The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Macho star toils to master high seas

Russell Crowe, known as one of Hollywood’s most macho men both on and off the screen, has told how he had to overcome his fear of heights and water for his latest role.

The New Zealand-born, Australian-bred star said that despite his many hard-man roles and well-publicised offscreen spats, he has to work hard at the image.

Crowe, 39, plays Captain Jack Aubrey in the seafaring epic, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, based on the novels of Patrick ’Brian and due to be released on November 14.

The role relies on its hero being comfortable on the high seas and in high rigging. But Crowe told Vanity Fair that both terrified him, blaming the trauma of being stranded at sea as a child when his boat ran out of fuel.

To prepare for the part, Crowe logged hundreds of miles on the ocean, sailing and motoring around the South Seas.

“At first, I was using travel sickness pills, but you can’t be taking pills and doing lines on camera,” he said.

“I’ve always thought that I was not very good on boats. So it was time to try to see if it was not a psychosis but something that could be addressed physically, by actually doing the miles on the water.”

By the time the film was ready to shoot, Crowe claims he had overcome his seasickness, but was still afraid of heights. “The character I was playing had no problems with this stuff,”he said. “So I had no problems with it, if I just allowed myself to play the character.”

At one point, he claimed, they were going to cheat for a fellow actor and mock up the top of the rigging, but he persuaded them to do it for real.

He said: “Well, that just cheapens the shot. Look I’m scared of heights too, and I understand it is dangerous. But I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna do it without a safety rope, so if I do fall, it’s good night Irene. But I’ve been working my body enough to know that I’m capable of doing things that Jack is capable of doing.

“You can’t wrap yourself in cotton because you’re an important entertainer. You’re only entertaining people if you are servicing the character.”

Crowe, who won an Oscar for his role as Maximus in Gladiator, also claimed that, despite his image, he was not a “very physical person”.

He even went so far as to say his inspirations were more Judy Davis, the Australian actress who won Oscar nominations for Husbands And Wives and A Passage to India, than Mel Gibson.

“People automatically assumed that it was either Mel Gibson, Bryan Brown or Jack Thompson, or whatever that made me go to America to pursue being an actor,” he said.

“They would keep saying ‘do you want to be the new Mel Gibson’' I said ‘no, I want to be the new Judy Davis’.”

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