How Russell Crowe's Temper Got Its Nasty Reputation: Fighting, Yelling, Phone-Throwing and a Decade of Resentment

Azealia Banks' questionable allegations against the Australian actor got us thinking about the 52-year-old actor's rowdier days

By Natalie Finn Oct 18, 2016 9:45 PMTags
Watch: Russell Crowe Talks "The Nice Guys" Stunt Work

Russell Crowe: Oscar-winning actor, director, musician, pride of Australia, avid rugby fan, guy who threw a hotel phone against a wall that time.

He's a multifaceted artist, the Australian star is, and though his temper has made more than a few headlines over the years, news yesterday that Azealia Banks had filed a police report accusing Crowe of assault still came as a shock. It has been awhile, after all, since Crowe was publicly accused of misbehaving.

While Banks claimed in a since-deleted Facebook post that Crowe called her the n-word, choked her, threw her out of the room (there was apparently a party in the actor's suite at a hotel in Beverly Hills) and spat on her, an alleged eyewitness told TMZ that Banks made a motion as if to throw her glass after saying, "'You would love it if I broke my glass, stabbed you guys in the throat, and blood would squirt everywhere like some real Tarantino s--t.'" And that's when Crowe picked her up as if in a big bear-hug and took her out of the room, the source said.

Biggest Celebrity Twitter Feuds

Four people used the word "erratic" in describing Banks' behavior that night, TMZ also reported.

While Banks reiterated her claims of Crowe's vile behavior in an interview with The Sun today, there's been no word from Crowe's camp yet. The Aussie did tweet this morning, however, "Early morning ride. Only 24km but good for the soul." ("Only" 15 miles, that is.)

So Crowe was bicycling along the beach today, enjoying the perfect SoCal weather, rather than fretting that Banks reported him to the cops.

The star of Gladiator, The InsiderA Beautiful Mind, the upcoming remake of The Mummy and much more may have a clear conscience on this one. Banks, unfortunately, is partially known for acting rather erratically, at least on Twitter, and she was arrested twice last year for tangling with a security guard and a bouncer at clubs in New York and L.A., respectively. (A source also told The Sun that Crowe never used the n-word, but Banks did "repeatedly.")

But however this turns out, it couldn't help but remind us of the 52-year-old Crowe's rowdier days, which he's been trying to outrun for the past decade:

Hot Stars From Australia

Not Ready for Prime Time

In 1999, Crowe was involved in a fight at the Plantation Hotel in Coffs Harbour, video footage of which ended up airing on Australian television. Two men had faced charges for allegedly trying to extort money from Crowe in exchange for keeping the tape under wraps, as it reportedly revealed the Gladiator star to be a wild yet ultimately ineffectual brawler in real life, but the case was thrown out.

On the tape, one of the defendants was heard telling the other, "Oh, he just thinks he's f--king...the world revolves around Russ—he lives in Coffs Harbour—and he thinks the world revolves around Russell Crowe...He's just the f--king biggest a--hole you'd ever wanna meet, mate."

Universal Pictures

International Incident

In 2002, Crowe personally apologized for yelling at a BAFTA Awards producer in a storage closet after his recitation of a poem during his acceptance speech for his Best Actor win for A Beautiful Mind was cut for time. Crowe insisted he wasn't upset that that part was cut, but rather that the part of his speech in which he thanked mathematician John Nash, whom he played in the film, was excised from the telecast.

Restaurant Wars

BBC News reported later that year that police were called to a Japanese restaurant in Knightsbridge, near famed department store Harrods, because Crowe was fighting in the bar and restroom with wealthy New Zealand businessman and rugby club owner Eric Watson. Their scuffle was reportedly broken up by Ross Kemp, a former star of the still-running British soap opera EastEnders

Meanwhile, its finger ever on the pulse, South Park nailed Crowe for his mischievous reputation in the 2002 episode "The New Terrance and Phillip Movie Trailer," which included a gag aboutThe Russell Crowe Show, featuring the actor "fightin' 'round the world."

Stars Get Animated

Body vs. Bodyguard

Crowe fought with his own bodyguard in 2004 on the set of the boxing drama Cinderella Man and subsequently explained the ordeal in a letter to Australia's Sunday Sun-Herald.

"Spud and I had a push-around after work on a Friday night," the actor admitted, referring to Mark "Spud" Carroll, per BBC News. "The misunderstanding arose when Spud came over to tell me what he thought other people in the room might have been thinking of my conversation [with a female extra on the film who was a friend]. 

"I thought he was accusing me specifically of something and I took offence to it. It doesn't surprise me that I'm overly sensitive to gossip and speculation and heartily sick of other people's 'perceptions.' Spud was passing on other people's 'perceptions' and I shot the messenger."

He added, "Luckily for me, the sequences we were shooting required me to wear heavy post boxing make-up, so you couldn't tell." Carroll also wrote to the paper, saying, "As for calling it a fight, believe me, we have done much more damage to each other playing touch footy."

AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano

The Infamous Phone Fracas

In June 2005, Crowe was charged with felony assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon after he was accused of throwing a telephone (the weapon in question) at an employee of NYC's Mercer Hotel, the actor allegedly having gone into a rage that the phone was broken. His rep explained that he hurled the phone at the wall and neither hurt nor assaulted anybody. 

The actor did, however, end up pleading guilty to a lesser charge; he also was sued by the hotel concierge for personal damages and ended up paying an undisclosed settlement.

Crowe described the incident to Charlie Rose in 2010 as "the most shameful situation I've ever got myself in." But he also noted that answering Charlie's questions, which he planned to do, would "bring it back into my life again," an acknowledgment of how people move past certain occurrences but their reputations don't necessarily follow.

"I think it indelibly changed me," Crowe said. "It was a very, very minor situation that was made into something outrageous. There's more violence perpetuated [from] me walking between the car to the courtroom with the waiting media than anything that I'd done. You know, you can apologize for something a million times and for whatever reason people will still want you to apologize for it again and again and again...Very definitely, it affected me, it's affected me psychologically."

When Rose reminded him that he could have refused to talk about it and he wouldn't have pressed him, Crowe explained, "The very thing that makes me capable in my job is the thing that some elements of the media take advantage of, because I will give you an answer, and I will give you an answer in the correct tone for the moment." He smiled. "So, if you come at me aggressively or come at me abusively, then I'll play that game, too. That's bound to get you in trouble, when people are constantly doing that to you on purpose."

"It's past me now...and I can play the role of 'that's water off a duck's back,' but I'm not that guy," he added.

Stars With Bands

As he said six years ago, though, it was difficult to shake that bad-boy rap. He continued to face questions about his legendarily short fuse as the years went on—and it wasn't always just the media's insistence on harping on the past.

In 2010 that Crowe cut a BBC Radio interview short when the host quibbled with his English accent in Robin Hood. "You've got dead ears, mate, seriously dead ears if you think there's an Irish accent," Crowe challenged Mark Lawson. He then, according to the U.K.'s Telegraph, stuck around for awhile but voluntarily returned to the critique, jabbing, "I'm a little dumbfounded you could possibly find any Irish in that character—that's kind of ridiculous."

After a bit more discussion, he scoffed, "No, I was going for an Italian [profanity]," and left the studio.

Ian Gavan/Getty Images

"I'm extremely sensitive, and that's probably where some of my negative stuff comes from," Crowe admitted to Australia's Sunday Night in 2014. "I'm a little bit intuitive, so I know from a handshake whether somebody means me good or ill. And sometimes I don't want to, once I know where they're coming from, I don't want to play that game anymore."

Sitting down with Charlie Rose again, Crowe said in 2015 he tries not to take everything so seriously, but in so doing, "it also means you gotta cut yourself a bit of slack if you're...if you're a dick every now and then, you know. It's bound to happen. You're bound to get somethin' wrong, you know.

"What I have stopped doing is, I used know, you've probably read many a time that you know, 'I've hit a photographer'—I've never done that in my life, never, you know. It's just pure bulls--t. But what I've done is I've saved some of the most stinging verbal barbs just for those sorta people, you know. And they're shredded in now and wounded and bleeding going back to their editor...and they try and put it, like, a physical thing on the fact that I just ripped them apart emotionally with a single sentence."

Crowe did say in 2010 that he could fire back (verbally) with abuse if he felt he was being abused...

But another year, another chance to reflect, and the father of two told the Daily Mail in June about his more explosive days, "My mistake was in allowing the pressure that comes with acting success to get to me and I was overwhelmed."

Now, at 52, "I think your priorities in life shift a bit."