Oscar winner Russell Crowe is something of a Hollywood anachronism in these days of \'pretty boy\' stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jude Law. Yet the New Zealand-born actor - a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy in the vein of fellow Antipodean Mel Gibson is one of the hottest male leads to hit the box office in years.
Before filming commenced on the Roman epic Gladiator director Ridley Scott told Russell to "hold the celery" and stop losing the weight he\'d gained for the 1999 movie The Insider. Female audiences agreed with the director and drooled over Russell\'s chunky form as did his Proof Of Life co-star Meg Ryan who left her husband, Dennis Quaid, after she fell for Russell during filming in Ecuador.
Born in Wellington on April 7, 1964, Russell moved to Sydney aged four with his film caterer parents. They remained in Australia for ten years before returning to New Zealand where Russell, billing himself as Rus le Roc, released the 1980 single I Want To Be Like Marlon Brando. He long kept one foot in the music business through his now-disbanded group 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts, with whom he sang and played guitar.
A spate of unconventional film roles followed, including Romper Stomper, in which he portrayed a Nazi skinhead, a role which earned him an Australian Film Institute Best Actor award. But the movie that really made people sit up and take notice was his turn as the tough-talking, violent cop Bud White alongside Kim Basinger and Kevin Spacey in LA Confidential.
His role in The Insider as Jeffrey Wigand, the former tobacco industry executive who blows the whistle on the industry\'s less salubrious antics, won him an Oscar nomination in 2000. It was another "heavyweight" role for Russell, who gained 35lbs for the part and was almost unrecognisable in a thinning grey wig. Then came Gladiator and worldwide recognition, along with a 2001 Best Actor Oscar.
At about the same time his affair with Meg hit the headlines, but by Christmas 2001 it was all over. In April 2003, the actor tied the knot with British-born actress and singer Danielle Spencer in an ultra-private ceremony at a chapel on his 560-acre Australian ranch. The couple had enjoyed an on-off relationship since meeting on a film set 13 years earlier. And although they split up in 1995 following Russell\'s move to Hollywood and his brief affair with Meg, "Maximus" was soon back in Danielle\'s arms. On December 21, 2003, the couple welcomed their first child, a son, who they named Charles Spencer Crowe. Their second son, Tennyson, followed on July 7, 2006
Part of Russell\'s appeal no doubt lies in his reluctance to play the Hollywood game when not working, the actor returns to his cattle spread outside Sydney and he has never made any effort to hide his antipathy towards Los Angeles, saying he would only consider moving there, "if Australia and New Zealand were swallowed by a huge tidal wave, if there was a bubonic plague in Europe and if Africa disappeared from some Martian attack".