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Russell Crowe: “Hollywood actresses need to act their age”

How lucky is Russell Crowe? He's 50, but unlike so many women – and increasingly, the men – he's actually allowed to look 50.
Australian Actor Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe. Photography by Damian Bennett.

His hair has gone grey, and laugh lines have formed on his face. It hasn’t made him less employable. On the contrary, Russell is enjoying a whole new career playing deeper, more complex roles as an older man.

Russell’s most recent film, The Water Diviner, centres on Joshua Connor, a father of three grown sons – all are soldiers – who storm the beach at Gallipoli.

None come home, so Joshua goes to Turkey to try to find them.

It’s a richly rewarding role, and it’s one that Russell says he couldn’t have played 20 years ago, not only because he wasn’t old enough, but also because he wasn’t then a father.

“The best thing about the industry I’m in – movies – is that there are roles for people in all different stages of life,” Russell says, in an interview with The Weekly.

“To be honest, I think you’ll find that the woman who is saying that (the roles have dried up) is the woman who at 40, 45, 48, still wants to play the ingénue, and can’t understand why she’s not being cast as the 21 year old.

“Meryl Streep will give you 10,000 examples and arguments as to why that’s bullshit, so will Helen Mirren, or whoever it happens to be. If you are willing to live in your own skin, you can work as an actor. If you are trying to pretend that you’re still the young buck when you’re my age, it just doesn’t work.”

Speaking animatedly now, Russell continues: “I have heard of an actress, part of her fee negotiation was getting the number of children she was supposed to have lessened. Can you believe this? This (character) was a woman with four children, and there were reasons why she had to have four children – mainly, she lived in a cold climate and there was nothing to do but fornicate all day –  so quit arguing, just play the role!

“The point is, you do have to be prepared to accept that there are stages in life. So I can’t be the Gladiator forever.”

Besides taking the lead role, Russell also makes his directorial debut with The Water Diviner.

He says that being a father helped him bring emotional depth to the film.

“I’m a father of two sons myself, and when I was making this film, it was the parents of the soldiers I was thinking about,” he says.

“It’s like my friend, Eli Roth (the Hollywood film director, who is part of the so-called ‘Splat Pack’ for his horror movies) told me: “It’s not the 43 years in front of the camera, it’s not the 25 years doing lead roles, you’ll find the thing that gives you the empathy, the power, when you’re making this film is the fact that you’re a father.

“And that came up, over and over again.”

The interview with Russell took place in his adopted home town, Sydney, where his young sons, Charles, who is turning 11, and Tennyson, eight, live. They attended the premiere of the film, as did Russell’s former wife, Danielle Spencer.

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