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Russell Crowe Biography:

A galvanizing performer, New Zealander Russell Crowe made his debut as an actor at age 6 in an episode of the Australian TV series "Spyforce", starring Jack Thompson. (That his mother was the set caterer for the series probably helped him land the role.) The compact and muscular actor, with a distinctive mole that somewhat mars his otherwise handsome features, found early success as a singer, performing as a teenager under the stage name Rus Le Roc. Although born in Wellington, New Zealand, he spent from age four to age 14 in Australia. Crowe returned to Australia at age 18 determined to pursue a showbiz career.

Within a year of his return, Crowe landed a role singing and dancing on stage in an Australian production of "Grease". While he spent two years (1986-88) touring as Dr Frank N Furter in "The Rocky Horror Show", it was turn in Willy Russell's "Blood Brothers" in 1989 that caught the attention of director George Ogilvie who cast him in a leading role the triangular drama "The Crossing" (1990). Playing a dishwasher who befriends a blind photographer in Jocelyn Moorhouse's "Proof" (1991) earned him strong reviews and the Best Supporting Actor Award from the Australian Film Institute. He copped a Best Actor trophy the following year for blistering yet nuanced portrait of a vicious skinhead in the controversial "Romper Stomper" (1992).

With several films achieving success on the art-house circuit, Crowe was established internationally, and began to invoke comparisons with another transplanted Aussie, Mel Gibson. He followed up with an intriguing variety of offbeat projects, ranging from the historical drama "Hammers Over the Anvil" to the children's film "The Silver Stallion King of the Wild Brumbies" (both 1993). Crowe gave another splendid performance as a virginal Welsh Baptist in "Love in Limbo" (also 1993) and shone as a gay plumber living with his middle-aged father (Jack Thompson) as both search for love in "The Sum of Us" (1994). It was inevitable for Hollywood to woo him with roles like his gunslinger-turned-preacher in the punchy Western, "The Quick and the Dead" and as the malevolent computer-generated serial killer in "Virtuosity" (both 1995).

Director Curtis Hanson offered Crowe the plum role of Bud White, a quick-tempered, brutal Southern California cop in the superb "L.A. Confidential" (1997). Paired with fellow Australian Guy Pearce and Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey, the actor completed a trio of detectives who investigate a web of corruption and scandal in 1950s Los Angeles. With a higher profile and an armload of good notices, Crowe next played a hockey player who gets the chance to play against a professional team in the David E Kelley-scripted "Mystery, Alaska/Pond Rules" before landing the choice role of tobacco industry whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand in Michael Mann's biopic "The Insider" (both 1999). Crowe won particular acclaim, including a Best Actor Oscar nomination, for his characterization of the fifty-something man who risked his life and reputation to reveal what cigarette manufacturers preferred the general public not know.

As a follow-up, Crowe buffed up and undertook the title role in Ridley Scott's big-budgeted summer 2000 release "Gladiator". Playing Maximus, a fallen Roman general turned professional fighter, the actor more than dominated the film, earning rave notices and a Best Actor Academy Award. He rounded out the year playing a professional negotiator in kidnapping cases who comes to the aid of an American woman in a fictional South American country in "Proof of Life". Crowe next portrayed a real-life mathematician who descended into schizophrenia only to overcome his illness and go on to win a Nobel Prize in the biopic "A Beautiful Mind" (2001). His beautifully realized, nuanced performance ranked as one of his best to date and earned the actor his third consecutive Best Actor Academy Award nomination.

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