Russell Ira Crowe wasn’t born in Australia, but like Mel Gibson before him, he is widely known as an Australian actor since that is where he spent his formative years. He was actually born in New Zealand on April 7, 1964, to Jocelyn and John Crowe. Both of his parents were caterers who spent their lives on movie sets feeding actors and crew members between takes. Little did they know that one day, their son Russell would become one of those hungry actors.
When young Russell was just four years old, Jocelyn and John uprooted their family and moved to Sydney, where their career as movie caterers took off. Just months after they established themselves as the caterers on the set of the television series “Spyforce,” Crowe, who was still just a child, got his first professional acting gig. He uttered a single line of dialogue for an episode of the show, but it led to his getting a small part on the popular soap opera “The Doctors.” These two brief parts gave birth to a dream in Crowe, who decided to become an actor when he grew up.
Apparently, waiting until he graduated from school wasn’t an option for Crowe, who dropped out at the age of sixteen to pursue his lifelong dream. By then, he had returned briefly to New Zealand for secondary school, but moved back to Australia because it presented more opportunities for budding young actors. After struggling to get parts, he joined a band using the stage name Russ le Roq and had a single chart hit in New Zealand. He returned to the country of his birth to pursue music, even managing a music club called The Venue in Auckland for a short time.
Though music continued to be a big part of his life, he still yearned to be an actor. He once again went back to Australia and found work in the theater, appearing in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Bad Boy Johnny and the Prophets of Doom” among other plays. He found it very hard to find work between stage shows, so he spent some time performing on street corners for pocket money. In 1987, a full decade after his childhood appearance on “The Doctors,” he got his first television gig as an adult. He played the role of Kenny Larkin on four episodes of the long-running series “Neighbours,” following that up a year later with a role in the legal series “Living with the Law.”
In 1990, Crowe finally broke through into movies, appearing as Lt. Corbett in “Prisoners of the Sun.” He followed that up the same year with his first starring role, in “The Crossing.” He began dating Danielle Spencer, his co-star from that movie, though they later suffered a breakup. It was a fateful affair, because they had an on-again, off-again relationship that eventually led to marriage and two children.
After finally tasting success in Australia after years of struggling he went to the United States to pursue bigger acting opportunities. He almost immediately got a role opposite Gene Hackman and Sharon Stone in a remake of the classic “The Quick and the Dead.” After that, he quickly gained notice stateside and earned roles in “Virtuosity” and “L.A. Confidential,” a film that helped establish him as a top-notch dramatic actor.
In 2000, after working steadily for five years in the United States, Crowe got the role that earned him an Oscar and made him into a bona fide superstar. He was cast in Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” playing Maximus, a man seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and son. He followed it up a year later with the lead in “A Beautiful Mind”; a part that many think is his best yet, although he lost the Oscar that year to fellow superstar Denzel Washington.
During all the awards and accolades, Crowe’s personal life garnered him as much attention as his work did. He famously romanced his “Proof of Life” co-star Meg Ryan in 2000, even though he was married at the time. After they broke up, he began dating Danielle Spencer again, this time marrying her the following year. She gave birth to two sons, Charles in 2003 and Tennyson in 2006. The couple announced their separation in 2012, though they are still close for the sake of their boys.
After laying low from 2010 to 2012, Crowe returned to the screen with a flurry of high-profile projects including the role of Javert in “Les Miserables,” and Mayor Hostetler in “Broken City.” In 2013, he will appear in “Man of Steel” as Superman’s birth father Jor-El and as Pearly Soames in “Winter’s Tale.” He has completed filming on the biblical epic “Noah,” though that film is not due to be released until 2014. Although Crowe still largely resides in Australia, he continues to get big roles in Hollywood, with his career showing no signs of slowing.