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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 05:23 GMT 06:23 UK
Crowe's upward flight
A Beautiful Mind
Russell Crowe: Plays academic John Nash
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe is again the talk of Hollywood for his starring role in A Beautiful Mind. BBC News Online takes a look at his career.

There seems to be nothing to stop the rise of Russell Crowe.

Less than a year after walking away with the best actor Oscar for Gladiator, he is again the toast of Hollywood - and looks firmly on course for another Academy Award.

In just a few years, the New Zealand-born actor has gone from a virtual unknown to becoming one of the hottest properties in the film-making world.

Crowe's talent would seem to lie in his professional versatility and courage. In recent times, each role he has taken on has been in vast contrast to the last.

A Beautiful Mind's central character - Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash - could not be further from Gladiator's steely hero Maximus.

Gladiator
Gladiator propelled Crowe to super stardom

As Maximus, Crowe was allowed to be charismatic in the truly macho sense. As Nash, Crowe proves he is not afraid to appear in a less glamorous guise.

In 2000, Crowe won an Oscar nomination for the dignity with which he acted out his role in The Insider. He played middle-aged tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, a role for which he piled on the pounds and made his hair grey.

But though Crowe's star is very much in the ascendancy he is not an overnight sensation.

Now aged 37, Crowe has done his time. Before he came to prominence, he had been in a rock band, worked on stage and in TV and appeared in 20 films.

A glance at his full career shows his depth and versatility, from playing a brutal thug in Romper Stomper to a gentler character in Proof of Life.

Rock 'n' roll

Russell Crowe was born in Auckland, New Zealand on 7 April 1964, descended from a Norwegian and Maori ancestry.

His family moved to Sydney, Australia, when he was four. His parents, Jocelyn and Alex Crowe, did the catering on movie sets and often took their young son with them to work.

Russell Crowe films
Blood Oath - 1990
Proof - 1991
Romper Stomper - 1992
Sum of Us - 1994
Virtuosity - 1995
The Insider - 1999
Gladiator - 2000
Proof of Life - 2001

Crowe was bitten with the acting bug from an early age and made his debut as a child extra at the age of six.

His first professional acting role was in an episode of the TV series Spyforce. But at 14, Crowe decided to leave both acting and Australia behind.

He finished high school and returned to New Zealand where he formed the band Roman Antix with friend Dean Cochran.

At 16, he called himself Russ le Roq and recorded several songs, including the prophetic I Want To Be Like Marlon Brando.

His band eventually evolved into the rock 'n' roll outfit 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, for which he still writes and performs.

The Insider
The Insider won Crowe his first Oscar nomination

During his time as a young musician, Crowe took on several odd jobs, including that of waiter and bingo caller.

But the acting bug bit again and Crowe won a role in a stage version of Grease and then the Rocky Horror Show.

After moving back to Australia, he also appeared in soap opera Neighbours.

Awards

Crowe's first movie was Blood Oath in 1990. He continued to gain momentum with films such as The Crossing when he was 25.

He then went on give an Australian Film Institute award-winning performance in black comedy Proof, playing the friend of a blind man.

Romper Stomper
Playing a neo-Nazi won Crowe a best actor award

This was followed by the critically acclaimed Romper Stomper, in which he played neo-Nazi Hondo and won another Australian Film Institute award.

Crowe was now on a roll since this performance got him noticed - particularly by Hollywood actress Sharon Stone.

Basic Instinct star Stone was adamant that Crowe could play alongside her in the Western The Quick and the Dead as the priest Cort.

The movie was a flop but it got Crowe into Hollywood, and onwards and upwards to greater things.

Virtuosity with Denzel Washington followed, as well as smaller films with equally big names such as Salma Hayek and Bridget Fonda.

Versatility

But it was the box office hit LA Confidential in 1997 that made the difference.

Crowe played the complex Bud White, described by Crowe as "racist, self-righteous and foul-mouthed but who doesn't realise how much he's looking for love".

Proof of Life
Proof of Life sees Crowe combine action hero with deep thinker

The film won its star Kim Basinger an Oscar and Crowe was rewarded with an abundance of offers and scripts.

One of these was Michael Mann's tense thriller The Insider. As Wigand, Crowe played a man who informed on the corrupt practices of his tobacco firm.

But if The Insider showed Crowe's maturity and conviction as a serious actor, it was Gladiator that created the "cult" of Russell Crowe as action hero.

It was followed by Proof of Life with Meg Ryan. Again Crowe played a tough ex-SAS soldier turned kidnap-negotiator.

It is was another tense thriller but one combining one of the strongest sides of Crowe's on-screen persona - action hero and strategist.

In A Beautiful Mind, Crowe develops his skills in playing characters with mental, more than physical, strength.

Future projects include circus drama Flora Plum, directed by Jodie Foster, which again should stretch his capability and range.

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