CATEGORIES Features, Columns
Career Watch is a bi-weekly column by veteran film reporter and Moviefone guest-blogger Anne Thompson. Every other week, Thompson will look at the career of a major Hollywood star, analyze the moves they've made thus far and offer career advice on where they could or should head from here. This week: Russell Crowe.

Signature Line
: "Are you not entertained?" -- Maximus Decimus Meridius in 'Gladiator.'

Career Peaks: Burly "man's man" Russell Crowe has been entertaining moviegoers since his breakout in the early '90s award-winning Australian films 'Proof' and 'Romper Stomper.' He earned great reviews as a detective wooing Kim Basinger in 1997's 'L.A. Confidential' ($64.6 million domestic), as heroic Captain James Aubrey in 'Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World' ($94 million), and as a muscular yet sensitive Roman general-turned-slave in the Ridley Scott sword-and-sandal epic 'Gladiator,' his highest-grossing film to date ($187 million). Career Watch is a bi-weekly column by veteran film reporter and Moviefone guest-blogger Anne Thompson. Every other week, Thompson will look at the career of a major Hollywood star, analyze the moves they've made thus far and offer career advice on where they could or should head from here. This week: Russell Crowe.

Signature Line
: "Are you not entertained?" -- Maximus Decimus Meridius in 'Gladiator.'

Career Peaks: Burly "man's man" Russell Crowe has been entertaining moviegoers since his breakout in the early '90s award-winning Australian films 'Proof' and 'Romper Stomper.' He earned great reviews as a detective wooing Kim Basinger in 1997's 'L.A. Confidential' ($64.6 million domestic), as heroic Captain James Aubrey in 'Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World' ($94 million), and as a muscular yet sensitive Roman general-turned-slave in the Ridley Scott sword-and-sandal epic 'Gladiator,' his highest-grossing film to date ($187 million).

Awards Attention: Crowe earned three consecutive Oscar nominations for his roles as an overweight tobacco whistleblower in Michael Mann's 'The Insider' ($29 million), Maximus in 'Gladiator' and a wonky mathematician in Ron Howard's 'A Beautiful Mind' ($170 million). He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for 'Gladiator.'

Latest Misfire: Ten years later, Crowe reunited with Scott to try and recapture the magic of 'Gladiator' with another period epic, 'Robin Hood,' a retelling of the 12th century legend. The movie ran through $6.7 million in costly screenwriters who transformed the original script, about the Sheriff of Nottingham, to a more conventional period actioner about how King Richard the Lion Heart archer Robin Longstride met Maid Marion and became the anti-establishment robber of Sherwood Forest.

The $200-million movie opened softer than Crowe's biggest hits (when corrected for inflation) and reminds us that Crowe and Scott are not necessarily a winning combo. They also made the frothy romantic comedy 'A Good Year' ($7 million) and the too-costly 'American Gangster' ($130 million). But 'Robin Hood' is playing better overseas, where Crowe is a bigger marquee draw than he is stateside.

While he's a $20-million movie star, he does not consistently open every movie. But owing to his foreign appeal, he's bankable: He can get movies made. Crowe bulked up for two disappointing adult dramas, 'State of Play' ($37 million) and 'Body of Lies' ($39 million).

Biggest Problem: Anger management. Crowe is known as a nasty pub brawler who can lose his temper. He won the BAFTA best actor award for 'A Beautiful Mind,' but after the show cut short his reading of a poem, he confronted producer Malcolm Gerrie at an after-party and shoved him up against a wall, calling him a "fucking piece of shit." Crowe later apologized by phone. Academy voters got their ballots the next day, and he did not win the Oscar, and hasn't been nominated since.

That June, Crowe threw a phone at a staffer at New York's Mercer Hotel when he couldn't get through to his wife in Australia. After he was charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon, he said his behavior was "spectacularly stupid" on the 'Late Show with David Letterman,' and had to pay a hefty settlement after a lawsuit from the concierge.

"Russell is not always easy," his 'Robin Hood' co-star Cate Blanchett told Parade. "His reputation both as an actor and as an intimidating presence precedes him. But he's always after making the best possible film. I'm not backward in coming forward, so we had some, shall I say, 'robust' conversations."

The question is how much studios, filmmakers and audiences hold this behavior against him. How much do they separate the roles from the man? And does his intense collaborative involvement in movies help or hurt them? Crowe seems to need to be the smartest man in the room.

Imagine Entertainment gave him a producer credit on 'Robin Hood,' he says, because "they needed somebody else to blame." Crowe and Scott reportedly tussled over the script, and the star clearly had a lot of say in the overall tone of his character, who is restrained and grim. Suddenly a mere archer is not only running battles for the incompetent King of England but contributing to that milestone in English history, the Magna Carta.

Biggest Assets
: Brooding, grizzled masculinity. Crowe is a gifted, athletic, crafty actor with a wide range. He can play powerful leaders and heroes, and is a phenomenal rider and fighter. Or he can lose himself in character parts. "He can be great if the material is great," says producer Sam Kitt.

Current Gossip: At the Cannes Film Festival, Crowe commandeered the press conference, suggesting that a latter-day Robin Hood would fight against the monopolistic media. He wagged his butt at the press corps and made fun of reporters' accents, and at a later BBC Radio interview, he walked out soon after the questioner suggested that his accent sounded Irish. Crowe replied, "You've got dead ears, mate, seriously dead ears if you think there's an Irish accent."

Next Step: Crowe stars opposite Elizabeth Banks in Paul Haggis' relationship thriller 'The Next Three Days,' due in November. He's in the mix on Philip Noyce's 'Dirt Music,' with Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell. Fox wants to put together a sequel to 'Master & Commander.' Crowe told Britain's Daily Mail that he'd love to sing and dance in a real Bollywood film, and expressed interested in playing washed-up alcoholic star Norman Main in a remake of 'A Star is Born.' But reports are that the filmmakers are chasing Gerard Butler to play the role opposite Beyonce.

Career Advice: "He should stop working with Ridley Scott," says one producer. "The two of them seem to bring out the worst in each other, and they get their full fees but the audience pays the price. He ought to have someone in his camp who can steer better material into his hands or steer him into better material. He remains of of the best actors around, but you wouldn't know it."

Kitt thinks Crowe should remind audiences that he has a sense of humor: "Find a comedy where he gets laughs by playing it absolutely straight."

Anne Thompson -- who has served as Deputy Editor of Variety.com and The Hollywood Reporter, West Coast Editor of Premiere and Senior Writer at Entertainment Weekly -- writes a daily blog on indieWIRE, Thompson on Hollywood. You can check out some of her latest posts here:

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