Russell Crowe has reunited with his “Gladiator” director Ridley Scott to tell a gentler story than their best-picture Academy Award winner from 2000, this one an adult date flick that casts the tough-guy actor as a romantic lead.
“A Good Year” stars Crowe as a cutthroat investment genius in London who takes a time-out in France’s laid-back Provence region after his uncle dies and leaves him a small vineyard.
The film, due in theaters in November, will be quickly followed next year by a third collaboration between actor and director, the 1970s crime saga “American Gangster,” with Crowe as a cop trying to take down a Harlem drug lord (Denzel Washington).
Why the love fest between the British director known for perfectionist’s intensity and the Australian actor known for brooding ferocity?
“I think it’s just more fun working with someone who shares the same aesthetic, the same work ethic, the same desire for speed and alacrity from a film crew,” Crowe told The Associated Press at the Toronto International Film Festival, where “A Good Year” premiered.
Added Scott: “We’re both kind of marginally grumpy and get into the places that we want to get to by just a high level of commitment. We’ve got a very similar sense of dogged pursuit of getting it right, which is very important to me. For me, it’s what it’s all about, and it’s what it’s all about for him, because we don’t suffer fools at all.”
Playing a betrayed general seeking revenge in the gladiatorial ring, Crowe won the best-actor Oscar for “Gladiator,” Scott’s visual triumph that used dazzling computer-generated effects to re-create the glory of Rome.
This time out, Crowe plays Max, a man in search of his humanity, weighing the pros and cons of returning to his profit-at-all-costs life in London’s business circles or slowing down, sipping some wine and settling for love in one of the world’s most romantic areas.
The character’s journey matched that of Crowe and Scott. New family man Crowe had his wife and young son staying with him through the shoot (they have since had a second son). Scott had a rare chance, given his global shooting schedule, to go to work in the morning and leave at night for the home he’s owned for years in Provence.
The filmmakers say the production was a restful one compared to most chaotic movie shoots.
“Russell was the soul of charm and amiability,” said novelist Peter Mayle, an old friend of Scott’s who lives in Provence and wrote the book “A Good Year” simultaneously while the director was developing the movie. “Ridley even smiled from time to time.”
“A Good Year” co-stars Marion Cotillard as a fiery restaurant owner for whom Max falls, Abbie Cornish as Max’s previously unknown cousin and Albert Finney as his uncle.
With two movies together behind them, Crowe and Scott said they had all the more rapport when reteaming for “American Gangster.”
“Consequently, we can get on with it,” Scott said. “A lot of things now are unspoken, which gets a lot of mileage out of the way. When you’re working with an actor for the first time, you’ve got to dance a bit and waltz a bit. We don’t have to do that now.”
“I can read him from a distance and know that I’ve got something I’ve got to get sorted out,” Crowe said. “He has the same thing with me. He comes out and he’ll say, ‘There’s these four things, problems. They’re yours.’ It’s cool, though, because he’s done the other 96, and we’re ready to go. ...
“We push people, we push the crew. We say, ‘Look, we’re going to get this done today,’ and they’re like wide-eyed, but if you just grab it, you can do that stuff,” Crowe said.