What was the precise moment that Russell Crowe became a superstar? Here's my guess. The moment LA Confidential introduced him, with that piercing stare (you can count the number of times he blinks in the movie on one hand) with his character name punched out on screen like a case file report.
They might as well have typed out
...in giant letters right then. But enough about L.A. Confidential which we've been discussing a lot this week. His film career started 7 years earlier than that with Australian pictures in 1990. With Noah opening today his name is back on marquees.
I tried to find the earliest poster of each of his films since a lot of the posters have been retrofitted to put his face and name huge as the only selling point, even if he was a supporting characters. It's better to see the slow rise of his marketability with original posters. He's made 38 films thus far. How many of these have you seen?
Prisoners of the Sun (1990) The Crossing (1990) Proof (1991)
The Efficiency Expert (1992), Romper Stomper (1992), Hammers of the Anvil (1993)
Love in Limbo (1993) The Silver Brumby (1993) , For the Moment (1993)
Act 1 Beginnings 1990-1993
Proof (1991) is really good - see if it you haven't! -- but it wasn't until Romper Stomper slowly made it's way around the world that people began to notice him outside of Australia
The Sum of Us (1994), The Quick and the Dead (1995), No Way Back (1995)
Virtuousity (1995), Rough Magic (1995), Heaven's Burning (1997)
LA Confidential (1997), Breaking Up (1997), Mystery Alaska (1999)
Act 2 Hollywood Experiments With Their New Find
It wasn't all Hollywood of course. He was still acting in Australian pictures like the sweet gay drama The Sum of Us (your only chance to see man's man actor Crowe making out with men (he is not at all shy about it!). Looking back over this period of posters is pretty funny. He's shoved back as far as you can get in LA Confidential, less bankable than Kim Basinger or Kevin Spacey at the time. And even less bankable than Bridget Fonda! Paired with Helen Slater (Supergirl herself) ? I don't remember that one at all.
Of course after LA Confidential opened everyone new he was a star and Breaking Up and Heaven's Burning (an earlier film) were released quickly thereafter to capitalize). The first Crowe picture I actually saw was The Quick and the Dead and I immediately rented Proof and The Sum of Us to see what I'd been missing.
The Insider (1999), Gladiator (2000), Proof of Life (2000)
A Beautiful Mind (2001), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), Cinderella Man (2005)
A Good Year (2006), 3:10 to Yuma (2007), American Gangster (2007)
Act 3 Picky and Prickly Superstar (1999-2007)
Or: The Oscar Bait Years
Notice how he's suddenly the selling point on the posters. It was all golden for a time. Even if the movies weren't great, people loved him in everything... even the one dud (A Good Year) wasn't greeted with any vitriol despite famously cantankerous behavior which cost him many fans (including myself) at the time.
Body of Lies (2008), Tenderness (2009), State of Play (2009)
Robin Hood (2010), The Next Three Days (2010), The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)
Les Misérables (2012), Broken City (2013), Man of Steel (2013)
Act 4 Faded Giant. What's Going On Here?
Russell did seem to lose interest in prestige projects or settled for several forgettable thrillers (Body of Lies? I'd forgotten it existed. Hasn't everyone?) and then moved into supporting roles or co-lead gigs.
Winter's Tale (2014), Noah (2014)
Crowe hits the half century mark in less than two weeks on April 7th. Do you think Noah heralds a major comeback for his birthday? His surly ready for a fight onscreen persona is hardly dependent on youth so if he wants it couldn't he flourish again? Next up he's trying his hand at directing himself (and Jai Courtney who we were just discussing) in the Australian period film The Water Diviner (2014) about a man searching for his missing sons after the Battle of Gallipoli and (Oscar Bait alert) will play Amanda Seyfried's mentally ill famous novelist father in the drama Fathers and Daughters (2015) for the director Gabriele Muccino (of The Pursuit of Happyness fame)