One of Hollywood’s greatest actors, Russell Crowe gets behind the camera to recreate battle scenes
Last year, Russell Crowe sparked a controversy when he spoke about how growing old has changed the way he selects his scripts. He asked his female counterparts not to play the ‘ingénue’ forever. Later, the 51-year-old—a part-owner of the rugby team, South Sydney Rabbitohs—made news for his plans to take the Australian rugby league to Las Vegas, to boost the popularity of the game. More recently, the Scientology enthusiast earned laughs when he mimicked how the late Michael Jackson used to make prank calls to him. The Academy Award winner—for films like Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind—has now turned director with The Water Diviner. A historic drama based on a true story, it is about an Australian farmer who travels to Turkey in search of his three missing sons, four years after the World War I battle at Gallipoli. More from him:
How was the experience of directing a film?
Taking the directorial helm was not just a career risk; it was a big life risk. If The Water Diviner proves commercially successful, I will be able to bring back other films to direct in Australia, to work in the city I want to work in and, crucially, be more present for my sons, Charlie, 10, and eight-year-old Tennyson.
What liberty does an actor
have while choosing a film?
An actor, even an Oscar-winning one, does not usually have that level of control. People go, ‘You are a movie star— you can surely call those shots.’ But I am not that kind of an actor. I look for the role that excites me and work with whoever that director happens to be.
The film realistically portrays battle scenes.
My reading of the Gallipoli battle stories quite often talked about the noise that rose up out of no-man’s land after a particular engagement. I realised no one had really portrayed that before. You see, in this movie, there are men who are bleeding out and people with severed limbs. You understand more about the horrifying experience it must have been. What was most deeply touching with that scenario was how well those young actors did it. That whole sequence was just two takes. And you don’t take these things home. It’s too weighty a thing to carry around and you’ve got a lot of responsibilities when you’re shooting a film like this.
Only two takes?
I took the actors through a lot of preparation. That is why you do it, so they can be in the pocket of what they’re doing immediately. They don’t require any time to warm up; they are just there, willing to give that sort of performance. But I contemplated that situation and how I would shoot it for a long time before we did it, and I spoke to the actors about four months prior to the shoot.
Are you a two-take director usually?
No, I’m going to shoot as much as I need to. But part of that preparation with the actors was my own preparation and the rest of the crew’s preparation. Take one is valid and usable. I don’t believe in the warm-up stuff. We’ve done our rehearsals and done our preparation and when we say ‘action’, that could well be in the movie, so let’s be on point. That individual is there at your request—and it’s a privilege for you that that person agreed, whether it’s the production designer or the DOP or the costume designer, to be on your set so you need to get the best out of them.
The Water Diviner is scheduled to release today.