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    Crowe Preparing to Cop Plea

    If Russell Crowe wants to keep his day job in the U.S., his lawyers are going to have to reach out and touch someone in court.

    The Oscar winner, who was charged with felony assault and criminal possession of a deadly weapon after hurling a phone at a hotel clerk in New York last June, says his lawyers are in talks to get the charges reduced to a less severe penalty that will allow him to keep working in America.

    Crowe was due in a New York courtroom Wednesday for a hearing in the case. But the date has been pushed back to November to allow his attorneys to continue hammering out a deal with prosecutors. The district attorney's office declined to comment on any behind-the-scenes wrangling.

    In an interview with Australia's Bulletin magazine, the 41-year-old Crowe speaks candidly of the June 6 incident, when he was arrested for throwing a phone at Mercer Hotel concierge Nestor Estrada after being unable to call his wife, Danielle Spencer, in Australia because the phone in his room was out of order.

    Crowe, who was in town doing publicity for his boxing flick, Cinderella Man, was led away in handcuffs to the police station. While the telephone tantrum generated reams of negative publicity for the actor, it could have even worse repercussions on his Hollywood career.

    His legal team is trying to work out a deal with prosecutors that will reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, which, unlike a felony, would not bar him from traveling and working in the U.S.

    Should the prosecutors relent, Crowe would still have to deal with more red-tape hassles because he would have a criminal record.

    "Every time I apply for a visa, it's like you need to take a suitcase to the embassy," Crowe tells the Bulletin. "So to add this charge, even as a misdemeanor level--it started as a felony, but now they're discussing misdemeanor--basically stops me getting certain types of visa. And it certainly stops me from getting a visa at any speed.

    "If I'm an international menace like the defense attorney is suggesting, then fine, I'll just stay here [in Australia]," he adds.

    Days after the incident, Crowe appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman and offered a public mea culpa to Estrada. Late last month, Crowe agreed to pay the hotel clerk a reported $100,000 to preempt a lawsuit.

    Crowe also took issue with press coverage of his surly reputation and pugilistic past, ranging from booze-fueled fights to award-show brawls.

    "If you set me up continuously in the newspaper as somebody who's negative," he continues, "how long is it going to take before a drunken 19-year-old bloke thinks it's a funny idea to smack me in the back of the head while I'm taking a piss in a nightclub toilet?"

    Crowe also laughed off any notion that his telelphone rage might have been responsible for Cinderella Man taking it on the chin at the box office, noting that ticket sales actually shot up by 17 percent the day after his arrest.

    "We got on the front page instead of Tommy Cruise, this is just my version of couch-dancing," Crowe quips, before explaining how the situation got as far as it did.

    "Of course you shouldn't get pissed off, of course I shouldn't have thrown something at him, but it's a two-way street. I might have overreacted to a situation, but I was in bed trying to go to sleep. You think I want to put my pants on and go down to the foyer and go, 'What the f--- are you talking about?' to some bloke? Do you really think I want to do that? Come on."

    Crowe also smacked down suggestions that he could use some anger-management classes.

    "Dou have any idea the level of personal control that I have, to get to where I am?Any idea at all? This thing of being a smoking gun, this lit fuse, it's just bollocks," he says in the magazine.

    While his attorneys try to clean up his mess in the U.S., Crowe is now in Provence, France, to begin shooting A Good Year, which reunites him with Gladiator director Ridley Scott.

    In it, he plays an Englishman who inherits a vineyard only to wind up in a dispute with an American woman who claims ownership as well.

    Just what Crowe needs--another fight.

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