Skip to main content

Russell Crowe Breaks Down His Career, from 'Gladiator' to 'The Pope's Exorcist'

Russell Crowe takes us through his illustrious career, including his roles in 'Young Doctors,' 'L.A. Confidential,' 'Gladiator,' 'A Beautiful Mind,' 'Cinderella Man,' 'American Gangster,' 'Thor: Love and Thunder' and 'The Pope's Exorcist.'

THE POPE'S EXORCIST is in theaters now,

Director: Funmi Sunmonu
Director of Photography: Joe Machart
Editor: Matthew Colby
Celebrity Talent: Russell Crowe
Line Producer: Romeeka Powell
Associate Producer: Emebeit Beyene
Production Managers: Natasha Soto-Albors
Talent Booker: Meredith Judkins
Post Production Supervisor: Edward Taylor
Post Production Coordinator: Jovan James
Supervising Editor: Kameron Key
Assistant Editor: Justin Symonds

Released on 04/21/2023


You know, I wish that every

young actor could have something like a, Gladiator,

in their career.

When I first saw it, I was blown away by it.

And when I first saw it with a crowd,

that's when it really freaked me out.


puts that knife under Maximus' arm towards the end,

people were angry

they were standing in their seats and going-

[laughing] And I was like, Whoa!

This is big.

[upbeat music]

Hello, I'm Russell Crowe

and this is the timeline of my career.

[upbeat music]

Now, where did you say that pain was?

I thought you said it was over here.

Oh, yeah. There.

I think I was 12 when I did, The Young Doctors.

It was a school tour.

The end of the year we're allowed to pick

things that we wanted to do from a list

and one of the things was to go and visit a TV studio.

So I go to the TV studio

and there was an actor there

that I knew from when I was even younger.

His name was Roy Harries-Jones.

And he said to me, Are you here for a casting?.


And I said, No, I'm just with the school group.

And he said, Well, let them do that.

Come on, I'll introduce you to the casting agent.

And I ended up sitting with the casting agent,

I missed the whole tour,

but I had a really nice conversation

and that ended up with me getting the job.

Russell, is your mother here with you?


Where is she?

With my dad.

And where's your dad?

Where he is every night,

in the pub.

As so often happens on those soap operas,

they sort of shape it around your real life

and at that time, my dad was managing pubs,

they'd been caterers for a while,

but then they went into hotels.

And so we would live

in the hotel that my dad was running.

So they made up this story about the child

not having a lot of parental sort of guidance around,

'cause his family were always working and stuff like that,

which is pretty much my story, you know.

It's funny to look back on it now,

as I grew up

and started moving into the industry,

I didn't have the same fear that some other actors have

about working on camera and stuff because

I popped that bubble when I was a little boy.

A couple of years later,

I did another little thing in TV

and a couple of years after that, another little thing

and touring in bands

and I was a nightclub DJ for a while.

I started floating back into the acting thing

through musical theater.

And so I didn't get my first

audition for a lead role in a feature film until I was 25.

You want some advise, Ms. Bracken?

It's Lynn.

Ms. Bracken,

don't ever try to bribe me or threaten me,

or I'll have you and Patchett in up to your ears.

By the time we get to, LA Confidential,

that's probably my 15th or 16th film.

I received the script from Curtis Hanson

and it described Bud White as

the biggest man


the Los Angeles Police Department.

And I was like,

Curtis, why did you send this to me?.

But I met with him and

he told me that he'd seen all the stuff

and that he really believed in what I did.

And did a lot of Australian independent films,

things like, Romper Stomper, and, Proof,

and a few American independent films as well,

where I always insisted as part of the negotiation

that my name was above the title.

Everybody used to scratch their head about that

but it paid off later

when serious producers started looking at my work,

there wasn't just one role above the title,

there was many.

They kind of got more confident about being able to

hire me, I suppose, in American films, because

that looked legit. You know what I mean?


When I flew to LA, I moved into this hotel

and we began rehearsals and a few days into the rehearsal,

the studio stopped paying the bill at the hotel

and they stopped paying for my rental car.

The studio didn't want me to be in that role,

they wanted, I think Sean Penn

and Robert De Niro in the film or something.

Things that they could quantify

and understand.

So there was a probably a four or five day period there

where I was leaving the hotel of a morning

by going down the back stairs

because I knew the manager of the hotel

was waiting for me in the foyer

to ask when the bill was going to be paid.

If I'd paused and said, I'm not turning up to work,

they just would've taken that opening

to get me out of the movie.

One of the producers of the film

who really, really believed in the film,

against the wishes of,

let's call them the studio for the film,

he took a print by himself

and he flew to the Cannes Film Festival.

It was selected to be in main competition.

Suddenly this film that everybody had already written off,

now people started going, How is that possible?,

This film that we thought was one thing

is regarded by the greatest film market

and festival in the world as something else.

It really changed the trajectory for the film.

And if it had not been screened at Cannes in the way it was,

I don't think it would've got the attention that it did.

[ominous music]

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius,

commander of the Armies of the North,

General of the Felix Legions.

Father to a murdered son.

Husband to a murdered wife.

And I will have my vengeance,

in this life or the next.

Gladiator's my 20-something movie.

I was confident about my abilities as a leading man.

What I wasn't confident about with, Gladiator,

was the world that was surrounding me.

At the core of what we were doing was a great concept,

but the script, it was rubbish,

absolute rubbish.

And it had all these sort of strange sequences.

One of them was about chariots

and how famous gladiators,

and this is all true, right?

To use certain types of chariots and

some famous gladiators had endorsement deals

with products for olive oil and things like that,

and that's all true,

but it's just not going to ring right to a modern audience.

They're going to go, What the is all this?

The energy around what we were doing was very fractured.

I did think it couple times,

maybe my best option is just to get on a plane

and get out of here, you know?

It was my continued conversations with Ridley

that sort of gave me faith.

He said to me at one point in time,

Mate, we're not committing anything to camera

that you don't believe in, a hundred percent.

So when we actually started that film,

we had 21 pages of script

that we agreed on.

A script is usually between 103 or four or 110 pages,

something like that.

So we had a long way to go

and we basically used up

those pages in the first section of the movie.

So by the time we got to our second location,

which was Morocco, we were sort of catching up.

Blessed father, watch over my wife and son

with a ready sword.

Whisper to them, I live only to hold them again.

Ridley wanted to shoot me during this after battle prayer

and amongst the trinkets on the shelf

that the art department had left there,

they had these little figurines

so I picked up these figurines

and like directed a prayer towards them,

as if they were my wife and child.

That ends up becoming this huge story point.

But it was like, that was created on the night

and there was an actor in the room there

playing the character of Cicero,

a guy called Tommy Flanagan,

he was booked as a day player for one day's work.

And we shot that scene and then Ridley was like,

There's something about those figurines,

we have to figure out,

you know, there's something about that.

So we need to hang on to that actor.

That led to Tommy Flanagan being flown to Malta,

for months, he was there for months.

We still didn't know what we were going to do,

but we knew we were going to

come back to his character, you know?

And then as it turned out,

we came up with the idea of him

not only coming to see Maximus, but bringing the figurines.

You would fight me?

Why not?

Do you think I'm afraid?

I think you have been afraid all your life.

Joaquin was going through the same thing as I was.

When you walk onto a set that big,

it's very easy for imposter syndrome

to sort of come over you.

It's like, What am I going to do with this?

And he would go to his costume

appointments and they'd put him in this armor

and all this finery, you know.

I remember one day he said to Ridley,

Ridley, I don't understand.

I'm a kid from Florida, what am I supposed to do in this?

Go out and wave to people.

And Ridley's like, Yeah,

that's what you're supposed to do.

We all know this now,

we know how fine an actor he is now.

But back then,

it was only Ridley Scott

that knew how fine an actor he was.

He was the one convincing Joaquin

to do this and to do it the way he did it.

The subtleties and the menace

and all of these things that he brought to that role.

When I first saw it, I was blown away by it.

And when I first saw it with a crowd,

that's when it really freaked me out because

it was like going to a movie when I was a kid.

People were so connected to the film

and they were voicing that connection.



puts that knife under Maximus' arm towards the end.

People were angry,

they were standing in their seats and going-


Calling him a mother.

And I was like, Whoa!

This is big.

Last time I saw, Gladiator,

I actually watched it in the Coliseum in Rome

and I actually got a little bit embarrassed

that I'd received so much attention for that film.

It's an incredible ensemble cast

with beautiful performances from end to end,

not only Joaquin, but Connie Nielsen,

Richard Harris,

Derek Jacobi,

Tomas Arana,

Djimon Hounsou,

I mean, come on man,

It's just beautiful stuff.

I wish that every

young actor could have something like a, Gladiator,

in their career.

We made that film in 1999

and I'll bet you money,

somewhere in the world tonight,

that film is playing on primetime television.

It has the longest legs and people

they're not just connect to it,

but they love it with a passion.

[upbeat music]

I need a map.

When the script arrived,

I was actually on tour with my band,

I was in Texas, I was in Austin, Texas.

But you know, I find it hard

when my brain is doing something else,

if I'm like on another film set or

if I'm touring with the band like that or whatever,

if I'm focused on another project,

it's kind of like letting some of the details

of another project into my head while I'm working,

it's something I try and avoid doing. You know?

So I read between gigs.

This particular copy of the script

had come to me directly from Jeffrey Katzenberg.

But he was very insistent and so,

I took it outside on that back porch

and as the sun was going down in Austin

and I started to read and it blew me away.

I think probably at that point,

it elevated to the most perfect script I'd ever read

and had this built in trick,

and it was such a good trick that it fooled the reader

at the same time as it would fool the viewer.

'Cause I read the script, I really got to the book,

the Sylvia Nasar book on the same subject

and just took that in.

And so when I sat in Los Angeles to meet with Ron Howard,

I knew way more about the subject matter than he did.

I was pretty rude to him in those conversations,

'cause I realized that-

You know, I would say,

Well, what about such and such in this year or whatever?,

He goes, I don't know about that,

and I go, Dude, what are you doing?

You're supposed to be directing this.

And he said to me something like,

Oh, Russell, I will assure you,

I will know everything by the time we start shooting,

something like that and I was like,

That was a good line, bro.


It was a very interesting

process, but

a very difficult process.

When you bring in,

on top of the other practical details

about what you look like at a certain point,

then there's also the thing of actually

beginning to understand

the tells of the diseases that we were dealing with.

You know, I think there's 20, 21, 22 physical tells

and they come on at different times.

And so there was a map for that as well,

which point in time there would be like physical tells

or tells that certain muscle spasmic things

or something that would happen,

it was just, it was very complicated.

The best way to ensure everybody's safety

is for you to continue your work.

Well, I'll just quit.

You won't.

Why would I not?

Because I keep the Russians from knowing you work for us.

I was on the set

and I was sitting there and I looked across

and there was John Nash

and I had been asked by Ron Howard if I wanted to meet him,

but on this film I thought,

Oh, it's just so far back in time and everything

and he'll be a very different man now

that maybe I shouldn't meet him.

But there he was,

he was just standing there on the set.

And so I just went up to him,

I went, Hi John, I'm Russell.

And he did this really funny double take,

he goes, I just saw you on the television the other day

and you didn't look anything like this.

And I said, Can I get you a coffee or a tea?.

And then he went into this

dissertation about tea

and the qualities between

like Southern Indian tea or Northern Indian tea

and how they suited his palate.

And he was just jamming along about tea

and I was listening

and I just said to myself, This is fantastic.

There are some

Northern Indian teas which are dense enough,

I enjoy the flavor that they have.

And I have not been in this room for quite so many years.

I wonder what tea they serve.

There's a scene that they call, The Pens Scene, right?

Where he's offered a cup of tea.

And all of the things that I do in that,

when I'm talking about tea

are stolen from that first conversation.

Even the thing of bending forward to sniff the tea

before sipping it

and waiting until it had cooled down before drinking it.

It was like, all of those things

I got from a real life conversation with John.

I didn't quit on you.

And I didn't quit tonight.

I didn't always lose, I won't always lose again.

I can still fight.

Go home. I can still fight.

Go home to Mae and the kids, Jim.

Go home?

Go home with what?

Go home with what?

A broken hand from Mount Vernon?

I had actually read that script

in the year that, LA Confidential came out.

I just thought it was such an incredible story,

I didn't know anything about this guy

and then I realized it was

a true story and I fell in love with it,

I fell in love with the simplicity of it.

But I fell in love with that journey too.

This man had had success and he'd done everything right,

but then there was the Wall Street Crash in '29.

The way he

came back from that situation,,

he was fighting on behalf of his kids

and putting a roof over their heads and feeding them.

So he was so


I just loved the guy.

Nobody wanted to do it,

nobody wanted to do a boxing movie.

I mean, Ron's vibe was, Look man,

I can see why you want to do it,

but I don't see where there's any

joy for me as a director.

So many wonderful boxing films have been made over time,

it's a pretty crowded ground.

So I understood what Ron was talking about.

I asked,

Look, I know you don't like this script the way it is,

but if we were brought in Akiva,

who had written, A Beautiful Mind,

he will understand what it's missing

and he'll emphasize those nuances.

So we did that and that was when,

after that is when Ron agreed to direct it.

[indistinct] that sucker!

[inspiring music] [loud smacking]

He's showing tremendous determination.

[inspiring music] [loud smacking]

Opening of that film. I was 40 years old,

but I weighed the same

as when I did my first lead role

in the feature film when I was 25 years old.

So I'd managed to somehow

reverse non-specific male weight gain

and get back down

to 81 kilos or some like that.

That preparation for, Cinderella Man,

was long and it was arduous.

We started in November,


for a shoot that I believe

started around about April, 2004.

A typical day of preparation on that

would be getting up

prior to the sun and going for a walk,

just three or four kilometers.

And then we would do a session in the gym

and some yoga.

Towards the end of the morning, you then get into the ring

and you'd do all the sort of related

boxing stuff, then we'd have a break, have lunch.

We'd do another boxing session, another weight session

and then we would eat dinner

and then after dinner, we'd go for a walk

and then go to bed and that would start again the next day.

In the middle of that preparation,

I actually subluxated my left shoulder

and had to have an operation.

They normally

insist you do seven weeks of rehab,

I rehabbed in

21 days.

On the 21st day, got into the ring

and did ten three minute rounds.

That shoulder still gives me problems,

I had to have another operation

and it's like just full of arthritis and everything now,

'cause I didn't want

everybody to lose their job,

I didn't want the film to collapse,

it was like $80 million sort of Damocles

hanging over my head and I just had to,

I had to make it work,

you know, I had to get back into it.

This is the newly formed

Essex County Narcotics Squad.

Our mandate is to make major arrests, no street guys.

Heroin, cocaine, amphetamine,

no grass under a thousand pounds,

no powder under 40 kilograms.

Any less than that,

than somebody else can waste their time.

American Gangster,

it was a problematic project.

They'd set it up and gone

to make it with a different director

and contracted Denzel.

But the film, for whatever reason,

had collapsed and didn't get made.

So now it's this big black mark,

but it was a black mark against Ron Howard and Brian Grazer,

who are friends of mine,

because we had made, A Beautiful Mind, together.

We've had that success together,

we made, Cinderella Man, together,

we've had that success together.

And it was Brian actually that came to me and he said,

Do you see anything in this?

Do you see any way

we can get out of this hole that we're in?.

And because it was like, when I say hole,

they were in a massive money hole.

They'd spent 30 or 40 million or something

with nothing to show for it.

And I said to him, Well listen man,

I didn't even read the last draft I got sent,

'cause the title's stupid.


It had a different name at one point,

I think it was called, True Blue,

or something like that, right?

I know what it refers to

and I know that it actually refers to,

it was the name of a particular heroin

that Denzel Washington's character Frank was selling.

And that's all well and good, but who knows that?

Who knows?

Brian said, Well we've done a little bit of a rewrite

where we think we've divided the characters a bit more,

but we've also changed the title.

And he said, American Gangster,

and I said, I am very close to being in,

that's a cool title.

So then,

I said

to Brian, 'cause he said he wanted to attract a filmmaker

like Ridley to a piece like that,

and I'd just worked with Ridley on, A Good Year,

so we were sort of in touch really regularly, you know?

And I said, I don't know Brian,

we can send that to him,

but he's just, he's not even probably going to read it.

I let Ridley know it was coming and he had a read of it

and he just loved the time period

and he loved the fact that it was going to be set

all in Manhattan and

the boroughs of New York and the storyline.

And the thing is,

the great benefit was Denzel was attached.

Denzel and I were already friends,

we did, Virtuosity, together,

way back when we were a lot younger.

So I knew that that would work,

But they'd paid him,

'cause of the failed production.

Denzel had done the honorable thing

and he hadn't [indistinct].

We represent progress,

the kind of progress

that's going to see them lose a lot of money.

With you out of the way,

everything can return to normal.

Normal is seeing the police ride up to my house,

dragging my little 12 year old cousin out

and tying him to a pole,

shoving a shotgun in his mouth so hard they bust his teeth,

then they bust two shotgun shells in his head,

knock his head off, that's what normal is to me.

I don't give a about no

[loud banging]

police and I don't give a about no police now.

In that movie,

by the time you get to this

coffee cup scene with interrogation and

Frank is still trying to intimidate,

even though he's not in a very good position,

you know, smacking the coffee cup off the table and stuff,

which is about a power shift between the two characters.

And Denzel is such a fine actor

that he recognized the opportunity

and went with the power shift.

I love working with Denzel, I love his company

and I love working with Ridley,

so it was magnificent.

But also around that,

that was what I met the RZA and he's still,

Bobby Diggs remains one of my closest friends.

Everybody that I worked with, Yul Vazquez and Johnny,

the group of guys that were Richie Roberts detectives,

we're very tight and all super professional

and just fun to be around.

I hereby open

this holy council over the god.

Where we have many, many serious matter

to be talk about.

Such as,

where are we going to hold this year's orgy?

It's trying to find

some sort of truth to a very extreme character.

And you've got to be able to deadpan those moments

in order for them to be funny.

Taika and I, our families,

in the Maori part of my family,

we come from what they call, The same canoe,

it's like Ngati Porou, right?


he's in fact my cousin,

in the broader Maori sense, you know?

He arrived for an official meeting,

within the first couple of minutes

I knew that this official meeting

required a gin and tonic or a tequila

or something like that because it was that kind of vibe.

I fell in love with him as a bloke, you know?

So then he sort of said,

Listen, I've come up with this thing

and I don't know if you'll respond,

but you know,

what I'm thinking, all the different roles you've done,

you know, what about a Greek god?.


They are asking me to play the role

with the same voice as Maximus.

His voice, I used to call,

Royal Shakespeare company two pints after lunch,

this faux upper class kind of voice, you know?

So I said to Taika,

You cannot make me do this in an English accent.

I want to do this as a Greek guy.

And everybody just was like,

What are you talking about? You know?

Zeus is a Greek god,

he's no other god from any other civilization,

he is a Greek god.

They came back to me and they said,

We'll only let you do that if you also agree

to simultaneously shoot

every scene in the accent that we think is going to work.

It was fun and fine,

but I doubled the length of every working day I had

because I had to shoot every scene as a Greek guy

and then turn around and shoot every scene

with an English accent as well.

But the studio said at the time

that they would cut both things together

and they would screen both.

The characterization that got the biggest response

in the audience was the one they were going to go with.

The Greek characterization

absolutely smashed the English one,

just smashed it,

by 10 or 15 points, you know what I mean?

And true to their word,

they went with what they said.

We need your lightning bolt.

My lightning bolt is called Thunderbolt.

So I think, to use somebody's secret weapon like this,

that you should at least get the name right when you ask.

Can I borrow


Finding out that not only Chris is a wonderful guy,

but he's a really good actor man.

He's got some comedy chops like crazy, you know

his sense of timing and everything,

So I really enjoyed it.

[ominous music]

[Speaker] Father Gabriel Amorth,

[ominous music]

on the night of June 4th,

you performed an exorcism.

[intense music]

It was not an exorcism.

What fascinated me

was this guy in the middle of it, you know?

When I read

the job description, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican,

I absolutely, hand on my heart,

thought somebody just made that up.

And I go, Oh here's a snappy job title,

Chief Exorcist for the Vatican.

[laughing] You know, it's like.

But then I looked it up and realized, that's a real job.

What's more that the guy had been in the job for 36 years.

So it was my fascination with him as a person

that got me connected.

And then the more I found out about him,

the more fascinated I became.

And having broken

the ice with

the Zeus thing and using the Greek accent,

here they are asking me to play

an Italian priest.

Okay, so what do you think he sounds like?

And the response initially was,

We're thinking like just sort of a mid-atlantic,

non-specific American accent.


I'm like, You cannot get anyone more Italian

than this guy.

That doesn't interest me. I'm not going to do it that way.

I said, I'll do the role,

but you got to let me be Italian

and you got to actually let me,

give me a few scenes where I speak

in an Italian language

and then we'll come up with an idea

of how he transitions from Italian language into English.

And they were brave enough to allow me to do it

and so far the response from people has been

pretty good, so we'll see what happens.

[upbeat music]

I never actually know the number of films that I've made,

but it always surprises me

that other people have made more than I have,

'cause I feel like I've been working constantly.

But I'm 58 now.

All my wrinkles are earned.

My gray hairs are all earned.

And now I play characters with wrinkles and gray hair.

The most amazing thing is for me

that I still love my job

and I can genuinely say that

and I know

when I'm

forced to get up at four o'clock in the morning,

it doesn't bother me because I know why I'm there.

[upbeat music fading]

Starring: Russell Crowe

Up Next