French film magazine CineLive, an interview - Thanks to Rose:
RUSSELL CROWE, WHO WOULD HAVE BELIEVED IT ?
“ Six years we have been waiting for it ! After “Gladiator”, RC and RS are back together in the film arena but now to reinvent the cast –against- type in a romantic, wine and Provence comedy : AGY. It’s a beaming RC who comes us that day with a glass of Sauvignon…from New-Zealand. So chic !”
Q :” Are you a wine specialist ?”
RC: “No, but when wine is good, it’s good ! In France I’ve tasted a delicious rosé from Luberon. It was a surprise because I don’t usually drink rosé.”
Q: “It would be difficult to find two more different films than AGY and Gladiator. Is there any explanation for it ?
RC :”Maybe because of what people were waiting for when it was annouced that Russell Crowe and Ridley Sscott were reteaming. I thought that it could help going in a direction where people didn’t expect us to go.
I also wished to break the spell which was hanging on Gladiator and led us, beyond all expectations, to a massive hit. People then were expecting a big action movie, but when it was released the audience understood it wasn’t only that.”
Q : “Peter Mayle, as every writer, has put much of himself in Max Skinner. Is there anything of Russell Crowe in this character ?”
RC :”There isn’t any Max phrase which could be mine. But I believe in art filled with life. Wether be it a painting , a book or a film, whatever the medium, the artist has to be completely dedicated to his art or it’s of no interest. So whatever happens, you always bring your own sensitivity to a character. Even if he is very far from who you are. And as times goes by, my emotional world evolves. If you consider my body of work as an actor, you’ll guess what I think of family, politics, how I view each new day. I can’t help exposing myself because, willingly or not, it’s how it works.”
Q: “Ridley Scott and yourself must know each other quite well. Was it easier to work again together ?”
Rc: “Yes, we feel a mutual affection. I do value his works and, dunno why, he appreciates mine. So I won’t contradict him !”
Q: “Isn’t it too difficult to work with non English-speaking actors ?”
RC: “You know, a comedian’s soul is a bit like a gypsy’s . Whatever the language there’s a common ground which comes back to the surface. Didier Bourdon and myself couldn’t have an actual chat because I don’t speak French and he doesn’t master English but while shooting we were in full communication. We are members of the same tribe, as Marion [Cotillard] and Isabelle [Candelier] are.”
Q :”But the most important in a comedy is rhythm and dialogue.”
RC :”Trust, instinct. If you don’t instinctively trust your partners, you’re in a mess, whatever the kind of film. Didier[Bourdon] and I trusted each other immediately after our first meeting.
I remember watching Marion on French TV after we had shot our first scene together.She said how surprised she had been to see how simple and respectful I was, because she had been sold a completely different image of who I was. An image which in untrue.”
Q: “Ridley Scott reportedly spoke of a Gladiator sequel. Would you be ready to join-up again ? “
RC:”We had much fun these last years telling people this and that about it. If we hadn’t made a new movie together, we could have thought about it, but it’s no longer the point. Not at all. But if ever a studio would tell us :’ We give you money to expand a worthwhile scenario’, we could do it. But what I’ve repeatedly said for 4 years now about Gladiator2 is : my character is dead!
We’ve surely chatted about what could happen after the film’s ending, and which great stories could be told, but one fact is obvious: I’ll never begin a Gladiator2 with only a 21 pages script as we did with the first Gladiator !”
Q :”Isn’t it too difficult for an actor to begin shooting with only a few pages as a script ?”
RC :”That’s quite the opposite of what an actor would hope for because memory is 95% of the job. We began Gladiator with a 21 pages script, AGY with a 48 and American Gangster with a 65. As Ridley said:’ You see, we’re getting better !’
He’s right.Maybe for our fifth film together we’ll have a complete script ! But with a director such as Ridley, memorization isn’t the most important aspect. You have to be outright ready, every day. You have to be fully aware of what’s happening and how the story is affected or not, in a positive or negative way.
If it’s what you want from me, that’s OK. I like doing films and more when it’s with Ridley.”
Q:” Do you exchange very often on the set ?”
RC:”Yes. I give my point of view, offer some su ggestions for the story. A couple of months ago, during the Toronto Film Festival, a ridiculous controversy arose about how bad any actor’s intervention in a film was. Bullshit! Movie making request a sense of collaboration and detail. These are keywords to any success. If an actor behaves as a star, telling ‘I’m so handsome and famous…you have to listen to me’ that’s bullshit, that won’t help anybody.
There are some little things in the film I’m responsible for, such as the tennis match.Didier Bourdon’s character and mine should have to fight each other, but it didn’t suit the characters who perfectly knew that wasn’t the right way to solve a problem. Would they have punched each other, they couldn’t have meet again. So we didn’t know what to do. One day, while in the vineyard, Ridley told me: ‘Our problem is the lack of a battle scene to give some rhythm to the film.’
Some tennis references were already included in the script, and when Ridley told me these words, I instantly thought of the duel between René Lacoste and Henri Cochet and I chortled because Ridley is very fond of tennis. So the tennis match has replaced the planned fight. This match tells you more about each character than a 15 lines dialogue. In a strange way, Ridley had instilled in my brain all the information I needed to imagine this scene in his name. Let’s say I’ve become his “mind”!
Q: “You read Peter Mayle’s book before agreeing to play in this film. Could this kind of novel be one of your bedside books ?”
He holds his nose with a digusted face, laughing:
RC:”You see, I’m too honest…No, I’ve enjoyed Peter Mayle’s novel but it’s like a light spring breeze, it’s not that impressive. He has a very efficient style but what Ridley had told me was quite different. What one can appreciate is how Mayle describes French people, their way of life and how he understands the connections between people. But Ridley is a movie maker, a painter. He needs more to lay the groundwork for a film.”