Russell Crowe has commenced his crow-eating publicity tour to make good for his potentially felonious telephone tantrum.

The Oscar winner turned up on The Late Show with David Letterman Wednesday night and apologized for throwing a faulty phone at a hotel concierge's face. Crowe, who was attempting to use said device to place a call to his wife in Australia, was arrested early Monday morning for his outburst.

"I'm extremely sorry for this whole incident and I regret everything that took place," Crowe told Letterman. "The bottom line is I did something pretty stupid...This is possibly the most shameful situation I've ever gotten myself [into] in my life."

And he should know from shameful situations, considering a checkered past that has included its fair share of booze-fueled fights, award-show brawls and generally grumpy behavior.

The 41-year-old New Zealand-born, Australia-residing thespian had been in the Big Apple ostensibly to promote his Depression-era boxing flick, Cinderella Man, but has been forced into damage-control mode for his phone-tossing foul at the Mercer Street Hotel. He was arrested around 4 a.m., spent a few hours in lockup and then forced to do a handcuffed, police-escorted perp walk into Manhattan Criminal Court, where he was charged with assault and subsequently released on his own recognizance.

If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison. He's due back in court Sept. 14.

On the Late Show, Letterman got in a sight gag at Crowe's expense, removing a telephone from his desk as the actor walked onstage.

For his part, the sometimes prickly Gladiator star acted contrite, offering mea culpas to his wife, Danielle Spencer, but also the hotel worker, Nestor Estrada, who received minor facial lacerations after Crowe unleashed telephone Hell on him.

"I did something really stupid," Mr. Beautiful Mind said. "Nestor and his family are under a great deal of pressure. I'd like to apologize directly to them for that.

"Hopefully at some stage, I'll be able to apologize directly to Nestor, but at the moment, he's not answering his phone," said Crowe, who was wearing the same blue bomber jacket he wore while in police custody. (Call it a hunch, but maybe old Nestor is a bit phone-phobic at this point.)

When Letterman asked Crowe about his apparent anger-management issue, the actor copped to being quick-tempered.

"Ummm. I have, ah...yeah I do, but at the same time I have, in the moment, infinite patience," he said.

Crowe blamed his frustration on recurring problems during his long stint at Mercer Street. "We had nine rooms in that hotel over a period of seven days and everybody was having the same problems," he said.

"I'm, you know, trying to fulfill my basic obligations to my wife who needs to know I'm at home, I'm in bed, I haven't had too much to drink, and that, you know, primarily important, that I'm alone," he continued, referring to his bad-boy past.

"The time difference, David, is really rough," he added. "If I miss out on calling her at that time, then there is a 10-hour cycle before I can call her again. She's going to be wondering all that time what I'm doing and who I'm with. She wants to know and I try to respect that."

Retorted Letterman: "I would think in this case being in prison probably put her mind at ease."

The funnyman also asked Crowe, "Have you ever been arrested or locked up before?"

"Not in the United States of America," the actor responded, drawing hearty laughter from the audience.

"Obviously when I react to something it has a greater effect, apparently, 'cause it's the Gladiator, getting pissed off," he quipped.

Crowe also claimed he got preferential treatment, skating through processing in eight hours, instead of the usual 36.

" the NYPD made a few calls and, you know, just simplified things."

The cops, however, deny Crowe got off easy. "The only different treatment Russell Crowe got was a police escort to the courthouse--and that was for protection," Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told the New York Daily News.

The Late Night spot wasn't all humble pie for Crowe. He did manage to get in a plug about his new solo album, My Hand, My Heart, and his recently released movie.

While the telephone jam wasn't part of the Cinderella Man publicity plan, Crowe's camp is hoping that the Late Show appearance will be focus attention back on the movie and keep the film's grosses from slipping any further. Last weekend, Cinderella Man debuted in fourth place at the box office with a disappointing $18.4 million, despite getting rave reviews and being talked about as the year's first Oscar contender.

In the meantime some advice for Russell: Get a cell phone.

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