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    Russell Crowe Plays Telephone Tag

    We've got a feeling this wasn't part of the publicity plan for Cinderella Man.

    Russell Crowe, who plays Depression-era heavyweight boxing champ Jim Braddock in the Universal flick that hit theaters this weekend, was arrested for assault Monday morning in New York after allegedly throwing a telephone at a hotel employee.

    Crowe, who had seemingly retired his legendarily volatile ways, is accused of reaching out and whacking an unidentified staffer at the Mercer Hotel in Mahattan's posh SoHo district around 4:20 a.m. The 41-year-old has been in town to promote his pugilism project.

    New York police say Crowe was upset about not being able to get a call out to wife Danielle Spencer in Australia. After getting no response from the hotel's management, he went down to the front desk where he took his frustration out by allegedly hurling said phone at the clerk, "hitting him in the face and causing a laceration and substantial pain," according to the complaint.

    Crowe was taken into custody and booked on felony second-degree assault, punishable by up to seven years in prison. The hotel worker was taken to nearby St. Vincent's hospital where he was treated for minor cuts to his cheek and released.

    "This arose because he was trying to get his wife on the phone in Australia," his lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, told reporters outside the police precinct where Crowe was processed. "He was in his room. He couldn't get a line and there was a disagreement."

    After being booked, Crowe was led out in handcuffs dressed in blue bomber jacket and wearing shades amidst a throng of media. He declined to comment and was hustled into a jeep where he was driven to his arraignment.

    Later in Manhattan Criminal Court, prosecutors told Judge Martin Murphy that Crowe had copped to hurling the phone in anger. Despite the D.A.'s request that he be held on $5,000 bail, Murphy released him and set a hearing for Sept. 14.

    A rep for the hotel could be reached for comment Monday morning. Crowe's publicist, Robin Baum, released a statement after the actor's arraignment claiming he didn't commit a crime.

    "Words were exchanged and Crowe wound up throwing the phone against the wall," said the statement. "He regrets that he lost his temper, but at no time did he assault anyone or touch any hotel employee."

    Although he has been fairly well behaved since marrying and fathering a kid, Crowe has had well-documented anger-management issues, usually involving alcohol. Last August, for instance, he was forced to refute reports that he chomped on his bodyguard's ear during an altercation following a post-shoot drinking session.

    Following the 2002 British Academy Film Awards, Crowe roughed up the ceremony's director, Malcom Gerrie, at an after-party for editing out a poem Crowe recited upon accepting his award for Best Actor. Later that year, Mr. Beautiful Mind butted heads with a New Zealand tycoon at a trendy London restaurant, purportedly over a woman.

    Crowe is currently drawing rave reviews for Cinderella Man, which reunites him with director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer and writer Akiva Goldsman--the team behind 2001's Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind. Renée Zellweger and Paul Giamatti also star.

    The film grossed $18.3 million to debut in fourth place over the weekend. That was below expectations for Universal, which has been hyping the underdog saga as a feel-good movie in the vein of 2003's Seabiscuit. Despite the lukewarm box office, Cinderella Man is already being touted as the first major Oscar contender for 2005.

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