More than a decade ago, before he became Mr. Grumpy Hollywood Superstar, Russell Crowe starred in a small Australian movie called The Sum of Us. In that film, he played a gay man who lived with his (very accepting) father; his love interest was played by John Polson, who also happens to do a little directing from time to time. The two clearly got along, because Polson has somehow persuaded Crowe to put his ego aside and star in Tenderness, a little indie flick Polson is directing for GreeneStreet Films.

The film, which is based on a novel by Robert Cormier, is about an 18-year-old serial killer (!) who becomes entangled with a young runaway (In the book, she's 15; according to Variety, it's 16 -- is the latter legal in some states, or something?) who has some issues of her own. Crowe will play "a cop who sets out to unravel [the boy's] complex past."

Production begins next month and must wrap up by July, when shooting is scheduled to begin on Crowe's next big-budget extravaganza, the much-discussed American Gangster.