Originally created 11/12/06

Bad boy becomes family man



TORONTO - Though not yet 3, Russell Crowe's oldest son already is adept at packing for long overseas trips.

After two months on his own while shooting a film in New York City, Mr. Crowe was eager to see his wife and kids, who had stayed home in Australia. The feeling was mutual, Mr. Crowe said, relating a telephone conversation he had with his wife a couple of weeks before the family was to join him in New York for the rest of the shoot.

"She was saying she heard all this noise in the corridor, so she went to check out what it was, and there's my son dragging a laden suitcase down the corridor," Mr. Crowe said in an interview at September's Toronto International Film Festival, where his latest movie, A Good Year, premiered.

"She said, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'I'm going to America to see Daddy.' So they turned it into a game. Every day, he packs his bag now."

Since marrying longtime girlfriend Danielle Spencer in 2003, Mr. Crowe, 42, has gone from an Aussie bad boy with a reputation for throwing punches and the occasional telephone to a sturdy, loving family man.

The sweet romance A Good Year reflects that, tracing an investment shark's transition from ruthless competitor to laid-back lover who takes the time to smell the grapes on the Provence vineyard he inherits.

The film reunites him with Ridley Scott, who directed Mr. Crowe to a best-actor Academy Award for the savagely violent Gladiator. A Good Year shows the soft, romantic face of Mr. Crowe, a side he continually shows in conversation as he gushes about his wife and children.

After their second son was born in July, Mr. Crowe had to leave for New York almost immediately to work on another film with Mr. Scott, American Gangster. After a weekend of publicity for A Good Year in Toronto, Mr. Crowe was heading back to New York, where his family was to arrive a week later.

"I'm away from them at the moment, so it's a little difficult right now. But a minute ago it was eight weeks, but now it's eight days and I'm going to see them, and that's fantastic," Mr. Crowe said.

After American Gangster, in which Mr. Crowe plays a cop going after a Harlem drug lord (Denzel Washington) in the 1970s, Mr. Crowe and his family planned some time off in Europe. Then they were off to New Mexico, where Mr. Crowe was shooting the Western remake 3:10 to Yuma.

Despite the busy schedule, Mr. Crowe said he's far less consumed by work now that he has a family. As a single man, "I was a gypsy, I could leave in 30 seconds."

Now the work has to fit with his top priority: his wife and kids.

"I don't think I expect what I used to expect out of my job, and that certain level of intensity that I would bring to the job," Mr. Crowe said. "That kind of intensity, that energy to be that intense has to be filtered now through my wife, through my boys and through all these other things that I've learned over time are far more important than making a movie.

"That doesn't mean I have a negative attitude. I love being on a film set. It's a really privileged place to be," Mr. Crowe said. His wife "doesn't want to stop me being creative."

"She doesn't want to stop me enjoying and filling myself in that side of my life," he said. "But she doesn't want me to be that man who doesn't know where the fallout is."

Mr. Crowe has had to deal with public fallout from his temper in the past. He has a reputation for scuffling with photographers, and he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault last year for throwing a telephone that hit a Manhattan hotel concierge.

"My life is full of some days that are diamonds and some days that are not, the same as everybody else," Mr. Crowe said. "Unfortunately, you have that thing of when you have a (bad) day it makes the front page, and somebody else can get away with it."

Mr. Scott weighs in with: "I think it comes to us all at a certain point. ... You get your priorities in place. I think he's really enjoying being a dad."