In the end, this whole mess could have been resolved over a pint at the pub. Instead, Russell Crowe’s belated apology for his gladiatorial outburst last week may be too little, too late for Academy voters inclined to deny him back-to-back Best Actor Oscars because of his boorish behavior.
Last week, Crowe all but started an international incident when he accosted Malcolm Gerrie, director of the British Academy of Film and Television Awards telecast; Crowe reportedly shoved Gerrie against a wall and cursed him out because nearly half of the actor’s two-minute ”Beautiful Mind” acceptance speech was edited out of the BBC’s tape-delayed broadcast. As it turns out, the edit wasn’t even Gerrie’s decision, but that of BBC brass, since the ceremony ran 30 minutes beyond its allotted two hours. Still, a couple days later, when Crowe acknowledged unleashing hell on Gerrie, he refused to back down, arguing that, as Best Actor, he should have been cut some slack and allowed to have a four-line poem and a thank-you to John Nash (whom he plays in the film) included in the broadcast.
On Saturday, however, Crowe finally apologized to Gerrie in a 20-minute phone call. The actor ”said his language had been excessive and yes, he was still a bit sore, but he understood that Malcolm had a job to do,” a spokesman for Gerrie told Reuters. Gerrie himself said to London’s Sun tabloid, ”I told him I didn’t get any satisfaction out of the whole situation, and if he wanted to make it up to any of my family, he could speak to my son. He then spoke to Oliver for about 15 minutes and told him all about the making of ‘Gladiator’ and what it was like working with real tigers. Oliver was thrilled.” Then, Gerrie recalled, ”He said we should go out for a few pints of Guinness when he was next there. I said, ‘I know a great pub in Brentford where we could have a few quiet pints.’ I couldn’t believe it – it was a total contrast to how he had reacted the week before. It was like black and white. He sounded so humble and genuinely apologetic.”
Why the change of heart? Did ”Mind” director Ron Howard or producer Brian Grazer pressure Crowe to do damage control to avoid tainting the picture’s Oscar chances? They did not, according to the New York Daily News, which quoted a source affiliated with the movie as saying, ”Nobody tells Russell to do anything. It was his own idea. It was just something he wanted to do.”
Crowe’s about-face may have satisfied Gerrie, but will Crowe have to buy a pint for everyone in the Academy, too? ”The one thing you don’t want to do during awards season is act like a jerk when you win an award,” says Entertainment Weekly’s Mark Harris. ”If people look at this whole incident and say, ‘You can’t give him a Best Actor award and expect him to be grateful,’ it could hurt.” Harris doesn’t think Crowe’s apology will change anyone’s perception of him. ”This is too minor to be the kind of scandal that loses you an award. But if the whole incident seems to confirm a general feeling about him, then it’s a problem.”
Could the BAFTA blowup send voters into the arms of ”Training Day”’s Denzel Washington, who is riding the momentum of a current hit movie (”John Q”), an endorsement by Julia Roberts, and a wave of liberal guilt over the absence of African-American Best Actor winners since Sidney Poitier (an honorary Oscar winner this year) in 1963? ”I have a hunch that people have made up their minds already,” Harris says. ”People who are voting for Washington are doing so because they think his is the best performance. It’s not a performance that needs any special pleading.”
In a final irony, the Sun reported that Crowe threw a party Monday at his farm in Australia to watch the BAFTA show when the Australian Broadcasting Corp. finally aired it, and while international rebroadcasts were supposed to have included Crowe’s thank-yous in their entirety, Crowe’s speech was still cut. ”Russell couldn’t believe the poem was axed again,” a guest told the Sun. ”He went sulky at first, then got angry.” Uh-oh.