Academy Award® winner Russell Crowe is considered one of the finest actors of his generation. Originally from New Zealand, he started making waves in the Australian film industry with his performance in the controversial film Romper Stomper—for which he became critically acclaimed around the world. He has received three consecutive Academy Award® Best Actor nominations for his performances in The Insider (1999), Gladiator (2000) and A Beautiful Mind (2001)—taking home the Oscar® for his performance in Gladiator.
Cast as Jack Knife in the action-adventure in Universal Pictures ‘The Man With Iron Fist’, who has been friends with director RZA since they met on the set of the 2008 blockbuster American Gangster. During his time on set, he discussed the path to playing a roguish mercenary who has his own interests at heart: “Bobby and I did pretty much every working day together on American Gangster and got to know each other well. We connected mainly through song lyrics, and he’s talked about this project since I met him. It’s one of those things where you have mates that have their dream gig—the thing that they’ve been thinking about for a long time. You learn about it, but it’s not often that they end up doing it. When it was looking more and more real, Bobby and I were coincidentally on set of another movie, called The Next Three Days. He calls me his big brother, and he said I really needed to be there, so I’m here.”
Crowe’s character shares a name with his unique weapon. He tells a bit about the mystery man: “Jack Knife has come to China as a soldier, and he’s become enraptured by the country. Part of that is due to the fact that he’s addicted to opium.” As the performer dug deeper into the period of the 19th century that RZA and Roth were using for the film’s backdrop, he became more disturbed by the events of the day. “I was quite frankly disgusted with what I found. I’d no idea that the British Empire flooded China with opium in order to control the populace and get a better trade balance. That was a bit of a shock, and I brought that to his attention.”
Proud to see his friend excelling in a new role as a filmmaker, Crowe reflects: “Bobby’s understood it more himself as he went on, day to day. You see him dealing with the cultural differences and language differences. He’s been cool, calm and collected. He still has the respect of everybody.”
RZA returns the compliment with a story that describes his level of respect for Crowe. He says: “One of the people we used for the character study of Jack Knife was Ol’ Dirty Bastard—so Russell Jones/Russell Crowe.” Of infusing one of Wu-Tang Clan’s founding members’ attitude and mind-set into the movie, RZA reflects: “My cousin’s not here anymore, but I wanted his spirit in the film. Russell and I talked about it, and he loved the idea.”