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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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New photo of a sleeker Russell Crowe: Damage control for 'Robin Hood'?

When I was at the industry premiere the other night for "State of Play," sandwiched between Hollywood agents, the reaction to seeing Russell Crowe for the first time on screen as the film's investigative journalist was pretty blunt -- as in "OMG, is he porky!"

Having been around reporters for years, I wasn't so shocked, because  Crowe's look was all too true to life -- I can't think of any sportswriter who's ever been nicknamed Slim. But with "State of Play" opening to a very mediocre $14.1 million over the weekend, Crowe's ample girth has inspired a host of unpleasant industry speculation, largely revolving around the fact that the star's films did a lot better business when he looked muscular (think "Gladiator") than chubby (think "State of Play" or the star's previous commercial flop, "Body of Lies").  

RussellHood You know you're fair game when the august New York Times runs a story over the weekend all about overweight actors. The obvious hook was Crowe. Describing a scene in "State of Play" in which  Crowe, as the journalist hero, squares off with an oily politician played by Jeff Daniels, the Times' Michael Cieply drolly wrote: "Two men. One notebook. Four chins." The story was so crammed with carefully disguised snark that the Vulture blog was moved to mercilessly mock the whole affair, saying it made the lofty Times look like US Weekly.

So it wouldn't involve a great leap of faith to imagine that today's USA Today "first look" at Crowe's appearance in Universal's upcoming "Robin Hood" movie was a pretty shrewd example of damage control. As you can see, Crowe looks, well, almost back to his former self. He's just as rough-hewn as nearly every other Robin Hood we've ever seen -- wearing a week's worth of stubble, a burlap hoodie, a bow-guard on his left arm and pants that look more like deerskin leggings than tights. He may not be as slim as Errol Flynn, but at least he doesn't look like he should be playing Friar Tuck.

Universal's PR wizards insist that the photo exclusive wasn't in reaction to the industry waggishness about Crowe's heft. The story was more of a tactical move to get a good photo into circulation before an unflattering paparazzi shot surfaced, because the film is shooting exteriors that could be subject to long-lens chicanery. But of course, it doesn't hurt to have a new photo in circulation featuring Crowe in better physical shape than he's been seen in lately.

USA Today didn't get access to Crowe, only to "Robin Hood" producer Brian Grazer, who stayed on message, explaining that Crowe is "very medieval. he looks, if anything, more like he did in 'Gladiator' than anything we're used to seeing with Robin Hood." Grazer added that Crowe's character is "trying to create equality in a world where there are a lot of injustices. He's a crusader for the people, trying to reclaim some of the ill-gotten gains of the wealthy."

Hmmm ... that sounds awfully familiar. Maybe there's even room in this "Robin Hood" for a cameo appearance by Barack Obama.


How much real journalism is in the journalistic thriller 'State of Play'?

Photo: Russell Crowe in "Robin Hood."  Credit: David Appleby / Universal Pictures.

Comments () | Archives (11)

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Cameo for Obama? Sure, he would fit in with a movie about a guy who steals from the rich (or middle class) to give to the poor (people of questionable legal citizenship and those not smart enough to figure out if they can afford a house).

Crowe put on a lot of weight for "Body of Lies" as instructed by Ridley Scott, and it was Leo Di Caprio who was the lead, so it was hardly Crowe's "flop".......Brad Pitt pulled out a week before filming was to start on State of play and Crowe stepped in to take on the role even though he was still in the middle of losing the weight.......But of course never let the truth get in the way of a good bashing of Russell Crowe, one of the finest actors of his generation, how typical!!!

All this talk about Crowe's weight is ridiculous. He's always been known as an actor who (literally) fits his part. There wasn't all this talk about his weight after he played Jeffrey Wigand in "The Insider" and then went on to "L.A. Confidential" and from there to "Gladiator".

I think it just goes to show that everyone has become even more obsessed with being thin in the years since "The Insider". Regardless, Crowe's an actor who could pull off any role. If he wanted to play Robin Hood with the heft he carried as Cal McAffrey in "State of Play", I don't doubt that he could do it.

Oops. Sorry. My mistake. L.A. Confidential was before "The Insider".

So, uh, how's the ACTING?

You can always spot the gay writers by their obsessively jealous rantings over an actor's looks and physique, rather than their acting skills.

Or that other gorgeous revolutionary hero Ernesto Che Guevara article but at least it wasn't particularly snarky re Russell's weight. About that 'going out of business', NY Times rag. I'd rather read tabloids than that losing paper and nothing they have to say about anything is worth reading.

Russell has pointed out several times in the past few weeks that tights didn't come into use for 400 years and thus the leather pants.

Remember what Chris Rock said about Russell Crowe: If you want an actor that researches his part(s) don't settle for second best. My sentiments exactly. cheers

The fruitcakes who write for the LA Times and NY Times always bash Rusell Crowe. They must feel threatened by the idea of a real man. And they also discount his amazing talent. State of Play is a great film headed by a great actor...Russell. And he will be fantastic as Robin Hood. By the way...they just happened to have a real actress playing Maid Marion instead of a phony one.

Patrick, you are really amusing. I have never read one of your columns before. I don't have time to re-but all your errors but here is one. Have you seen the TV Series, State of Play? That is how the movie was constructed., Good journalism? By whose standards are you judging, not yours I hope. Too bad you didn't check your facts first.

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