Not exactly renowned as an amiable interviewee (his name is accompanied with gestures of dread among film journalists scheduled to meet him), Russell Crowe makes a lovable radio host (1pm, 28 October). Well, for an hour – but he gave it welly. We heard Patsy Cline, Marianne Faithfull, Leonard Cohen and Rickie Lee Jones, and a version of “Waltzing Matilda” sung by an Australian folkie, Eric Bogle, that Crowe felt bested The Pogues’s (Shane MacGowan’s voice, he implied, was too rambunctious and preening for the sensitive lyrics – how often do you hear a known party animal admit that?).
In between, Crowe rambled about the good times (a dawn drive through Death Valley) and introed choices in a nice, relaxed way (“A great little relationship song here… but with a few twists and turns.”) He chuckled to himself in a staggeringly basso wheeze that clearly came from a heavy man. Crowe has never struggled against his DNA much, and can be near-spherical, with a beard like Gimli. One time, he said, he attended a screening of Gladiator at the actual Coliseum and had prepared some phrases in Italian to impress the crowd. “Last night I drank like a sponge” went down well. “I remain a servant of Rome” broke hearts.
Only one name drop. “I was in LA for an audition once… and instead of just sitting in some crappy hotel, with the help of George Lazenby I hired a Ford Mustang…” But then he confessed that the car turned out to not have a boot, so he worried about his stuff being nicked the entire time from the back seat. He laughed, then, at how foolish he must have looked, clutching two guitars and a suitcase with no workable plan. It reminded me of his best performance – as Bud White in the noir LA Confidential, the 1950s cop who’s always in a rage because he’s not smart, and knows the only way to stop being in a rage is to be smart. But he can’t be smart, because he’s in a rage. A perfect description of what it is to be human, no?
Russell Crowe’s Slow Sunday
BBC Radio 6 Music
This article appears in the 31 Oct 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Great War’s long shadow