Russell Crowe -- Hollywood movie star, sex symbol, two-time
Oscar nominee -- eagerly wanting company and spending the evening alone?
Impossible, you say. Not quite.
It happened right here in Brandon.
"The first night he got into town, he wanted desperately to do something
that night and I had a family commitment I just had to be at," recalled
Dave Mahoney, who was location manager on For the Moment, a feature film
starring Crowe that was shot in and around the Wheat City in 1992.
"The poor guy ended up spending the first night literally on his own.
I had no choice -- I had to leave. And it's kind of funny, looking back
and the kind of star he is now, and I had a quick drink with him and then
I just dumped him."
The Australian actor, whose leading role in the sword-and-sandal epic,
Gladiator won him an Academy Award nomination this year for best actor
(the movie is also up for best motion picture), spent six weeks in Brandon
during the filming of For the Moment, his first movie in North America.
And those who spent time with Crowe during his stint in these parts
had mixed reactions to the sometimes temperamental performer.
One person involved with the film had an intense response when asked
his opinion of the now-mega-star.
"Anything I could say about Russell Crowe wouldn't be fit to print,"
he said vehemently.
But Reg Forbes, president of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
where much of the filming for the Second World War-era flick took place,
said the veterans at the museum thought Crowe was an "OK guy."
"We worked with him when it came to some of the technical aspects of
the production," Forbes said. "We got along with him fine.
"He asked a heck of a lot of questions that were irrelevant to the film,
but he seemed to be very interested.
"Of course, there was a lot of Australians trained here, and he was
interested in some of their history."
And Forbes said those connected with Crowe during his stint in Brandon
were pleased by his rise to fame south of the border.
"Of course we expected him to do good because we trained him," Forbes
joked. "I don't pay much attention to the Oscars and that kind of stuff,
but it's nice to see that he went the way he did."
Crowe was nominated for his first best actor Oscar last year for his
turn opposite Al Pacino in the tobacco industry expose, The Insider.
He's worked with other show biz luminaries -- Denzel Washington and
Gene Hackman in The Quick and the Dead.
Mahoney, who now runs his own Brandon-based production company, Konamerra
Films, said Crowe was nothing but professional in his dealings with crew
members. And while there was a brashness to the young actor, he had the
talent to back up his degree of self-confidence.
"He was very hard on himself, and maybe that's why he's so good," Mahoney
said. "From what I saw, as far as his temperament on set, I've seen a lot
worse, that's for sure. And from a lot less gifted.
"He was good, he knew he was good, and he expected good things from
And while Crowe could be a bit volatile, Mahoney remembers how quickly
the actor could switch from irritation to interest in the personal lives
of his acquaintances.
In one instance, Crowe was fuming about something, and then just seconds
later, inquiring about Mahoney's twin daughters, Erin and Kayla.
"I think that's what I remember most about Russell, is the fact that
he would be able to flip very quickly," Mahoney said.
"I remember him coming up and just very personably wanting to know about
you -- just you. And he had the ability to remember things. It was touching.
So he has that side to him."
Kim Johnston, the writer/director of For the Moment, who was raised
on a farm near Oak Lake, has remained friends with Crowe since the two
Johnston said the actor's combination of presence, magnetism and skill
results in a "real person to put in front of the camera."
"He's quite a perfectionist -- he's very professional," Johnston said.
"He approaches his craft and his work with great intensity and preparation
and a sense of perfectionism that is consummate. That's why he is
where he is."
Johnston figures Crowe's sometimes unconventional approach to Hollywood
-- his often-scruffy appearance and his near-contempt for the promotional
process -- is partly just him and partly a contrivance to keep the crazy
world of celebrity in perspective.
"I think he likes to be a maverick," Johnston said with a smile. "It's
certainly part of his nature and the other part of it is that he likes
to be a little bit of a disturber."
Johnston is hopeful his "old bud" will take home the hardware with a
number of movies that he leaves his mark on, because I think it's going
to be a good mark for cinema and for storytelling," Johnston said. "I think
he's going to cut some of the bullshit out of things.
"If Russell's involved, chances are it'll be a little less processed.
And so I think that's good for audiences.
AVIATOR TO GLADIATOR
The need for a dance hall sequence in For the Moment,
filmed primarily in and around Brandon, resulted in the partial refurbishing
of Albert Johnson's Palladium, a long-time dance emporium on Rosser Avenue,
as well as the hiring of several local residents as extras.
Crowe and Christianne Hirt, who went on to become a regular
in the television series Lonesome Dove, embrace on the shores of Grand
Beach in a scene from the 1992 made-in-Manitoba movie For the Moment.
Russell Crowe is seen in character in the locally filmed
For the Moment and in the Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator. He received
an Oscar nomination for the latter role, the second such nod of his career.