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Profiles of Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe

Aired June 1, 2003 - 05:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, she's the Aussie Oscar- winning beauty who was barely recognizable in her award-winning role.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She won not only for her performance in "The Hours," but also for being a big old movie star.

ANNOUNCER: From a private romance that thrust her into the spotlight to a divorce that played out in public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were the most glamorous marriage in Hollywood.

ANNOUNCER: She came out of the shadows of her ex-husband, to become one of the most celebrated actresses in Hollywood.

Get up close with Nicole Kidman.

Then, he's the rough and rowdy Aussie who became one of Hollywood's leading men.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a rock'n'roller. He's a motorcyclist. He's also an artist.

ANNOUNCER: An athletic standout in high school who had early dreams of being a rock star.

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

ANNOUNCER: A heartthrob who shattered other women's dreams by marrying his longtime sweetheart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His life is on track, and this is the woman that he wants to spend his life with.

ANNOUNCER: From naughty to newlywed, the charmed life of Russell Crowe. Their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. Nicole Kidman is probably one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood right now. Her Oscar win and a string of celebrated performances have propelled Kidman beyond the fame of her super star ex-husband, Tom Cruise, and into a stratosphere of celebrity all her own. Here's Sharon Collins.


SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When "The Hours" hit theaters in December of 2002, critics and fans alike did a double take. There was Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore. But wait, could that be Nicole Kidman?

Barely recognizable, the actress known for her radiant beauty, looked downright dowdy. Dawning a prosthetic nose to play feminist writer, Virginia Wolfe.

NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS: A lot of people say I look ugly like that, but I actually liked the way it looks. I like strong nose.

COLLINS: Critics liked the strong performance. Come 2003, Nicole Kidman was on everyone's list. Not only did she get star, her rave reviews brought home a second Golden Globe.

And in March, with parents in tow, she walked the red carpet once again. An Oscar nomination had brought her to the Academy Awards, and while the buzz was in her favor, her nerves were out of control.

JESS CAGLE, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: On Oscar night, she had pretty much decided that she was not going to win. And she probably thought that Renee Zellweger was going to get the best actress award instead. And right before they announced the best actress winner, Nicole Kidman's daughter leaned over and said, you're going to win mommy. And she became completely panicked. Then of course, she won.

COLLINS: In an emotional speech, Kidman thanked her mother, and she when she arrived backstage with Oscar in hand, the movie star could barely contain herself.

KIDMAN: I'm a little giddy. I have no recollection of what I said.

CAGLE: When she accepted her Oscar, in her speech she said that she had always wanted to make her mother proud.

KIDMAN: In my whole life, it's been one of my driving sort of forces is to make her proud of me. And I think I've disappointed her at times, so it was wonderful to stand up on the stage and be able to, to have her be in the audience.

CAGLE: She probably thought that the divorce and all of that stuff were not necessarily things that would make a mother proud, although clearly her mother had been very supportive through the whole thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 644, take two.


COLLINS: "The Hours" it seems, had been therapy for the former Mrs. Tom Cruise. Delving deep into Virginia Wolfe's character, the role and the film's method resonated with the actress.

KIDMAN: One of the messages of the film is that we're all a bit too hard on ourselves. You know what is success anyway? Isn't life a journey and amidst that comes choices and comes happiness and unhappiness and regrets and all of the things that go into making up a life.

COLLINS: Kidman's character had dealt with depression, isolation, alienation; feelings all too familiar to this movie star over the last two years.

KIDMAN: One of the daunting prospects for a woman when she goes through divorce is learning to be able to live alone, and survive alone and find your way in the world without your partner. And so now going, wow I'm able to take care of myself. That kind of makes you feel good.

COLLINS: It had been a solid marriage. Even by Hollywood standards. But in February of 2001, her movie star husband, Tom Cruise shocked the entertainment world and Kidman herself, announcing he wanted to end their 10-year marriage.

DOMINICK DUNNE, "VANITY FAIR": Well, they were the most glamorous marriage in Hollywood; Tom and Nicole.

COLLINS: Longtime Hollywood observer and "Vanity Fair" columnist, Dominick Dunne, says Kidman covered up her pain; carrying on with great dignity while promoting the film, "Moulin Rouge."

KIDMAN: Very excited. It's been a really good reception.

DUNNE: She attended the premiers. She was waving to the people. Whatever's going on inside, she kept that private, and she did; I mean that's what a star does. You know she has obligations and she fulfilled them.

COLLINS: Baz Luhrmann directed Kidman in "Moulin Rouge."

BAZ LUHRMANN, DIRECTOR: There's a line in our movie, show must go on jerk, for all our sakes. Because people think I keep saying that to them. Go out there. But you know, really it's, she's the one that embodies the show must go on. She's the one that said you know, I've got to do this, and I can only be eternally grateful for that. But she was the one.

COLLINS: The show must go on was very much Kidman's guiding motto. She'll show up no matter what.

KIDMAN: My life is my life and I'm living it and I'm a person just like everybody else and I have all those things that happen. And you know that's sort of up to forces greater than me.

COLLINS: The so very Aussie Kidman, began her life in America. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 20, 1967. Her father, a biochemist and author, was studying there. His research would later take the family on to Washington D.C. But by the time Kidman was four, her family had returned to Australia to stay. Sidney became the place she'd always call home.

Kidman is very close to her younger sister, Antonia (ph). A television reporter in Australia, as well as to her father and her mother, a nurse and educator. While growing up, Kidman's extraordinarily pale skin meant Australia's sun life out of bounds.

KIDMAN: Instead of going to the beach or you know the normal thing that you do in Australia, I would go on the weekends to drama school.

COLLINS: At age 10, Nicole retreated to the comfort of the rehearsal studio to strengthen her acting skills. It was natural she said, to disappear into a dark theater and she did so with her parents approval.

KIDMAN: They both have a love of the arts. And I think they gave it great credence and value that it was. And I really respect them as parents for doing that because it wasn't sort of pooh-poohed; it was actually you know, what do you enjoy? My parents always took me to the theater when I was young. I was taken to see opera. I was taken to see modern dance. So I was exposed a lot to a lot of culture and I really; that's what I try to do for my children as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You started very young acting.

KIDMAN: Oh no, which one do you've got?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have "BMX Bandits" and "Bush Christmas."

COLLINS: Kidman may cringe, but the TV film she made in 1983, "Bush Christmas," remains a national favorite and still airs every Christmas. That same year the cult favorite, "BMX Bandits" was released. A group of kids on bikes takes on a gangs of bank robbers. Kidman chose to ride away from high school at 16, to pursue a full- time acting career. Just a year later in the Australian mini-series, "Vietnam," she won the Australian Film Institute's best television actress award. She was 17 and a rising star.

When the story of Nicole Kidman continues, the movie, "Days of Thunder," rolls into her life, bringing with it a hot Hollywood relationship.

ANNOUNCER: Also ahead, the softer side of a tough-guy actor. Walking down the isle with Russell Crowe, later on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.



COLLINS: After TV and film success down under, Australian Nicole Kidman's first Hollywood break was the seagoing thriller, "Dead Calm." Fellow actor, Sam Neill used the word "star" to describe the 21-year old Kidman.

SAM NEILL, ACTOR: She can do anything. But she does have that extra thing, which is she is a star, and that's the sort of mysterious, that's the mysterious factor that you cannot explain. It's just one of those things.

COLLINS: Mr. Hollywood, Tom Cruise was just coming off his divorce from actress Mimi Rogers, and after viewing "Dead Calm" was reportedly eager to meet the dazzling new actress. That meeting came within a year. Both were cast in the film, "Days of Thunder." There was immediate on-screen and off-screen chemistry.

A quick romance followed and on Christmas Eve 1990, the two married quietly in the resort town of Telluride, Colorado. Within months, Kidman was working again with her famous husband in the 1992, epic, "Far and Away." But Kidman's resume would never read, Mrs. Tom Cruise. She was determined not to be typecast in any way.

KIDMAN: I don't know if it's conscious. It's just that I'm drawn, as soon as I've done one thing, I'm drawn to probably the complete opposite. So, and my taste in films and also just in characters and stuff is very diverse.

COLLINS: The super couple were becoming part of Hollywood royalty, and children were now part of the dynasty. The couple adopted a girl, Isabella (ph) in 1993, and a baby boy, Connor (ph) two years later.

KIDMAN: We do it all; Tom and I. It's you know, you bear the priority and so that means you make compromises.

COLLINS: Any compromises were worth it to build a family legacy.

KIDMAN: We always said that when we're making "Far and Away," it would be great because then our children will be able to watch us we when we were young and in love.

COLLINS: Kidman's children often go on location with her. They see her act and in the case of "Moulin Rouge," here her sing.

KIDMAN: I sing to them all the time. They tell me shut-up.

COLLINS: Of course Kidman gets far more respect in Hollywood. By 1996, she was a star in her own right. Moving out of Cruise's orbit. It was the quirky film noir, "To Die For," that propelled Kidman to stardom. It all began when Kidman picked up the phone and begged director, Gus Van Sant, for the breakout role. Once on board, Kidman shined. Acclaim poured in, including a Golden Globe in 1995. Hollywood had noticed the girl from Sidney.

SYDNEY POLLACK, DIRECTOR: I think she is often times underrated because she's so beautiful that you think of her as just a pretty girl you know. But if you look at her work in, "To Die For," and you know in Baz Luhrmann's picture, it "Moulin Rouge," she's always good in films. Sometimes the films aren't as good as she is, but she's always extraordinary.

COLLINS: Director Baz Luhrmann says he noticed how extraordinary Kidman was during a "Vogue" photo shoot a decade ago.

LUHRMANN: She did you know sort of a Carol Lombard. She did like a Marilyn image, if I remember. And she did a great Marilyn image. And Lucille Ball, actually. She's a real movie star, meaning she does manifest those almost icon-like qualities that those performers had in that time.

COLLINS: Qualities that include a focused work ethic.

LUHRMANN: When you work with Nicole as a professional, it's not walk in the park; because she's not an actor that says you know, I'm an empty vessel, fill me. Do I put my hand here? I mean she has as many ideas as I do, and everything is an intense experience.

COLLINS: That intensity drew Kidman into the "Blue Room," where she briefly appeared nude on stage. The 1998 London play was a huge hit. Kidman's performance was hailed as pure theatrical viagra.

When we come back, love takes a troubled turn. Kidman and Cruise unite for a third time in, Eyes Wide Shut," as their marriage begins a countdown to collapse.


ZAHN: The fairy tale marriage comes to an end when we come back. But first, here's this weeks "Passages."


ANNOUNCER: We've heard about art imitating life, but this may take the cake or in her case the hair clips.

A teenage dance school in San Diego is producing a musical based on actress Winona Rider's shoplifting trial. "Sticky Fingers," a tale of sax, lies, and videotape is set to premier this week. The cast has extended an invitation to Rider to attend the show but has yet to hear a response.

Some people have called to God, but those trying to place a call to God, left a lot of ears ringing.

Hit movie, "Bruce Almighty," in which Jim Carrey receives God- like powers, disclosed a number on Carrey's cell phone that isn't the standard 555 fake movie number, but a real seven-digit number. The result? Unhappy people from Colorado to Florida have been taking God's messages. Some from pranksters and some from true believers; giving new meaning to the term, reach out and touch someone.

In one of the more surreal photo opportunities in recent memory, pop stars Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown met with Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon while the couple was visiting Jerusalem. Mr. and Mrs. Houston were in the Holy Land to visit friends and family among the Black Hebrews. It's a group of African American settlers. Adding few to the fire of an already heated diplomatic dispute, Whitney made her claim to Israel.


ANNOUNCER: For more celebrity news, pick up a copy of "People" magazine this week. A look at Nicole Kidman continues after this.




COLLINS: Nicole Kidman appeared in three films with husband Tom Cruise. Their last pairing came in Stanley Kubrick's psychological thriller, "Eyes Wide Shut." She had spent nearly two years on the project and then just after Okaying the final cut, director Kubrick died. Kidman has said Kubrick's sudden death shocked her out of her youthful naivete.

KIDMAN: I had just revered him and loved him dearly.

COLLINS: Then on February 4, 2001, another shock. Shortly after their 10th wedding anniversary, a statement was released announcing an amicable separation. Three days later Cruise officially filed for divorce. Friends of Kidman were quoted as saying she was broad sided.

While the reasons for the split remain private, it was played out in public to Kidman's dismay.

KIDMAN: It's such a surreal experience when all these things happen in your life and they're all written about and they're all, sort of everybody watches it and somehow you have to get through it. And thank God for my mom and dad and my sister, and the people in my life who love me.

COLLINS: As her marriage disintegrated, Kidman faced the press to promote her work.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Ladies and gentlemen, here is Nicole Kidman.


COLLINS: Kidman used her legendary humor on the "Late Show with David Letterman" to diffuse the divorce questions.



LETTERMAN: You look fantastic. I heard you're getting divorced. How's that going?


COLLINS: Kidman was ready with a well-rehearsed line.


KIDMAN: Well, I can wear heels now.


COLLINS: Twenty-three seconds of laughter later, Kidman took charge.


KIDMAN: Now we move on.


COLLINS: Indeed she did. In black couture to the premier of her thriller, "The Others." And at midnight on that very night, August 8, 2001, the clock tolled on her marriage. Hollywood's fairy tale couple was no more.

Discreetly following on the red carpet was Tom Cruise. He had co-produced "The Others" and tapped Kidman for the starring role.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: I gave it to Nic, who I thought would be perfect for the role, and it's a tour de force performance for her and I'm very proud of her.

COLLINS: Just two months earlier, Kidman had release "Moulin Rouge" to critical acclaim.

LEAH ROZEN, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: I think "Moulin Rouge" was sort of the breakthrough part and that she got to play all kinds of emotions. She got to sing. She was absolutely beautiful, and I think it's sort of one of the first roles that she really broke through to a mass audience in.

COLLINS: And audiences couldn't enough. 2002, brought a Golden Globe win for "Moulin Rouge." That same role nabbed her first Academy Award nomination. In the end, Hale Berry took home the Oscar that year, but just 12 months later it was Kidman's turn to shine. Her role in "The Hours" brought to the big screen a Nicole Kidman like we've never seen before.


KIDMAN: You do remember that my sister is coming (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma'am, I haven't forgotten.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So much has been said about the nose, including, of course, the overused joke about winning by a nose, I don't think she won because of the nose, I mean she won not only for her performance in "The Hours," but also for being a big old movie star. She's a terrific actress, but she's also so darn glamorous and that combination is a big winner.

COLLINS: And following the Academy win, you'd never guess the call she made immediately following the walk off stage.

CAGLE: I think a lot of people might be surprised to know that she called her ex-husband Tom Cruise you know, the night that she won the Oscar. As she says you know, I think quoting a line from "The Hours," we always had these hours together. We always had this time together and so, he's really part of her life and I think that marriage and whatever she went through there is really a part of who she is and it makes her feel close to him.

COLLINS: Those who know her say she has clearly arrived at the top of her profession.

DUNNE: I think she's one of the five or six top stars of today. And you know, I've seen them all.

COLLINS: Validated by peers, loved by fans, and seemingly at peace with her past relationship, it seems Kidman has gained not only box office clout in the past two years, but valuable insight as well.

KIDMAN: The most important thing in life is sort of knowing who your friends are and cherishing them and in a weird way, you have your the best of times and the worst of times. They come together and there's always balance. You know. And it keeps your feet on the ground.

COLLINS: No longer Mrs. Tom Cruise, the resilient actress is now in every way, Nicole Kidman.


ZAHN: With three movies coming out this year and two more in the works for 2004, Nicole Kidman would not appear to be a star considering retirement. But recently during the Cannes Film Festival, Kidman announced that she plans to let her film career dwindle away if and when she remarries and settles down again.


ANNOUNCER: Next on People in the News, his public persona has been surely as times.

RUSSELL CROWE, ACTOR: You can take your cynicism and you can put it where the sun don't shine.

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

The surly super star, Russell Crowe, when we return.



ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. He's a multi- nominated Oscar-winning actor, a musician, until very recently, one of the most eligible men on the planet. But Russell Crowe, Hollywood's captivating and sometimes combustible bad boy, is now a married man. Here's Bill Hemmer.


BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (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 the 2002 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 $20 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. Last summer, an Australian judge cleared two men who allegedly tried to blackmail Crowe over this video of a 1999 bar brawl. Months later, he again made the tabloids after reports of yet another bar fight, this time in Mexico, where he was at work on his new film, "Master and Commander."

CYNTHIA SANZ, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: You think of Russell Crowe as this sort of party boy. I mean, he's not really the sort of sensitive type. You think he's tough, and he gets into fights, but I think at his heart, he's really very romantic.

HEMMER: Russell Crowe, a romantic? Judging by last month's headlines, you bet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. and Mrs. Crowe.

HEMMER: On April 7, 2003, after 39 years of bachelorhood, Crowe married longtime girlfriend Danielle Spencer on his birthday. The intimate ceremony was held on his Australian ranch, and as 100 guests looked on, the notorious bad boy shed more than a few tears.

SANZ: Really, the most touching part of the ceremony was about halfway through when he was reading his vows. Russell really teared up. I mean, he got all emotional about it, and he had to start over.

HEMMER: 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: 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: There was. The two would date on and off for the next 13 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 the 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.


LEAH ROZEN, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: 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 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: It would take two years, but in 1997, Russell Crowe happened.

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: Yes, yes, when? Yes, 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. Yes.

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 our story continues, Hollywood sexiest gladiator finally meets his match.

SANZ: She knew that he would eventually come back, and he did.

HEMMER: But first, Crowe falls hard for Meg Ryan, and nearly falls into the hands of kidnappers. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HEMMER: 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 megastar. 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 that, 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 the 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, although 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HEMMER: His role in "A Beautiful Mind" 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 canonize him yet, to go yes, you are the new king. So that was a factor. Two, Denzel Washington was really, really good.

HEMMER: Oscar aside; it was his increasingly high profile companion, fellow Aussie Danielle Spencer who had fans abuzz.

KING: Are you now in love?

CROWE: Yes, I am. Yes.

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.

SANZ: She sort of understood when he went to Hollywood and had to pursue that life. You know, she sort of forgave a lot of the running around that he did.

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.

HEMMER: And on April 7, 2003, she was by his side again, this time as Mrs. Russell Crowe. Clad in Armani, the couple emerged from the small chapel on Crowe's Australian ranch. The ceremony had been short, just 20 minutes, and as rose petals flew and portraits were taken, emotions ran high. This union, 13 years in the making, seems to have tamed the edgy super star.

SANZ: He was so into this wedding. He feels like this is finally, you know, his life is on track, and this is the woman that he wants to spend his life with, so he was really emotional throughout the whole thing.

HEMMER: Not surprisingly, at the reception, Crowe serenaded his new bride.

SANZ: He brought the band out, and they sang three songs for her. One of them was a song called, "Danielle," where he says, you know, "my eyes get weary, I feel like crying, I don't often do. I love you, Danielle, you know I do." 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, and then some.

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


ZAHN: Russell Crowe's next film, "Master and Commander," is expected out in November. It is based on the swashbuckling novels of Patrick O'Brien.

That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, a look at the players involved in the Middle East peace process. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us.


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