Translation by Mirella
FOR A FIST OF RUSSELL’S
Crowe plays the boxer Jim Braddock in Cinderella Man by Ron Howard
After throwing a tantrum with the press, the New-Zealander star lowers his guard and tells of himself to CIAK, with statements against America’s foreign policy, some criticism about the current corruption in boxing and a tribute to his workmate Paul Giamatti.
Cinderella Man, inspired to the boxing champion Jim Braddock’s life and directed by the “all American boy” Ron Howard, is a tough story of poverty and boxing for survival, set in the dramatic scenery of the Great Depression. But at the press event organized in New York to promote the movie opening, behaviour was undoubtedly in a Hollywood style. In front of a small group of journalists suppressing laughter, Renée Zellweger, who plays Braddock’s (Russell Crowe) wife in the movie, tried for a while to save a fly dropped into her glass of Red Bull diluted with water (she pull the insect out of the yellowish liquid, but it was too late). As for Russell Crowe (in Braddock’s role he reaches some really great moments), he arrived with a delay of more than two hours – smiling, as fit as a fiddle, and, thanks to the training he had to go into for his role, several pounds lighter than how we are used to know him. When a journalist asked him why, instead of taking a taxi or a car and arrive on time, he had decided to walk from Downtown to Central Park, Crowe answered: “I’m doing a promotional tour, I’m feeding with fast food at a set time following a precise schedule. We often end up eating very late. And I didn’t want to sit in front of you feeling limp and meaty with American conserved food. So this morning I started walking and at that point I realized I’d better be in a good sweat, too, because I was harbouring some aggressiveness, a mood I didn’t want to be in during a meeting with the press, with whom I wished to be funny and relaxed. In other words, I haven’t arrived in time because I was clearing my head. I knew that it would have been boring for you if you hadn’t been in front of (he opens his vest and on the t-shirt it’s written:) the Zen Master!” Crowe’s monologue, pronounced with a thick Australian accent and that incredible low voice, is greeted with a laugh. No one raised his hand proposing that, if informed, instead of waiting for hours in a cold room, we too could have cleared our heads and been more hilarious. ...
Braddock is a figure fighting for hunger, not only in the literal sense. Do you both have anything in common?
His hunger is certainly more literal than mine. But even if I haven’t been in that situation any more for years, there have been a period of my life in which I earned my living busking in the streets: I know what it means to have nothing but your guitar. Today my “hunger” stays in the passion for what I do, that is to tell stories, a very important part of our culture allowing us to withdraw from our everyday life. Braddock, as a young man, was up against a choice: boxing was the best job a working class man could do and he had inside of him the courage to do that, one of the best and toughest temper. But I never saw him as a man living for boxing. For him it was a mean to get out of a situation. As a young man, he was a true boxer, not a man just hitting hard. He developed that kind of fame later, when, due to the injuries he amassed, he was compelled to end fights very quickly. Braddock wasn’t a bloke showing his pain off. He accepted it and tried to do the best he could for his family.
He’s the typical American hero. Can you find a contemporary comparison?
Maybe the cyclist Lance Armstrong.
The Great Depression, as it happened with Seabiscuit, seems to be a movie character. How is it relevant today in your opinion?
The Great Depression is a movie character. The bad guy of the story is not the other boxer, Craig Bierko, but poverty. And it’s an extremely relevant historical moment compared to the present one, because it reminds Americans that, not long ago, abundance wasn’t the rule, not long ago people was queueing to eat and charity institutions were introduced. I also believe that this is a good moment to remind Americans that your children welfare, your family welfare are more important than imperialism.
You trained with Kostya Tzul and Angelo Dundee, who was Ali’s trainer, too. How is your relation with boxing?
I’m always very anxious when I see Kostya fighting: every now and then I forget his almost surgical precision. But on those occasions I’m one of the audience choosing a part to support – it’s the beauty and sense of honour of boxing. Unluckily, there have always been an element of corruption in boxing. It’s the kind of industry where everybody have further purposes. And, with nowadays promoters, there’s the risk that, as a sportman or a sport fan, you don’t get what is due to you . But Braddock was special, he wasn’t corrupted or contaminated. He lived his life and his career keeping his honour unspoilt. He was a champion from a moral point of view, not only pugilistic.
Married and with a son, you say beautiful things about your
family, that has changed your life. But Paul Giamatti says that
you’re happy only when you’re acting…