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Russell Crowe is a gigantic film star. Even if the man never appears in another movie (his latest film Unhinged is about to start opening in some international markets), he’ll be remembered for a string of incredible film roles, including his Oscar winning turn in Sir Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. And yet, there were times in his career – even after enjoying some success – where Crowe admits that his standing in Hollywood wasn’t exactly rock solid.
The actor takes a trip down memory lane for one of those GQ videos. And when he got to the late director Curtis Hanson’s Oscar-winning L.A. Confidential, Russell Crowe explains how he feared he was going to be replaced by Sean Penn in the role of enforcer cop Bud White. Crowe explains:
I was flown in, and I was put up in a hotel during the time that we were supposed to be rehearsing. And I've got friends in the business, and people would be telling me that Sean Penn was going to be playing my role. You know, I was talking to the director. And that was my character to play! But at one point in time, they stopped paying my hotel bill and rental car bill, stopped providing me with per diem ... so it got pretty heavy. And to the point where there were a few times where I was going down the back stairs [of the hotel]so the hotel manager wouldn’t stop me in the foyer and ask me what was going on. I could feel all that stuff going on around me, and the only thing I had to go off of was the assurity of the director that he'd made his choice. So I just kept turning up to work. I think if there was ever a day where I’d gotten frustrated by it, and I hadn't turned up to work, that would have been the chink in the armor that they would have used to ship me out of the role.
As we know, Russell Crowe held on to his role. And it catapulted him further down the road of super stardom, putting him on the radars of directors such as Michael Mann and Ridley Scott, leading to movie roles such as The Insider and Gladiator. But at the time of L.A. Confidential, Crowe had some heat (thanks to The Quick and the Dead and Virtuosity), but not enough to settle his nerves over being replaced mid-project by a powerful Sean Penn, who was coming off of Dead Man Walking, Carlito’s Way and David Fincher’s The Game around this time.
Coincidentally, Russell Crowe and Sean Penn would ride similar tracts for years. They’d face off against each other at the Oscars in 2002, where they both lost Best Actor to Denzel Washington’s Training Day performance. It makes you wonder how many more times these two actors were up for the same role, and who eventually won out?