According to several eyewitness and media reports, the oft surly thespian melted down following Sunday's British Academy Film Awards--the Brits equivalent to the Oscars--furious that part of his acceptance speech was edited out for broadcast on the BBC.
Crowe, who won the Best Actor BAFTA for A Beautiful Mind, was reportedly so incensed that a poem he recited was cut from the tape-delayed telecast that he roughed up one of the show's producers.
The enraged Gladiator allegedly accosted director Malcolm Gerrie at an after-party at London's Grosvenor House Hotel. Bystanders say Crowe shoved Gerrie up against a wall and cursed him out for cutting Crowe's rendition of "Sanctity" (a poem by the late Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh) out of the edited BAFTA broadcast, which aired an hour later on the BBC.
"Who on Earth had the...audacity to take out the Best Actor's poem?" Variety quotes Crowe as yelling at Gerrie. "I'll make sure you never work in Hollywood!"
London's Sun tabloid reported that Sting, who was sitting at Gerrie's table, warned him before the incident that an incensed Crowe was on the warpath, saying "careful, Russell wants blood."
*E! presents complete coverage of this year's BAFTAs,
March 2 at 8 p.m.
As it turned out, the 51-year-old Gerrie was innocent of the charges.
Nominees were instructed three times by BAFTA organizers to keep the victory speeches short. Crowe didn't and, since the show ran over by 30 minutes, editors at the behest of BBC executives went ahead and axed the poem.
Crowe's two-fisted temper tantrums have become legendary and a cottage industry for the tabloids, which reported a battle between Crowe and director Ron Howard on the set of A Beautiful Mind. The New Zealand native has also been involved in several bar brawls, one in 1998 in Alberta, Canada, and another the following year near his ranch in Australia.
There's been no comment on the BAFTA brouhaha from Crowe's camp or from DreamWorks and Universal, which coproduced A Beautiful Mind.
The bad press couldn't come at a worse time for Crowe. A Best Actor Oscar winner last year for Gladiator, Crowe was the initial favorite to repeat at this year's Academy Awards, especially since his role as schizophrenic mathmetician John Forbes Nash Jr. has already earned him a slew of honors, including a Golden Globe and BAFTA. But in recent days, according to awards-show pundit Tom O'Neil, Denzel Washington has pulled ahead of Crowe.
"Denzel's been gaining fast ever since noms were announced on February 12," says O'Neil, author of Movie Awards and also Webmaster of the awards-show handicapping site GoldDerby.com. With Oscar ballots arriving to voters over the next few days, O'Neil says, "the Gladiator may have just fallen on his sword of hubris."
"In a very close battle, it all hinges on whether the Academy is ready to put Crowe among those few actors like Tom Hanks and Spencer Tracy who have two back-to-back Oscars. Or whether they lean toward making a diversity statement and honoring leading man Denzel...It means nothing to give Crowe another Oscar, but it's a real statement to recognize Washington." says Thelma Adams, an Us Weekly writer and GoldDerby contributor who thinks Washington will be Oscar'd come March 24.
Meanwhile, for those wanting to see what stuck in Crowe's craw, the actor's complete acceptance speech, including "Sanctity," was left intact for international broadcasts. You can catch Crowe's entire poetic recitation on E!'s telecast of the BAFTAs Saturday at 8 p.m.