Russell Crowe interview
Russell Crowe is renowned for his roles in the sword-and-sandals epic Gladiator, the James Ellroy adaptation of L.A Confidential and most recently the Oscar-nominated A Beautiful Mind. But before these films broke him internationally, he played the title role of Hando in Geoffrey Wright's exploration of a group of Nazis living in Melbourne: Romper Stomper. Released on special edition this week, Russell Crowe gives us the low-down on his feelings towards the film.
LF: How much research did you do for the role of Hando in the film?
RC: We did a hell of a lot of research for it actually. It first started in England, when Geoffrey [the director] said to me: "You'll be doing it". So it was a great place to research fascism. The first thing we did was - well I did - was to tape record lots of soccer matches. We went to the matches and stood in-between the madding crowd and stuck my Walkman in the middle and the guy I was with was saying: "Don't do that - they're gonna kill you if they see you - don't do it." So, I've got a camera in one hand and a Walkman in the other going: "Smile!"
Then I read Mein Kampf, the history of the Third Reich and then the psychology of mass murderers in the 20th century and various books on serial killers, and then to things like painting a set of toy soldiers - German 2nd World War infantry toy soldiers.
LF: How hard was it to play Hando?
RC: You have to have an understanding of yourself when you're approaching something like this, you know what I mean? And sure, Geoffrey tells people that I went off and got into the role - and thankfully I came back, some many months after we finished shooting. But that's what the performance thing is all about; its film, it's taking the role on totally, and living and breathing it, because you know that people when you're lying.
LF: How did you create the feel of the gang?
RC: We got a whole lot of stuff worked out - against the wishes of the production company, I must add - we did a whole lot of things, everybody had hats where we were ranked in levels with badges, with TBTU - Tomorrow Belongs To Us - which was paraphrased from Cabaret's Tomorrow Belongs To Me. We could have used a German folk song, which would have been our anthem, however, I had to keep putting things in place that would remind us that we're actors. Because at the end of the day we all know that all though we're singing this song with great gusto - it's a song from this naff musical Cabaret that's probably being played at the local church hall.
LF: How do you decide between right and wrong?
RC: It's a personal situation. Everyone, I believe, knows the difference between right and wrong, in virtually every situation. I'm talking in an obvious way here - I'm not talking in some multi-layered, deep and meaningful way - I'm talking about: "Shall I put my knife into this guy's stomach, just because I feel like it? No, I'm going to use it to eat my dinner with." That's the decision you make when the waiters have been giving you bad service. But it's the decision made by the guys in the film that they're going be on the extremes of society, because they want some attention. And that a very futile way of gaining some attention, but that's the way they do it.