "Gatsby" was not so great, its failure could not diminish his star power.

And in 1976, yet another box office classic.


REDFORD: Hi. I'm Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post."


HEMMER: In "All the President's Men," Redford and Dustin Hoffman took on the Watergate scandal, portraying real-life reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The film was a labor of love for Redford, who had bought rights to the story and pushed Hollywood for years to make the film.

DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ACTOR: He got that project before it was written. He heard about it. He sought it out. No one studio wanted to make that movie, because they said it's a political movie, the public isn't interested in it. We know how it's going to end.

HEMMER: Redford's hard work paid off. The film took home four Academy Awards in 1977.

HOFFMAN: He is as bright as they come and he is as passionate about work as they come, and he is an extremely good-looking man and I hate his guts.

HEMMER: After reteaming with Jane Fonda in 1979's "Electric Horseman," the actor was tired. After 21 films in two decades, it was time for a change.

MOORE: A lot of people scoffed when it was announced that he was going to direct, because, you know, who is this? He was thought of as a pretty boy. And he announces he wants to make this intimate little family drama.

HEMMER: The film was "Ordinary People," and if Redford's decision to direct had shocked some, the woman he cast as the film's repressed mother, Beth Jarrett, stunned the rest.


MOORE: French toast. It's your favorite.


MOORE: We both lived on Malibu Beach for a time, and he said after watching the show, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and seeing me on the beach, he was curious about the dark side of Mary Tyler Moore, for which I will be forever grateful, because it was one of the best roles I've ever done.

HEMMER: It was a role Redford knew well.

MOORE: Beth was his father. And Beth was my father. So I had no trouble understanding her.

HEMMER: In 1980, "Ordinary People" opened to glowing reviews, garnering four Academy Awards, including one for the first-time director.

REDFORD: I felt pretty great when we finished the movie, and nobody talked or thought about Oscars or the Academy Award either before, during or after. So this is an added pleasure.

HEMMER: Respected by peers and no longer just a pretty face, the Oscar nod gave the 44-year-old an opportunity to get away from the spotlight.

SPADA: It's not a surprise that Redford would start a film institute and a film festival, because he had always felt that Hollywood didn't live up to its responsibilities.

HEMMER: In 1981, the Sundance Institute was born.

REDFORD: It was meant to give a voice to people who weren't able to have one. Because the mainstream, which I'm certainly a part of, was too focused on what was commercial.

POLLACK: It was rough the first year, because there wasn't any money. But he was really determined and he was committed to it in a way that was very impressive.

HEMMER: With his attention focused on the institute's labs and the birth of the Sundance film festival in 1985, Redford appeared in just four films in the 1980s, two of which hit home runs, "The Natural" and "Out of Africa," directed by Sydney Pollack.

That same year, however, a surprising announcement. Redford's 27-year marriage was ending.

HACKETT: He's never, ever said a bad thing about her, nor she about him. He is not the kind of guy who there have been stories about when he was married, so it seems like a marriage that painfully had run its course and was ending.

HEMMER: But a new relationship was beginning, between indy filmmakers and Robert Redford.

MICHELLE SATTER, FEATURE FILM DIRECTOR, SUNDANCE INSTITUTE: It's quite meaningful for him to be there for the filmmakers, not only because he has so much to give them and so much to share in terms of the craft of film making, but because this was his passion, his heart and soul and his vision.

REDFORD: I also believe that we're never too old to learn something. We can never get too fat and successful not to appreciate that we don't know everything. And sometimes you can learn from babes, you know, and so the young people come and challenge us and push us. That's terrific. Kind of keeps me alive.

HEMMER: The film festival, which had started so small in 1985, grew quickly with some 20,000 making the present-day trek to Park City every January. It would be the launching pad for such directors as Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Kimberly Pierce, whose script "Boys Don't Cry" had been selected as a 1997 lab project.

KIMBERLY PIERCE, DIRECTOR, "BOYS DON'T CRY": I thought like most independent films it might show in one theater, and I thought if it worked, that would be great. The idea that it would be showing all over the country, all over the world, I mean, certainly it was kind of a latent dream.

REDFORD: There is no end game to Sundance. There is purposely no end game. It is meant to be open-ended, because it's meant to be an organization that thrives with change.

HEMMER: In 2001, at the age of 64, Redford the movie star emerged yet again, opposite Brad Pitt in the box office thriller "Spy Game."

ROZEN: It was good, but you really had the sense that he was deferring in some of his scenes to Redford. He was kind of learning from the master.

HEMMER: A 40-year Hollywood vet, who is indeed by now a master. And although it's hard to predict Redford's legacy, be it film star or Sundance founder, one suspects either way he will have no regrets.

PIERCE: But I think the wonderful thing, and I don't think it takes anything away from Sundance, is that people love him.

POLLACK: He is probably the closest we have in this country to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HACKETT: This is a guy who really was an outsider. No matter how successful he was, he saw himself and acted as an outsider.

MOORE: Oh, I think his legacy is going to be myriad. He is a good human being, you know?


ZAHN: Robert Redford is currently working on a small, independent film called "The Clearing." It's a thriller in which Redford stars as a kidnapped tycoon.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, from fruit picker and insurance salesman to Oscar winner and international ladies man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He certainly likes to party. He likes to drink. Women find him very attractive.


ANNOUNCER: Down and dirty with the wonder from Down Under, Russell Crowe, when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

Russell Crowe is compelling. He's captivating, and sometimes he's combustible. Whether it's acting, women or rock 'n' roll, Crowe has made a reputation for himself -- a reputation for being not only rugged but also relentless. Here again is Bill Hemmer.


HEMMER (voice-over): Russell Crowe cannot miss. Since his 1995 Hollywood debut in "The Quick and The Dead," he's garnered not one, not two, but three consecutive Academy Award nominations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Russell!

HEMMER: In 2001, he took home the Oscar for "Gladiator." And though he came up empty-handed at this year's awards, everyone was buzzing about his performance as a schizophrenic mathematician in "A Beautiful Mind."

He's at the top of Hollywood's A-List, commanding $15 million per picture.


HEMMER: But this Australian import seems anything but interested in the attention.

CROWE: That's all very interesting and flattering and all that sort of stuff, but you know, quite frankly, you know, I've got one, and you know, spread it around a little bit, you know. I don't need it. I don't need a million of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't conform to the Hollywood stereotype of how a movie star should be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You must feel you're on a bit of a roll.

CROWE: Slightly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He certainly comes across as surly when he's at award shows.

HEMMER: Award shows, press conferences, you name it.

CROWE: I don't do my job to garner praise or garner awards. So you can take your cynicism and you can put it where the sun don't shine.

HEMMER: The stories about Crowe's temper keep coming. In June, an Australian judge cleared two men who allegedly tried to blackmail Crowe over this video of a 1999 bar brawl, and Crowe recently made the tabloids after reports he got into another bar fight, this time in Mexico, where he is currently at work on his new film, "The Far Side of the World."

It seems Russell Crowe is as complex as the characters he plays on the screen.

RON HOWARD, DIRECTOR, "A BEAUTIFUL MIND": He's a really interesting paradox because, he is a rough-and-tumble Aussie, he is really -- he's a rock 'n' roller, he's a motorcycler, he has a farm. He loves his farm. He's also an artist. He's an interesting combination, and I think that's probably what makes him so sort of fascinating to watch.

HEMMER: With comparisons to Brando and DeNiro, is this 38-year- old destined to be one of Hollywood's greats?

ROZEN: We have another Tom Hanks on our hands, but with an Aussie accent.

HEMMER: Russell Ira Crowe debuted back on April 7, 1964 in Strathmore Park, New Zealand. You could say he was born into show business. His parents were film caterers, and his grandfather was a decorated World War II cinematographer.

The family moved to Sydney, Australia when Russell was 4, and within two years, he made his first TV appearance on the series, "Spyforce."

TIM EWBANK, BIOGRAPHER: Wandering around those TV and film sets at an early age, he lost all fear and he also saw how it worked. He'd go behind a door and see there was nothing there.

HEMMER: At Sydney Boy's High School, Russell's no-fear attitude helped him on the cricket and rugby field, but it was his talent for mimicking others that got him noticed.

CROWE: I think I watched too much TV when I was a kid. We get a lot of American television and stuff. And so, I always used to just impersonate, you know, -- or not impersonate, but you know, copy people's accents.

EWBANK: He's got a great year, and even now, he can mimic most people.

CROWE: How wonderful, I'm talking to the BBC. Now, move your hand over here. Now, move your hand over there. Hello, how are you?

HEMMER: The family headed back to New Zealand in 1978. Russell was 14 then. Putting his acting career aside, he picked up a guitar, and he picked up a new name.

ANNE-MARIE O'NEILL, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE MAGAZINE": In his mid teens, Russell started a band. He named himself Russ le Roq, and he was this Elvis look-alike with this hair, this big Elvis hair, really bad clothes. And he wrote his own songs, and one of them was called, "I Wanna Be Like Marlon Brando."

HEMMER: Russ le Roq would soon drop out of high school to pursue his pop star dreams.

But when his singles went rocketing to the bottom of the charts, he took up with the "Rocky Horror Picture Show," playing Dr. Frank N. Furter and Eddie for more than 400 performances.

EWBANK: I think he suddenly realized when he got up on stage and he wasn't just the singer in a band, that acting was really what it -- what he really wanted to do. And from that, the seed was sown to really try and make it.

HEMMER: In 1987, Russell headed for Sydney, opting not to study at the famed National Institute of Dramatic Arts. He would audition and then hone his craft performing in the streets of Kings Cross.

Surviving would mean picking up odd jobs -- bingo caller, fruit picker, insurance salesman and waiter. He worked at this famous Sydney restaurant, Doils, for a short time, but finally in 1990, he got his big break.

He was 25, cast in a small film called "The Crossing," and during the filming, he would meet and fall in love with his co-star actress, Danielle Spencer.

EWBANK: The film opens with an incredible scene of them together, making love in some shed, I think it was. And he kissed her very, very passionately. And I think she sat up and really felt that, you know, there might be something more to this.

HEMMER: And there was. The two would date on and off for the next 12 years.

Crowe's star would rise quite quickly in the land Down Under. He would win two Australian Film Institute Awards -- the first, for his role in 1992 film, "Proof."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Describe him to me.

CROWE: What, each one?



HEMMER: But it was the controversial film, "Romper Stomper" that would garner Russell Crowe his second AFI award and make him a star.


CROWE: I want people to know that I'm proud of my white history and my white blood.


ROZEN: He was the leader of a group of skinheads who were beating up anyone who didn't look like them.

CROWE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a white supremacist. He's a racist, a Fascist, extremely disturbed man.

ROZEN: And you just came out of the movie going "who is that guy," "What else can he do?"


CROWE: Come on, I'm not going to fight.


HEMMER: When our story continues, Hollywood's sexist leading lady brings Russell Crowe to the Wild Wild West. But to many involved in "The Quick and The Dead," his arrival is anything but welcome.






CROWE: What is your name?


HEMMER: By 1994, just about everyone in Australia knew the name Russell Crowe. Following his star-making turn in "Romper Stomper," his next film, "The Sum of Us," stunned everyone.


CROWE: I like doing it with blokes, dad, and I don't think that's ever going to change, because I don't want it to.


EWBANK: To jump from playing this Hando, this vile, vicious character to playing a gay rugby playing plumber in "The Sum of Us" was an extraordinary leap.

ROZEN: He said part of the reason he want to do it was because there were all these people who actually liked the skinhead, you know, and admired him, and he wanted to confuse them.

HEMMER: Crowe's gift for transformation and confusion would ultimately catch the eye of one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

O'NEILL: Sharon Stone is kind of attributed with discovering Russell, at least in the U.S.

HEMMER: But his big-screen Hollywood debut would be anything but quick.




EWBANK: Columbus Studio heads didn't want him to be there. They felt that he wasn't up to it. Who was this guy? Nobody knew him.


SHARON STONE, ACTRESS: I saved your life last night.


ROZEN: All kinds of people were saying to her, "Are you kidding? No way, no way." She said, "No, no, no, he's the guy."

EWBANK: She stuck to her guns and she was proved right. She said, you know, Russell Crowe is the sexiest guy working in movies today, and she was ahead of her time.

HEMMER: Two years ahead of her time, in fact. In 1997, Russell Crowe would come on strong.

HOWARD: I think "L.A. Confidential" is probably the first time that I was really sort of aware of the name "Russell Crowe" and a performance.

HEMMER: Director Curtis Hanson would cast Crowe immediately after this screen test.


CROWE: What is, is justice. That's where [bleep] lie, justice.


HEMMER: "L.A. Confidential" would garner critical acclaim and America would notice Russell, the movie star, for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to be a big star. Are you ready for it?

CROWE: Yeah, yeah, when? Yeah, right. Whatever.


HEMMER: Concerned he was being typecast as the tough guy, Crowe took a 14 month break. He would retreat back to his farm in Australia to read and write, play the guitar, and search for the perfect script.

It came in the form of "The Insider," playing a middle-aged corporate whistle-blower. But when director Michael Mann approached him, he hesitated. CROWE: And I said, look, all right, it's very flattering and all that and it's a great script. But you're being a little silly here, Mr. Mann. You should go and get yourself one of them 50-year-old actors to do this job.

MICHAEL MANN, DIRECTOR, "THE INSIDER": And he came down and we read. And it was just the two of us. I was reading one part and he'd read the other, and we're working right across my desk.

CROWE: He put his hand on my chest, and said I'm not talking to you because of your age. I'm talking to you because of what you've got in here.

MANN: I knew right then and there, this is the guy. This is Jeffrey Wigand.

CROWE: And I thought, best work with this fellow.


CROWE: You manipulated me into this.


HEMMER: Gaining nearly 50 pounds, audiences were stunned by his appearance as the former tobacco executive.

That 1999 performance would garner his first Academy Award nomination.

CROWE: Forty-eight pounds I put on to play that role. Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How'd you do that?

CROWE: Cheeseburgers and bourbon, man. Ah, it was heaven.

HEMMER: Kevin Spacey took home the Oscar that year, but Crowe, once again, would make a remarkable transformation.


CROWE: At my signal, unleash hell.


HEMMER: Emerging six months later, 40 pounds lighter, with muscles to spare, he would unleash hell at the box office.

When the Russell Crowe story continues, Hollywood sexiest gladiator falls in love and nearly falls into the hands of kidnappers.


ZAHN: Risk and romance ahead for Russell Crowe. But first, here's this week's passages.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Producer/director Bruce Paltrow died Thursday in Rome. One of the most respected in Hollywood, Paltrow directed such television hits as "St. Elsewhere" and "The White Shadow." The long time husband of actress of Blythe Danner, he was able to direct his daughter, Gwyneth, in the 2000 comedy, "Duets."

Bruce Paltrow was 58.

Celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse, has yet another cooking project. The 42-year-old cooking star and wife, Alden, are expecting their first child. And Emeril already has two children from previous marriages and the new "Essence of Emeril" is set to debut in March.

This is the true story of four B-list celebrities picked to live in a house -- "Facts of Life's" Mindy Cohn, "Webster's" Emmanuel Lewis, rapper turned minister, M.C. Hammer, and former Motley Crue front man, Vince Neill, have signed on to star on the new WB show, "It's A Real Life." The show will put the former celebs in a house and tape their interactions around the clock. Now, the show is being promoted as the only washed-up star show that the "Brady Bunch's" Barry Williams would not do.

The Dogg is off the new Muppet Christmas special. Rapper Snoop Dogg has been cut from an upcoming Muppet TV movie. Now, the producers say Snoop was cut due to time constraints, but reports of the rapper's, outspoken on legalizing marijuana, partnership with "Hustler" publisher, Larry Flint, sparked a parental backlash. Now, there is no truth, however, to the rumor that there was static between Snoop and the other big dog in the yard.


ANNOUNCER: It's time to put on the make-up. It's time to light the lights. It's time to read some celebrity news in "People" magazine tonight. Pick up a copy this week. PEOPLE IN THE NEWS will continue songs the singing with a profile of Russell Crowe after this.




HEMMER (voice-over): When "Gladiator" debuted in May of 2000, Russell Crowe's star power would shift into overdrive.

CROWE: You walk out into Coliseum and there's 5,000 extras going, "Maximus, Maximus," you know, it's theater on an absolutely grand scale.

HEMMER: Ridley Scott's epic would gross nearly half a billion dollars, catapulting Crowe to Hollywood mega star. A megastar with reports of a mega ego.

O'NEILL: Russell Crowe's reputation is, as someone who's tough and arrogant, somewhat surly.

CROWE: Mate, I'm not thinking about, you know. I'm thinking about going down to try to vixen and having a drink.

EWBANK: You know, he certainly likes to party. He likes to drink. Women find him very attractive.

HEMMER: And so would the tabloids, linking him to everyone from Jodi Foster to Nicole Kidman. Crowe denied every romance except one.

CROWE: With Meg, we were doing the job and the personal thing was separate, separate altogether.

HEMMER: In June of 2000, news of an affair with "Proof of Life" co-star Meg Ryan would explode in headlines. Cast as a hostage negotiator who falls in love with a married woman, clearly life had imitated art.

O'NEILL: And then when Meg Ryan told the world that she was going divorce Dennis Quaid, then it became apparent that Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe were more than just a passing fling.

HEMMER: In the fall of 2000, photographers tracked the couple around the globe.

O'NEILL: Both of them seemed to be totally in love with each other. He took her to Australia. She met his family. He showed her around his beloved farm.

HEMMER: Crowe also introduced Meg Ryan to the band he had been playing with since early 1990s, Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts.

BRIAN M. RAFTERY, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": There's a couple different reasons for the name Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts that Russell likes to tell. The most popular one, though, is that it's actually taken from a movie that -- a film set he was on where the sound engineer needed 30 odd feet of grunt noises for a fight scene and I think he just fell in love with the term.

HEMMER: After a successful tour, Crowe headed home to Australia. And in December, when a white tent on his property fueled rumors of marriage to Meg Ryan, he responded with anger.

CROWE: Just take, for example, the fact that somebody announces in the press that I'm getting married. If I ever am lucky enough to find the woman to make that absolute commitment and decision that I'm going to be with for the rest of my life, I don't get to experience that joy or share that joy because this parasite prick has actually published it in the newspaper. And foreign people say, what, again?

HEMMER: The rumors were way off. Their six-month relationship was actually coming to an end. Reports would vary as to who broke it off.

CROWE: She is a magnificent woman, a marvelous person and a great actress. So that's -- you know, I don't... LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Sounds like you're friends.

CROWE: Absolutely. You know, and we just had one conversation maybe two nights ago.

HEMMER: Just when you thought Crowe couldn't grab one more headline, a plot to kidnap the film star surfaced.

CROWE: I had to meet with these FBI guys and stuff when I -- so I met with them, and they laid out a situation that they were very concerned about, and that was the Golden Globes this time last year.

HEMMER: The FBI confirmed the threat, though details of the bizarre plot were never truly revealed, some labeled it a publicity stunt. Crowe just seemed amused.

CROWE: They obviously don't know me very well. After a couple of days, mate, they'll be on the phone, now, look we've got 50 grand, please take him back!

EWBANK: And I think at first, he probably thought it was a bit of a joke. But when suddenly, a security man had to surround him at every turn, it wasn't, you know -- it wasn't so funny.

HEMMER: In March of 2001 still surrounded by security, Crowe took home his first Oscar. The "Gladiator" was stunned.

CROWE: If you had asked me, you know, right up until the minute, I would have put a lot of money on Tom Hanks.

HEMMER: Flash forward one year later, Crowe is doing it again.


CROWE: Find a truly original idea. That's the only way I'll ever distinguish myself.


HEMMER: His role in "A Beautiful Mind" has garnered his third Academy Award nomination and made him the odds-on favorite to take home the gold. In the end, however, it was Denzel Washington's night.

ROZEN: I think there were two factors at work here, in his not getting the Oscar. One, I'm not sure the Hollywood community was ready to canalize him yet, to go yes, you are the new king. So that was a factor. Two, Denzel Washington was really, really good.

HEMMER: Oscar buzz aside; it's what's going on behind the scenes that has fans talking?

KING: Are you now in love?

CROWE: Yeah, I am. Yeah.

KING: Do you want to tell us who? CROWE: No, I don't.


CROWE: Sarah's coming home again.


EWBANK: He's written some very nice songs, and several of them are very much about his longstanding girlfriend, Danielle.

ROZEN: He says he's in love now. He won't say who he's in love with, but he keeps turning up with Danielle at all of these award shows.

EWBANK: She's seen the lows. She's seen the highs. You know, she's seen him when he's absolutely nothing. She's -- was at his side when he won an Oscar.

KING: Is this something that could be the big one?

CROWE: Well, we'll just see. I'm not one for making predictions or, you know, that sort of thing. It's somebody I've known for a very long time and we're just together. It's as simple as that.

And you can stay away tonight.

HEMMER: Simply put by a man who is anything but simple. Lover, fighter, rocker, biker, farmer, movie star of global magnitude, the young Aussie who penned the song, "I Wanna Be Like Marlon Brando," seems to have gotten his wish.

CROWE: This is a great job and I want to encourage every one of you in this room to give everything you can to the story. God bless narrative. God bless originality. Good night.


ZAHN: Russell Crowe and his band, Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts, are taking to the road again. They have been reportedly been invited by Chrissie Hynde (ph) to tour with The Pretenders next year. That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paul Zahn. Thanks for joining us.


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