Russell Crowe, looking happier and more relaxed than ever, turned up last night at Vanity Fair’s elegant pre-Golden Globes party at the Sunset Towers/Argyle Hotel in West Hollywood. It was a most unusual low-key gathering, very much the antidote to three days of hard partying.
He told me that after taking off some time to be with his wife and toddler son, he’s ready to make a big movie. And it’s all set: He will do an untitled picture with Nicole Kidman, directed by Baz Luhrmann, the man who guided Kidman through the delicious hit “Moulin Rouge.”
“It’s like the Australian version of ‘Gone with the Wind,’” Crowe told me. “That’s the way Baz describes it, anyway. It’s set in the Australian country in the early 1930s. Baz will have to build a whole community where we’re going to shoot, since it’s a very remote area. He’ll have to put up around 260 people. It’s just like what John Ford used to do with his Westerns.”
The script is by Luhrmann and fellow Aussie Stuart Beattie, who also wrote the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “Collateral” and “Derailed.” The studio is 20th Century Fox, which is a cousin to FOX News. Like most family members, we have to find things out about our relatives from complete strangers!
Crowe told me that he’d already made a pact with his wife Danielle, now pregnant with their second child, regarding his work schedule.
“I told her I’d give her 12 months at home, and then I’d take 12 months to make a movie.” He will be at her side, presumably, when she gives birth in July, even if the film is well into production.
You may recall that Crowe and Kidman had previously announced an Australian film that they would do together called “Eucalyptus.” The project quickly fell apart.
Crowe said, “Nicole shouldn’t have put her name on that so fast. It was too small, too fragile a project to sustain all that pressure. It was billed like it was going to save the Australian independent film market.”
That’s what did it in, Crowe concluded.
Is this a new, happy, anger-managed Russell Crowe? Perhaps. He did seem much less encumbered, jolly and eager to talk. Maybe that’s because his performance in Ron Howard’s “Cinderella Man” — a film that was released badly in the spring of 2005 — is still being talked about as a possible Oscar contender.
Crowe told me that the performances in that film of which he was most proud were those of Renée Zellweger and Paul Giamatti.
In fact, Russell told me that when they were shooting “Cinderella Man” he got on the phone with Giamatti’s then-ailing mother and promised her that Paul would be properly recognized for his work this time after being snubbed twice — for his marvelous work in “American Splendor” and “Sideways.”
Giamatti has subsequently been nominated for a Globe and a SAG award. An Oscar nomination is inevitable.
As for Zellweger, Crowe told me: “She really nailed that part. She’s incredible in the movie.”
Crowe was not the only Academy Award Best Actor at the Vanity Fair shindig. Adrien Brody, winner for “The Pianist,” was close at hand, and this year’s probable winner Philip Seymour Hoffman was not far away.
Also spotted in and around the Art Deco-inspired space with grand views south into the Los Angeles night: Naomi Watts, Keira Knightley, Dan Aykroyd and Donna Dixon Aykroyd, Dennis Quaid, Amy Adams (the hot young star of “Junebug”), Terrence Howard, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, Cillian Murphy, David Spade, Gabrielle Union, Matt Dillon, director Michael Mann, Arianna Huffington, Sony Pictures Classics’ Michael Barker and Tom Bernard and Harvey Weinstein.