May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Russell Crowe traded chainmail and animal skin for a metal-gray suit jacket as he faced reporters at the Cannes Film Festival premiere of “Robin Hood.”
The 46-year-old actor starred in the 140-minute epic that opened the festival yesterday. At the media briefing, he sat beside actress Cate Blanchett (who wore a tailored pale-pink jacket) and producer Brian Grazer. Director Ridley Scott -- who cast Crowe in 2000 as “Gladiator” -- was absent due to knee surgery.
The movie attempts a fresh take on Robin Hood, showing a hero in the making, rather than the familiar forest-dwelling do-gooder. Instead of green tights, the rugged archer wears breast plates, suede tunics, and leather trousers.
New Zealand-born actor Crowe (who said he watched every “Robin Hood” movie as a little boy) worked with Scott on plot development, and the pair came up with enough material for a 7 ½-hour movie.
“There’s an element of Robin Hood lying in the heart of all of us,” he said, his hair neatly cut but uncombed. “If our world was to go completely pear-shaped, we would hope that somebody would stand up and redress the balance.”
Were Robin Hood to live today, said Crowe, he might take on “Wall Street and the huge sums of money made there,” or -- he suggested, pointing at journalists -- he might decide that “true wealth lies in the dissemination of information,” and attack “the monopolization of media” (perhaps a reference to magnates such as News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch).
As told by Scott, the story of “Robin Hood” goes something like this. King Richard I, or Richard the Lionheart, is about to return to England from the Crusades when he is killed by a French cook. The throne of England falls to his ineffectual brother, John, who much prefers adultery as a pastime.
Out on the battlefield, a dying nobleman named Sir Robert Loxley entrusts Robin Hood with his sword. Robin heads for the Nottingham home of the dead man’s father (Max von Sydow) and widow (Blanchett) to deliver it. There, he is informed that long months away have left him smelly and in need of a bath.
Robin is moved by the plight of the people of Nottingham, who are taxed and fleeced by church and state alike, and decides to fight for their freedom. There are horsemen, archers, shields, and axes galore in Scott’s massive combat scenes. Actors and extras howl and growl as they kill or get killed.
While Crowe is busy fighting injustice, he seduces the widow Marion, who is unglamorously outfitted in peasant gowns and faded kerchiefs, and forced to feed her starving people nettle soup and dandelion salad.
Lots of Mud
“Mud, a lot of mud,” is how Blanchett described working with Scott. “I’d usually come on set relatively clean, and he’d pick something off the ground and smear it on me.”
She and Crowe teased each other throughout the Cannes briefing. “Just take a look at Russell’s leather pants: They’re really fetching,” said Blanchett, before punching Crowe in the arm for something only she could hear.
Crowe suggested a sequel might be made if the film earned enough. “There’s no cynicism with this: We don’t have two other scripts under Ridley’s hospital bed,” he said.
“Obviously, there’s a figure in the studio heads’ minds,” he said. “If we pass that figure, they’ll give us a call.”
To contact the writer on the story: Farah Nayeri in Cannes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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