Cannes 2010: Russell Crowe wants us to look at the serious side of Robin Hood
Asked at the Cannes Film Festival opening-day press-conference about interpreting Robin Hood for a modern audience, Crowe wondered aloud how the character would operate if he were alive today. "Would Robin Hood's aim be political? Would it be economic?" he asked reporters. "Or would he look at what you guys are doing?"
Crowe's conclusion is that Robin Hood would target -- of course -- the forces behind newspaper and television consolidation. "My theory is that if Robin Hood was alive today he'd be looking at the monopolization of media" as a villain, Crowe said, though he didn't elaborate on just what the justice seeker might do about it.
In a swaggering and entertaining performance, Crowe explained that the new movie, which was to open the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday night, junks the familiar inconography of flashy green tights and witty repartee to showcase a freedom fighter who helped give rise to the Magna Carta.
In a similarly serious vein, Crowe hopes that filmgoers hit the books after coming out to see his new action movie: "We're just doing a version of the history, and hopefully people's own curiosity is piqued and they discover things for themselves afterward." Among the history lessons he hopes audiences seek out: "An indolent egoist [King John] ends up signing the first version of the Magna Carta. What brought an indolent egoist to be the man who champions the rights of people?"
Crowe also said he wanted to put Robin Hood on the couch. "There wasn't a [previous] Robin Hood which game me a satisfactory feeling that I knew his motivation or backstory. " (The new version focuses on the events leading up to the character becoming an outlaw.) Crowe added later, "Whatever you think you know about Robin Hood is a previously understandable mistake. "
Crowe, costar Cate Blanchett and producer Brian Grazer (director Ridley Scott didn't make it to Cannes as he recovers from knee surgery), were also all asked about the elephant in the room: the unsavory depiction of the French for a movie opening a French film festival. (France's King Philip schemes to take over Britain, among other distasteful details.)
Grazer cautiously allowed that the portrayal could trouble some in the audience but thought the film's particular focus should mute criticism. "We're somewhat aware there's a political nature, but really this is a story of Robin," he said.
Crowe mused that, for the Cannes selection committee, historical accuracy may have trumped national identity: "Richard de Lyon didn't make it home to England," Crowe said. "He was shot by a French cook. ... I think that's an important piece of history, and I think that's why we're opening the Cannes Film Festival." (A few in the room laughed at this, but Crowe appeared to be serious.)
But Blanchett may have had the most slyly honest response to the question. Said the actress of the movie: "I think the English come off worse than the French."
-- Steven Zeitchik and Rachel Abramowitz
Photos: Top, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett at a "Robin Hood" press conference in Cannes, France. Credit: Ian Langsdon / EPA. Second, a "Robin Hood" billboard adorns the pier in the city. Credit: Steven Zeitchik