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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Russell Crowe, Ron Howard

Aired January 18, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, bad boy, lady killer, risk-it-all actor Russell Crowe up close, in depth. The truth about the women in his life and the schizophrenic genius he's now playing on screen. And with him, Ron Howard. How did TV's Opie grow into a movie director with huge Oscar buzz. Why doesn't he turn up in the tabloids? They're next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Welcome to a very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

There's an extraordinary movie opening wide. It's played in some select cities. It opened wide this weekend. It's called "A Beautiful Mind" and its star is Russell Crowe, the winner of last year's Academy Award for "Gladiator" and many consider a favorite for this year for his extraordinary role as John Nash.

And Ron Howard, one of America's best known directors and actors. He directed "A Beautiful Mind." He won the 1996 Director's Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for "Apollo 13." And, of course, older people in the viewing audience remember Opie from "The Andy Griffith Show" and Richie Cunningham on "Happy Days." He's been a fixture on the American scene for a long time.

Why did you take this part, Russell?

RUSSELL CROWE, ACTOR: I tend to make my decisions pretty much the same every time and it's all got to do with the material. I was actually in Texas -- in Austin -- in the middle of a summer. Down there for reasons -- I was in feature films. And I got a call from my agent, George Freeman. And then I got another call from Jeffrey Katzenberg. Both of then enthusing about a particular script called "A Beautiful Mind."

So I sat on the back porch on one of those really steamy, hot Texas summer nights and I read it. And I had a, you know, a very -- a very big reaction to it. You know, I call it the goose bump factor, Larry, you know, if I -- if I...

KING: You get it, you do it.

CROWE: Basically -- yes. I mean, it doesn't matter how good the pedigree of a particular gig is. If I read it and I don't -- see, I start -- I begin to play the character. I begin to make decisions like, "Oh, no, I wouldn't say it that, I'd say it like this. Well, if I say that -- that's what he said in that scene." And I just start working the script. So at the end of the first reading there's already notes and I actually have had a physical reaction to it. You know? So...

KING: How did you get to direct it?

RON HOWARD, DIRECTOR: Well, our company, Imagine Films, developed it. Brian Grazer's my partner in...

KING: Bought the book?

HOWARD: Yes, bought the rights to the book. It was discovered, you know. Brian just felt it was profoundly interesting human interest story. That this character's journey was unique, remarkable.

I was excited about it really for two primary reasons. One, it takes a really, sort of, an unprecedented and certainly unique approach to dealing with a character who's a kind of an outsider.

KING: Definitely an...

HOWARD: Definitely an outsider and who then ultimately, you know, has to cope with mental illness -- with schizophrenia.

The -- number two, which was huge for me, is I just felt like it was going to be a great vehicle for an actor. At that point, I didn't know that it was going to be Russell.

KING: You didn't?

HOWARD: But I love directing -- I love directing actors in interesting scenes.

KING: Now did you pick Russell?

HOWARD: Well...

KING: How does that work?

HOWARD: Well, you know, Brian Grazer and I are partners so every movie that we do we sit down and...

KING: You kick around a bunch of names.

HOWARD: ... starts with a conversation -- starts with a conversation.

KING: Who would be good for this?

HOWARD: Who would be good for this? And Russell was always, you know, sort of in the top little group of, if, you know, if you had a wish list. And then very...

KING: Do the two of you -- do you have to like your director?

CROWE: I think -- I think the stronger and the deeper your relationships are on the film, with your cast, with the director, with the other key people, like, you know, the director of photography, the stronger your relationships are the better.

You don't have to like an actor to do a scene with him. You don't have to like a director. But it's just better if you do. And I think, you know, you've got to begin that with respect. You know. And I respected Ron's work -- Ron's previous work and respected all of the ideas he was throwing at me in our conversations leading up to beginning to make the film.

He was very organized. He knew what he wanted to get out of -- you know, knew that, you know, "OK, it's going to start in a, sort of, bucolic, sort of, setting. And the framing and shots will be constructed in that way."

And then we descend and we go to this other -- he understood the medium. In fact, he's got much more than a handle on the medium -- he's all over the medium. And that to me is really important.

If -- you know, I think these relationships, you don't -- you don't start off with an explosion. It's just like you quietly, sort of -- you see each other in a few ways and then you begin to work. And then you see more of each other -- more of each other's personalities and what you're like under fire, you know, what you're like when the pressure's really on. It's like, you know.

KING: Is there, kind of, a chemistry that develops between actor, star and director?

HOWARD: Well...

KING: Any actor and director?

HOWARD: ... not always. I mean, sometimes you go through the entire movie and everybody does the best they can. And you do the work.

KING: Is the movie better when you do connect?

HOWARD: Oh, yes. Well, absolutely. I think so because then you get at -- you get at all of the subtleties. And this movie was all about nuance. So I'm looking at the movie and I'm thinking, "Well, it would be great to shoot this movie in sequence," which means you shoot all of the scenes in order. But looking at the schedule, looking at the budget, knowing that we're trying to make this movie rather modestly and I'm talking myself out of shooting in sequence, you know, it's not very practical.

So Russell's in Australia. On the surface it's not very practical. So I don't know how it came up, but Russell said, "What's the scheduling going to be like?" either in an e-mail or a phone conversation, I don't quite remember. "Is there anyway we could do this, you know, sequentially?"

CROWE: And what he was talking to me about I think at the time in a previous e-mail and would help our conversation was that we were going to begin, sort of, in the middle or to middle to late. So we had to establish make-ups.

And I started thinking, "Gee whiz, man, we've got probably..." -- what did you end up with? -- "six different phases to make up..."


CROWE: "... and then subpoints within those phases." So, you know, he'd be talking to be about, "Well, when we get to 3.4, you know, then we'll have to do this transition to 3.9." And then...

KING: So you thought, "Well, why not do it in order?"

CROWE: The thing is you're just going to get yourself into a lot of trouble. You know, eventually it will cost you more money.

KING: So then it's like a play.

HOWARD: Well, then -- well, more so. Movies are never like a play...


HOWARD: ... because you always are dealing -- it's more like mosaic.


HOWARD: But what you do get -- and so as soon as Russell said it I said, "Man, I'm kidding myself." And I went to the studio and fortunately the studio, you know, sort of, accepted the argument.

KING: Russell, do you -- do you have to like John Nash...


KING: ... to play him?

CROWE: There's a very old -- what I consider to be -- old- fashioned attitude that some actors have, an old -- you know, and when I say "some," actually it seems to me the majority, that you must love the characters.

So I've played a variety of different characters -- some positive, some negative. You know? I've played from a neo-Nazi skinhead to a anally retentive Welsh Baptist virgin and to a Roman general or to somebody like Jeffrey Weigand or to...

KING: Yes -- that was funny.

CROWE: So lots of different people. So not all of them -- who -- they're politics and the way they live their lives do I agree with. And so I think you get into a problem as an actor if you love the character because when you love something you lose your objectivity. And the whole point of it is exposure.

And you can only really expose the emotional workings of a character if you're objective and you're willing to say, "Well, at this point in time -- yes, you know, maybe he's not in the best of lights at this time, but that's just humanity." And that's what you have to give out.

So I love my job. I love working on feature films. I love characterizations. But I don't necessarily love the character.

KING: I've never heard that put that way.

We'll be right back with Russell Crowe and Ron Howard. The film is "A Beautiful Mind." It's a beautiful film, terrific movie. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I thought you dropped out. Are you ever going to go class or...

CROWE: Classes will dull your mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, I didn't know that.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Now she's going to stun us all with his genius. Just another way of saying he doesn't have the nerve to compete. You scared?

CROWE: Terrified, mortified, petrified, stupified by you.




CROWE: I cannot waste time with these classes and these books, memorizing the weak assumptions of lesser mortals. I need to look through to the governing dynamics, find a truly original idea. That's the only way I'll ever distinguish myself.


KING: We're back with Ron Howard and Russell Crowe. Now one might have said, Russ, that, "Here's a story about a guy who's a schizophrenic. He's not the most likable person in the world. How are we going to sell this? What is going to attract the public to this anti-hero?"

CROWE: Fortunately for us, that's not necessarily our job. It is a little bit more Ron's job because -- yes, he is a co-principal in Imagine. But for me all I'm concerned about is doing really good work and on every day doing it as best as I can. You know, I always get involved in the marketing of the film and I try to be as responsible as I can.

KING: You took less pay. CROWE: Well, yes.

KING: OK, so you had to have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to do it.


KING: Right.

CROWE: I totally wanted to do it. There were devices built into this script, which Ron could realize the devices that the direct -- that the writer had put in front of him as the director, then it was absolutely going to get a million.

KING: A very complicated man...


KING: ... with a disease we don't know.

CROWE: That's right.

KING: Ninety-eight percent of the population look at people like this and back off.


KING: You see them on street corners you cross the street.

HOWARD: Very mysterious.

And the other thing is that families who have to cope with this don't even know who to express their feelings about it. They don't even trust admitting to outsiders that anyone in their family is stricken with schizophrenia. And one of the really amazing things about his film is, I've had people coming up to me on the street who don't know me and saying, "Thank you for making this movie -- my brother is schizophrenic, my daughter is."

It is so moving to have this kind of interaction with people on the street because the movie hopefully destigmatizes the disease.

KING: Right. When you play someone like this, how do you -- you met him, right?


KING: You're playing a real person.

CROWE: He was in the plan -- it was in the plan to meet him a little earlier on. But, you know, you've got to prioritize pretty heavily in a film. And we had three and a half weeks rehearsal...

HOWARD: If that.

CROWE: ... interspersed of me having to go to Los Angeles twice in that time to fulfill other obligations. HOWARD: Like when he had an Academy Award.

CROWE: Well -- you know.

KING: Were you filming this -- were you filming this while the Academy Awards were...

CROWE: The first day of shooting was basically the day after the Academy Awards, which was unfortunate for me, because I had to put celebrations off. And I'm, you know, I'm one for the celebrations.

KING: You were celebrating; you like to celebrate.

CROWE: It hurt. It's a rumor, it follows me everywhere.

KING: I think it's him, yes, he started it.

CROWE: Yes -- sorry -- I'm off the thread of the...

KING: No -- but the concept being you meet this person. You didn't have a lot of time to spend with him. How do you find -- how do you...

HOWARD: Can I jump in there for one second?

KING: How do you play a schizophrenic?

HOWARD: I was not eager for them to meet.

I was concerned that Russell might feel compelled in some way to really do, you know, an imitation of John Nash, and I wasn't interested in that.

This is -- look, you do biographies -- biographical pieces -- for different reasons. This was not really to tell the complete story of John Forbes Nash, this is to -- we looked at a life. We said, "Wow! Within that there's an architecture, there's a framework, there's an opportunity to do something that is very -- makes very compelling drama and offers insight into a disorder, let's strip away everything else and let's use the truth of his life, the spirit of that life to tell that story in a very..." what I thought was a very, you know, exciting way.

KING: I bet.

HOWARD: I didn't want him bogged down by it, so much...

KING: So you left out things like bisexuality, which was in the book, right? You can't have everything, right?

HOWARD: That's in the book but it's also very much in dispute it turns out.

CROWE: Nash denies that. And also you have to look at -- this is the modern media world. That book came out in -- what? -- '94 -- '95 -- something like that. HOWARD: Yes.

CROWE: OK. Where is the person that he had the physical relationship with? They would have stepped forward by now, you know. Plus now that we know what happened to him eventually, how do we know what he was going through that night that somebody tapped him on his shoulder? And the charges were never taken through; there was never any conviction.

HOWARD: And the other thing -- well, the other thing is that in the book, you know, it's really -- until the announcer who wrote the book would be the first one to tell you that it's all, sort of, supposition based on people who in the 1950s thought he was an odd guy and thought, you know, "I wonder what that means? "

And the other thing was that in the '50s -- and this was a very dangerous idea -- we felt irresponsible, you know, making a connection -- a cognitive connection, because in the 1950s people thought that homosexuality and schizophrenia were linked, which is, of course, all wrong.

KING: Yes. How do you play a schizophrenic? By that I mean, what do you -- you can find things in lots of things but how do you find that?

CROWE: In the wad of -- in the wad of questions that includes the specific schizophrenic John Forbes Nash Jr., this is -- this is the, sort of -- the conundrum, OK?

We had 17 black and white photographs of John as a young man, basically, and we had John still alive. We had no footage of John as a young man, no tape recordings of his voice. And in between the photographs that we had and the collected knowledge and stories that are in the book, then you have this gap in the middle of 35 -- 40 years or whatever of medication, hospitalization and simply aging.

Now through the course of the rehearsal process I asked Ron to go and ask John various questions, you know, on videotape.

HOWARD: Which was a great idea.

CROWE: And I realized that some of the things that we had proof for, he had no memory of, you know? "Have you ever worn a beard?"

"Not as far as I remember."

I have a photograph of him in Europe with a beard. So, OK, he cannot be the witness to his own life that I require him to be in terms of specifics.

KING: Boy.

CROWE: So I then -- I've got him as an old man. I've got where he's born and I've got this big gap in the middle. So then I started looking at information on schizophrenia specifically and I see, you know, the before and after of some people, you know, prior to the onset of the disease, after the onset of the disease. And a massive change that takes place in their vocalization and in their physicality.

So John Nash as a young man is a big, tall, strapping, broad- shouldered -- not at all what you would imagine a mathematician to be. But John Nash as an older man does not even indicate that physicality.

So if I went to John Nash as an older man to use him as a template for a younger man, I'm going to miss out on a whole bunch of stuff.

So what I had to do was take the broader specifics -- he was born in West Virginia; he got to this point at a certain time -- you know, and use that and construct it to what I knew -- what we actually knew as factual.

KING: And how do you find, firstly, your unique voice. You're a New Zealander, right?


KING: Who lives in Australia?

CROWE: Right.

KING: Going to have dual citizenship I understand. Is that correct?

CROWE: Sooner or later.

KING: How do you find a West Virginia voice?

CROWE: What we did is -- I have a wonderful girl I live with, a lady called Judy Dickerson. We've probably made seven or eight movies together now.

KING: You never have the same voice in any two movies.

CROWE: Yes -- but that's part of the design. I mean I'm an actor and I think it's, sort of, total immersion.

And once you have, like, Robert Deniro setting the bar with "Raging Bull," if you're not going to work every day realizing that your -- the beginning of your cinematic performance is total immersion, then you're not -- you're not at the edge of cinema where I want to be. I want to be doing really good work that surprises people, that takes people on a journey.

KING: So she helps you find...

CROWE: Yes -- that's her responsibility. If I -- if I take on the responsibility of the mathematics of the voice as well, it will get in the way with the emotions. I can learn all of that, right? But then she's, like, next to me. And just before I'll do a scene I'll say, you know, "What would I be looking for in this? " And she'd say, "Well, you know, there's a couple of Rs there so be careful of that," or, you know, "You've got that sound there on radical (ph)."

So I just get that information straight in my head just before I do it. But I've already learned it, but I'm not carrying it with me. Because all I'm carrying with me is the dialogue for that day and how it connects to all the other things.

KING: Isn't that amazing to you...


KING: ... as a director?

HOWARD: Yes, I mean as an actor who had a hard time doing acting, it's -- I'm really amazed. But he's got a great ear for it. He's a musician. And he's also done it now.

CROWE: So that's actually Senator Robert Byrd's voice.

KING: That's who -- I knew that's where I'd heard that before. He's been on this program many times. I know that guy.

We'll be right back with Russell Crowe and Ron Howard of "A Beautiful Mind." Lots to talk about. Don't go away.


JENNIFER CONNELLY, ACTRESS: I'm wondering, Professor Nash, if I can ask you to dinner. You do eat, don't you?

CROWE: On occasion, yes. Table for one, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with a bird circling overhead. You know how it is. No, I expected that you would -- you wouldn't know. Leave your address in my office. I'll pick you up Friday at 8:00 and we'll eat.




CONNELLY: Wait one second. I'm sorry. I want a copy of this first big date in (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So he advised me to look good, which is not a state you find yourselves altogether naturally.

There, better. I'm surprising him.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You just keep on surprising him -- Professor.


KING: We're back with Russell Crowe and Ron Howard. Did you look -- everybody knows about everybody else before something. Did you look forward to working with Russell Crowe?

HOWARD: Well, I did because, first of all, I have been amazed by him on the screen. Met him -- but only at one meeting. And then I began talking to him about this movie and became very, very excited about what he was going to be able to contribute. And I also talked to a lot of other directors who all said the same thing, you know, basically if you're ready and you have answers he's going to ask a lot of smart questions.

KING: Does that bother some directors?

HOWARD: I don't know. It doesn't bother me. I depend on it.

KING: Is that a flaw?

CROWE: Oh, yes.


KING: Is that a reputation that would be described as tough? Demanding?

HOWARD: I think they were talking to me and, sort of, had a sense that as -- having been an actor, knowing that I like to work with actors. Everybody said, "You're going to have a good experience." And -- a wonderful experience.

KING: Are you tough?

CROWE: Yes, I am. But I'm not -- I'm not unfair. It's not -- and it's not about me. It's about you've hired me to become expert in this job. You're saying to me that you're going to pay me an unreasonable sum of money to play this character.

And I'm saying, "Well, if I'm going to do that then I'm coming into it boots and all and I'm going to totally commit to it. And I need your input continuously, because there's little things that I'll find -- I mean, you know, you have control of the movie. It's your film." And it's always very clear when I work with a director, I'm not in charge, I'm just in charge of my character.

And I'll discover things. And as I discover them it's a -- it's a process of growth -- questions and stuff. And little things that you find even half the way or two-thirds of the way through the shoot. It's like, "Oh, right. We'll apply that little color down there."

So I suppose to some people I can be, you know...

KING: A perfectionist?

CROWE: Yes -- well, that's how they see it, but, you know, I'd never say I was a perfectionist because, quite frankly, you can never get these things really right.

HOWARD: And you have to be willing to move on eventually.

CROWE: Yes. And...

KING: And are you good to work? He's on time? HOWARD: Oh, yes.

KING: There's some -- with some actors...

HOWARD: And not intractable. As creative as Russell is and as...

KING: You can talk to him?

HOWARD: Absolutely.

CROWE: It's always a shared responsibility and -- but I also like the fact that there would be some days late in the -- late in the shoot where Ron's like, you know, "We're really tired. We should probably wrap up." And I'm go, "What? " "We're finishing the day today. Come on, man. Let's go."

KING: He wants to help you out.


CROWE: We help each other out


CROWE: And so that's the collaboration. The collaboration and detail is how you make a feature film.

HOWARD: And this movie was a challenge that everyone wanted to live up to. OK? It was a -- it was a -- it was a wonderful screenplay by Akiva Goldsman. It was -- it was great that a studio wanted to pay for this movie. That in and of itself was a rarity.

CROWE: ... apart from all of the amazing things about Nash, the reality was for all of us, which is something we didn't necessarily discuss until we were into it is the romance. The romance that's built into the story -- the fact that -- these people are still together. That was the most amazing part.

KING: There's no doubt -- Jennifer was there last week. No -- this is a love story.

CROWE: Yes. When it comes to the introduction and I cut to Jennifer, how much time did we spend with Jennifer, right? Cut to the face, Jennifer was like, "Oh, my God!"

You forget just how absolutely gorgeous she is. She's a beautiful woman.

KING: Are you in love with her?

CROWE: Absolutely -- in a way. I think pretty much every actress that I work with, you know, in terms of working on the character and getting involved in the character and the commitment she gave to it. You know, I mean, she's a very special girl, you know?

KING: Does it bother you...

CROWE: But I'm not having a relationship with her, no matter what they're saying in the New York daily papers.

KING: Are they saying that?

CROWE: Yes, yes, yes, but that's a load of rubbish.

KING: Do you like when people -- some people can toss it aside. They can be in a tabloid every week and say -- but some people -- Tom Cruise goes berserk.

CROWE: Right.

KING: How do you react?

CROWE: It just depends on what it is. If it's just silly then I -- then I don't worry about it. But if it's something that will have an impact on various members of my family, that gets a little tedious, you know? And...

KING: Do you get angry?

CROWE: I don't think it's anger, you know, because the process is understandable given what my job is about. It's not that I agree with it. You know, I think that whole concept that once you become a public figure your life is purely public. I think that's absolutely rubbish.

You know I think people are still people and you should still be able to have your privacy and not have people examine your garbage. I just do a job at the end of the day. You know. It's as simply as that. And my job happens to be this, and maybe I take it a little more seriously than some other people, but I wouldn't bother wasting any anger on tabloids.

KING: Frank Sinatra told me once that all he owed the public was his best work. Any extra was that what he was willing to give. Is that a fair comment?

HOWARD: Yes. I think it really is.

KING: He didn't owe this interview.

HOWARD: Right.

KING: He didn't owe that. If he wanted to do it he did it. He didn't owe you that. But he owed his best work.


KING: Why do you think -- you've never been touched with this, have you? You ever been in a tabloid?

HOWARD: Well, yes.

CROWE: Oh, yes, yes. He did his time.

KING: Really?

CROWE: Do you want to tell him?

HOWARD: Quite recently. Do you want to tell him?

KING: Why? What did he do?

CROWE: Oh, Larry, you're going to love this story.

KING: Tell it.

HOWARD: You tell it.

CROWE: Well see, Ron was on a trip with his family, you know. With four cars, right. A lot of kids and they kept swapping cars and all that sort of stuff. And you were going to Yosemite, right?

HOWARD: Right.

CROWE: On the way to Yosemite. And they finally arrive, and, you know, the cell phone rings and he answers. And it's his assistant who's been around with you for...

HOWARD: Over 20 years.

CROWE: Twenty-years. And she said, "Ron where's Reed?"

HOWARD: My youngest son.

CROWE: And Ron goes, "Oh, I don't know, he'll be around here somewhere with other kids." She goes -- you do it better than I do.

HOWARD: She says, "He's in Fresno. You left him at a Krispy Kreme in Fresno. The police have him in Fresno." Suddenly she's not my assistant. She's Auntie Wheezy (ph), and she's pissed.

KING: How old is he?

HOWARD: He's 14.

KING: How did you leave him?

HOWARD: He says, that we are all in there and it was -- it was a "Home Alone" moment, Larry. You know, he said -- he said, "Oh Dad, don't leave I'm going to the bathroom." And I went, "Yes, yes, that's a good donut."

KING: And the tabloids picked it up?

HOWARD: Yes. But also when I was just getting -- back when I was on "Happy Days" there was stuff.

KING: Really? HOWARD: When I was getting married, you know they found a picture of my then-fiancee Cheryl, now my wife, wearing something kind of blousey and said, you know, "They're getting married because she's seven months pregnant or something."

And, she has relatives in Louisiana who were very offended by that.

KING: When you read the falsehood, is that a bug to you...


KING: ... when you read the falsehood?

HOWARD: Well that's what really drove me crazy, because it hurt her and hurt her family.

CROWE: That's the actual key thing, is that you can take a lot of bullets yourself. You know, but it's when you have to have the conversation with you niece, you know, and you sit her down and she's 13, and she doesn't understand the difference between, you know, an absolute reality truth and something that people can get away with printing.

KING: What's it like when you -- like everybody knows that you had a relationship with Meg Ryan, who shares the same birthday with me, by the way.

CROWE: Oh, really.

KING: I'm proud of that. November 19th. Is that weird to see what is your personal life in front of people?

CROWE: Yes, particularly when it's just -- you know, it's for the larger, kind of, broad-based, sort of, thing. You know, it's not really specifics about reality. You know, it's just like you know, these situations and the time line works best for us if we say things happened this way.

Or, you know, even when they blatantly and absolutely know that a particular thing they're going to run is not true, but they just run it anyway because it suits them, you know, because the process that you would have to go through in order to get any satisfaction through the courts or whatever is so expensive and time consuming. I just find that very cowardly.

KING: Don't people fall a lot for each other making movies? I mean you're in close contact. I mean it would seem logical.

HOWARD: I think there's always that, kind of, attachment that he's talking about.

I've only had a couple of times where I've really seen a, you know, actor, sort of, develop a -- you know, a vocation romance or, you know, a romance through...

KING: Does it make the acting harder?

CROWE: No. It doesn't make it any harder or easier. I mean, you know, with Meg we were -- we were doing the job, and the personal thing was separate, separate all together. And I think it's a very...

KING: And you were very professional on the set?

CROWE: Completely, even though it was a very slow thing. I mean, you're talking about seven months later when the director is doing press for the movie, that's when he found out we even had a relationship. And it wasn't that we were being secretive or anything like that.

KING: The director didn't know.

CROWE: The director didn't know. We were there in the scenes, and I'm giving that guy as much as I can. I'm still asking the same questions and, you know...

HOWARD: It's probably happened a bunch of times, Larry, and I just didn't know.

KING: Does the private life of someone working for you effect you?

HOWARD: Could not care less, if they show up and if they're ready to go, all I care about. All I care about.

KING: All you care about.

HOWARD: In fact, don't want to talk about it. If they want -- if they need me to talk about I'm happy to. I'm happy to do whatever, to help a person do their job. I don't offer unsolicited advice. And I honestly don't care as long as -- look, every day you have a chance to shoot a movie, it's a rare opportunity.

You have resources at your disposal and you want to take advantage of it. You want to take advantage of it. When we stop doing that, I'm offended. I'm appalled. And that's when I do something about it. Beyond that, I don't care.

KING: Back with more of Russell Crowe and Ron Howard. The movie is "A Beautiful Mind." It is terrific. Don't go away.


KING: What was it like to work with first Ron Howard as a director and second Russell Crowe as an actor?

JENNIFER CONNELLY, ACTRESS: He really loves to collaborate. And I noticed, you know, given that, it made me want to sort of do things, you know, choices that maybe I wouldn't have made on my own. Anything he'd ask me to try, basically, I would, you know.

KING: Because you trust him.

CONNELLY: Because I trusted him. And I noticed that Russell did the same thing.

KING: And what about Russell?

CONNELLY: He's great. You know, he's very supportive. He loves to work. He's enthusiastic. He keeps you on your toes.




MEG RYAN, ACTRESS: I've never seen you nervous.

CROWE: Yes, you have.


KING: We're back with Russell Crowe and Ron Howard.

Someone said, in commenting on it, and I'm not going to dwell on it, because it's not my business, however, that when something happens like this in a movie, it affects the female more than the male, regard to career.

Do you think that's true in the case of Meg Ryan? It didn't effect career one iota. It might have affected hers.

CROWE: I don't think so.

I think she went straight on to make "Kate and Leopold" with Hugh Jackman, a Miramax movie. And, you know, I think what you may see with Meg is, that she'll probably work less, but that's through her own choice.

That's not because she doesn't -- you know, and I think that's rubbish. Everybody who really knows the two of us in terms of people that we do business with, know that we're both very honorable people. And she's a magnificent woman, a marvelous person and a great actress.

So, you know, I don't...

KING: Sounds like you're friends.

CROWE: Absolutely. You know, we just had an hour-long conversation maybe two nights ago.

HOWARD: And as a guy who's part of a company that tries to make three to four movies a year, and is constantly casting something, considering something, let me say Meg Ryan is a huge star we would cast in a heartbeat.

KING: If you had a script and it fit right, you would go after her.

HOWARD: Yes, without question. CROWE: But I think she also wants to challenge herself, you know, with the things you take on. Now the next thing that she's doing, you know, I don't the title or anything, but I know all of the details of what she's doing in terms of character work. And I think she's going to, you know, freak a whole lot of people out.

KING: What kind of role is she playing?

CROWE: It's a woman who became a manager of boxers. And it's really, really interesting. And she has to do an accent with it and everything. And she's doing -- she's doing a lot of work for it. And she's just really good at the job, you know.

KING: What is his greatness? And nobody would...


KING: But, he obviously, he has enormous attraction to people. He's been compared to Brando? You like Brando, right?

CROWE: Yes, I do.

KING: Brando sat right here. So he does. It's the show of his choice. All right, Brando, he likes Brando. Can we compare -- is he in that realm? Is he Brando, Pacino, DeNiro?

HOWARD: Well, he's earlier in his career.

KING: I mean, on the way there?

HOWARD: Absolutely. Yes, and well I mean here's what it is -- here's what it is. Not too caring.


HOWARD: No, no, you're OK. You can stay. You can stay.

Well, look, it's a combination of a natural charisma and presence that he has, combined with this work ethic that we've -- that you've already -- you know, you can glean from watching this program, and certainly if you look at his work.

The courage to take a lot of risks. Not, sort of, play it safe. Not to fall into some, sort of, narrow category and just run with it. And also, you know, an intelligence that causes him to be a positive influence on the films he's working on.

You know, the lead actors in movies can be their own, kind of, quality control. And it affects everybody. It's like a great point guard, you know, on a...

KING: Changes the game.

HOWARD: Changes the whole game. And the really smart ones, the ones who endure, and the ones who rise to greatness, I think have that quality, and Russell has that. KING: Do you know it watching him? Or do you know it more seeing the finished film product?

HOWARD: I only know it -- I mean, I admire performances, but I'm mostly a fan when I go. If I'm going to really examine something I have to see it a second time. I got it in my first conversation. And then I saw it immediately even in the audition phase with the women who were candidates for the Alicia role. And then certainly on into rehearsal. And by the time we were filming it was clear.

KING: What's it like when a great actor works with it? What was it like working with Al Pacino in "The Insider"? Another one of my favorite movies.

HOWARD: Yes. Great movie. I love that film.

CROWE: It was very interesting. And we have a totally separate process, you know.

KING: You don't work alike.

CROWE: No, not at all.

So Michael Mann, the director of "The Insider," very early in the piece, went, "You know what, I've got to have multiple cameras on both guys at all times." You know, because I'll tend to get into a -- you know, I come there ready to go. I all ready know what I'm going to do with the first take.

I'm not looking for it. I've done my homework. You know and I haven't done it the night before, I've done it while I've been in the makeup chair. I've done it, you know, since I've been at the set that morning in terms of, you know, specifically thinking what do I need to get out of this thing to push the story forward.

Whereas Al will -- like, he'll begin to discover it in that moment, which is very fascinating to watch, you know, but it's just different from me. And there's no value judgment on that.

KING: But, you can work together.

CROWE: Certainly, yes.

So I was talking to him about it one day, and he said to me, something which I thought was you know very deep and very thoughtful. And you know shows just how smart he is. He said, "Look, I learned very young that in the theater I had some level of control. But in movies, you know, the first couple I made, you know, I would look back at what the finished product was and look back at what was used and realized that man I didn't know what the guy was looking for at that moment. So what I'd do is, I start you know from point A and I run the gamut of every possible thing, you know, through every line that the director could use, you know. And that's what I do. And then it's his responsibility. I've done, you know..."

KING: His medium, not yours, right. CROWE: That's Al's attitude, you know. And I understand it and respect it. But, I like to have a little bit more of a handle on what we're actually looking for, because, you know, then, for me it's also the efficiency of the day. And making the film come in on budget, and on time for whatever reason. I'm a working class boy. These things are important.

KING: You think blue collar in a sense?

CROWE: Totally, you know, I go -- I arrange it so, you know, let's -- here's the broader statement of what you want. Now that's the first take. What out of that do you want me to work on? What out of that do you want me to drop?

HOWARD: And you can riff. I mean, you're -- that's the thing he has -- he can do.

KING: More on the life and times of Russell Crowe and Ron Howard, the director and star, respectively, of "A Beautiful Mind," now playing wide. It's done sensationally in limited cities. It is a great film. Don't go away.


CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, ACTOR: You wish you hadn't blown the whistle?

CROWE: Yeah, there are times I wish I hadn't done it. There are times I feel compelled to do it. If you ask me, would I do it again, do I think it's worth it -- yeah, I think it's worth it.



KING: We're back with Russell Crowe and Ron Howard the beauty -- the film is "A Beautiful Mind," and it is -- if you don't like this movie, I'll give you the money back.


HOWARD: They're going to edit that. They'll bleep it or something.

KING: You cannot not like this movie.

Is image important to you? Because you have this image of ladies' man, swashbuckler, independent, individualist, tough to deal with, doesn't like to do interviews, which is shocking to me sitting here listening to you.

Is that tough to deal with?

CROWE: You know, some people are very concerned about their image in the public persona. As you can see, I'm not one for grooming. KING: You're dressed up.

CROWE: Absolutely, this is about as good as it gets. Between characters I do what I call going fallow, which is a farming term, you know. If you know you rotate your crops, and for one season, you know, you have nothing in the paddock.

And, that's basically, you know, what I like to do between films. You know...

KING: You don't care how you dress?

CROWE: I don't dress -- I could care less what I look like because, you know, it's like that's not what really the person is. My internal drives and all of that sort of stuff are what I care about. But I also don't care to explain myself to any level either

KING: Don't feel you need to.

CROWE: No. And I think that that's a great line of Frank's and I'm going to steal it. You know, I do my absolute best work. And as far as I am concerned, you know, that's my office, that's where I work. And that's where I do my stuff.

KING: So you're not -- is it that you don't care what people think about you?

CROWE: I think in the fullness of time, you know, I think over a period of time when people really get to know you and they get to know you through your work and interviews like this. As opposed to reading stuff in a newspaper which I haven't done an interview for, or whatever, which is just made up. You get one, sort of, opinion from that.

And then, you know people that watch your show or watch you talk with many, many different people over time. And I -- you know in this conversation, I'll just suddenly appear to be a normal person and not the wild man, ogre, that I am in the newspapers, you know.


CROWE: I'm certainly an individual. You know?

KING: Obviously.

CROWE: And I certainly take what I do really seriously. And, you know, I really, you know, enjoy the sort of relationships that I have with Ron, where, you know, I'm working with a bloke who has mastered a very elusive medium, you know.

He's very intellectual about it. You know, and he will explain everything to me about something, you know, he has the patience to deal with my inquisitiveness. And he's willing to collaborate and his attention to detail. All of those things, you see, and then it just, for me, makes an easy job.

KING: When someone like this comes to you, you're working with him for the first time.

HOWARD: Right.

KING: You will have an image of them, don't you?

HOWARD: Yes. Well you can.

KING: Does that affect you?

HOWARD: Well, I mean if you read the...

KING: Well you -- I mean you live, so you have to...

HOWARD: I know. So the question for me is, in a situation with somebody that I don't know, is going to be, are there any surprises? And again, I make up my mind, I don't think making the film has to be, you know, a love fest. It's not -- again, I care about what we get on screen, Larry. I care about how the story is serviced.

That's my job. I'm the keeper of the story. You know, I have to understand what it is that needs to be done in these little tiny snippets that we're going to collect. You know, these are the raw materials. We're then going to go to an editing room. We're going to piece it together, and somehow it's got to add up to something and I need -- I'm supposed to have some sense of what it is we need. And I'm supposed to be able to tell when we're shooting whether we're getting or not.

KING: Do critics affect you Russell?

CROWE: No. I mean I don't do what I do that is you know looking for praise, no matter what.

KING: You don't?

CROWE: No. I mean I do it to -- and this probably sounds very intro level, but I do it to try to find my own demons, you know, not other people's.

You know there's a line of Oscar Wilde's to paraphrase him, you know, your night shouldn't be affected by praise, or you shouldn't be affected by criticism, you know. You just -- you do that art. And work for that theatrical level that satisfies you.

KING: What was it like when you won the award? When they called your name out?

CROWE: It was a very interesting evening, Larry. I had a good time. You know, what can you say. I mean, it's a hell of a privilege.

KING: Were you surprised?

CROWE: Very.

KING: Really? CROWE: Absolutely. I mean, if you had asked me, you know, right up until the minute, I would have put a lot of money on Tom Hanks, just a lot of money. You know, I had no true concept at all that, you know, that I was going to win it. I mean, being nominated to me is a great privilege itself.

KING: Now do you like or not like hearing your name being favored this year for this role?

CROWE: Oh, you know...

KING: There's odds in Vegas already. You're off the boards. Even money. I guess Australians know this. You have betting in Australia.

CROWE: Oh, we do.

We gamble on cockroaches racing, mainly. Just about anything, you know. Well that's all very interesting and flattering and all that sort of stuff. But you know quite frankly, you know, I've got one and you know spread it around a little bit. You know, I don't need -- I don't need another one.

HOWARD: It's also great -- you know, it's good for our film that it's sort of well respected enough to be in what


KING: ... an award, though.


CROWE: Well I want him to get nominated. I think that's a really important thing. And there's 16 movies, you know, the majority of which are magnificent pieces of art.

KING: You've never been nominated?

HOWARD: Not for an Oscar. No, I won the DGA, as you mentioned.

KING: Yes, I know. Never been nominated.

CROWE: Everybody goes like, "You're kidding me." You know with "Apollo 13" and with all those great, you know, quality films, never even been nominated. So I think that's a, you know...

KING: We'll be back. So you give yours up.

CROWE: Yes, Ron can have mine.

KING: We'll be right back with our remaining moments with Russell Crowe and Ron Howard. The film is "A Beautiful Mind." Don't go away.






CROWE (singing): I'm somebody from outside of me. So come and give me all the things that I have used to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all the people.


KING: We're back. Were you ever kidnapped or threatened to be kidnapped?

CROWE: Well, that's what I was told, you know. I came in -- well it was actually probably -- roughly about this time. I came in from Australia. I checked into the hotel, and I had a series of, you know, strange messages -- messages getting stranger and stranger about, you know, how I had to meet with these FBI guys and stuff.

And so I met with them. And they laid out a situation that they were very concerned about. And that was at the Golden Globes this time last year. So instead of traveling one out, or with, you know, just a friend and a -- or whatever. I suddenly found that my -- you know, I had a posse of 12 blokes.

KING: Do you still have that heavy security?

CROWE: Yes. No. There's security involved now, I think, from an insurance point of view, for whoever I'm working with, you know. But, it's not something that makes me comfortable. But, you know...

KING: Do you...

CROWE: ... it's just the situation.

KING: ... want a family?

CROWE: Absolutely.

KING: Want children? Want to be married?

CROWE: Yes. Yes, I do. My mom and dad just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. And...

KING: You grew up in the same kind of happy home too didn't you?

HOWARD: Yes. Yes.

KING: Your father-in-law just passed away, I know.

HOWARD: Yes. Charles Alley (ph), yes.

KING: But, your parents were... HOWARD: Married for 52 years.

KING: I met your parents at the Golden Globes once.

CROWE: Did you? Yes.

KING: They're terrific people, yeah.

Are your parents proud of your success?

CROWE: Yes. I mean, for the most part, it brings great things.

I mean, they live in a different place now and they have a different life, and they've done some traveling, you know. My mother finally got to go to Italy and Paris and a few other places. But sometimes, I also feel when I get home that I'm interrupting their lives in a very big way, you know.

KING: When you read rumors about people you've been linked to, Nicole Kidman, Courtney -- I don't know who else -- I don't read -- I'm just told these things.

CROWE: Everybody from, you know, what's her name, Duchess Sarah Ferguson.

KING: Sarah Ferguson, you're involved with...

CROWE: Oh, I've never been involved with her, but I think every bloke should have at least one duchess, Larry. What do you think?

KING: Are you now in love?

CROWE: Yes, I am.

KING: You want to tell us who?

CROWE: No, I don't.

KING: Is this something that could be the big one?

CROWE: Well, we'll just see. I'm not one for making predictions or, you know, that sort of thing. It's somebody I've known for a very long time. And we're just together. It's as simple as that, you know.

I think we were talking before about, you know, the beginning of the process and day one and everything, I've had such a busy schedule leading up to the beginning of the shooting of "A Beautiful Mind" that the only way I could get a break was by having the -- you know, getting off the plane in Texas, having come back from Europe, and picking up my motorbike, sticking it on the back of a U-Haul and driving from Texas to New York. So I'd have like at least three days.

KING: You drove from Texas...

CROWE: Yes. Three days. (CROSSTALK)

CROWE: No. It wasn't actually, no, not at that point.

KING: By yourself?

CROWE: With. No. With a friend of mine from Australia and another bloke called Phil Reeves (ph), you know, just three blokes on the road, two vehicles, you know.

HOWARD: Started out with the first day of rehearsal in full leather.

CROWE: We drove through this snowstorm and -- but at least, I got a little -- you know, I got a little quiet time and got a little thinking time and I love driving...

KING: So you, say, stopped at a gas station in Wichita, and the guy look up and say, do I know you?

CROWE: We had -- we had a few (UNINTELLIGIBLE) conversations, particularly one drive-in burger bar somewhere in the Blue Ridge mountains.


CROWE: She got a big surprise, that girl.

So I arrive and the first meeting was supposed to be 8:00 a.m. on a Monday morning, right? That was day one of rehearsal. And I thought that I would get to New York on a Sunday night. Because I had made a detour to go to Blue Field, which is where John Nash was born, and wander around Blue Field for a while.

Now it was like an impossible situation. There's no way we could actually sleep that night and drive the next day. So I had to drive all through the night. So -- and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- big storm. I don't know if you remember that last year. The East Coast got hit big time, you know. And that was the day that we were driving, you know.

So we drove in to New Jersey, you know. I think we'd been in the car 23 hours or something at that point, to make the -- to make the time. 10:00 to 8:00 in the morning, I arrived on the set, right, Ron?

And, I get out of the car and I'm still in my leathers, which I'd put on in anticipation of riding the bike prior to the snowstorm hitting, you know. So I've got hair like this, a beard substantially longer than this. And when my beard's a little bit longer, my IQ drops rapidly, you know, along with my beard.


CROWE: And so, I'm getting out of the car. I've got full leathers on, leather pants, leather vest, leather jacket, you know. And it was like, good day, Ron, you know, let's make a movie.


HOWARD: I thought I was impassive and welcoming. But I looked panicked, right?

CROWE: It was definitely rising panic.

HOWARD: But we sat down and had a good conversation.

KING: Did you think this guy strange?

HOWARD: No, I didn't. You know, I knew he -- I'd gotten...

CROWE: Come on, you did so.


HOWARD: Look, everybody's got their way. I'd grown up in this business and there are many strange people.

KING: Do you ever plan to live in the States?

CROWE: I've done a lot of traveling around America. And there's some beautiful places. I don't like the idea of living in Los Angeles, because I think that's like unrolling your swag in the office, you know. I come here, I do business, and I think I'm much more effective as an actor for the directors I want to work with, again, the objectivity of not being surrounded by the business all the time.

KING: But you might live here?

CROWE: Well, man, you know, I really love Austin, Texas. I...


CROWE: Yes. But, you know, I also like -- you know, I like Alabama. I like Mississippi, you know.

KING: Where do you live, Ron, here and New York?

HOWARD: I'm in Westchester County, New York.

KING: You don't live here?

HOWARD: No, I don't live in L.A., no. I live -- I grew up here but in '85, moved east.

KING: And you're a New Zealander who's going to be an Australian, hold dual citizenship?

CROWE: Well, apparently, that is there, the possibility for me. And it seems to me that everybody in the family is OK.

The reason I haven't changed to be an Australian citizen in the past, is simply out of respect to my family, you know. And I was born there. And I think it's a very simple thing. I was born there. And quite frankly, there's only two countries in the South Pacific. So I don't think we should really worry that much.

KING: You sing. You've got a band.


KING: You ever going to do a movie where you sing?

CROWE: I don't think so.

I have sung in movies where it's right for the character. But, I'm not interested in doing, you know, like a rock-and-roll biopic or like a band-on-the-road sort of movie, because I think they're best done in reality.

I actually -- tonight, I go to the Sundance Film Festival because a movie that I put together called "Texas," which is about my band recording an album in Texas. That gets its first...

KING: Come back one night and sing. Bring the band.


KING: Bring the band.

CROWE: You sure you want my band in here? Yes. Yes. Well I'll make sure they wash before...

KING: Ron, what's next?

HOWARD: I don't know what I'm doing next. Working on several different scripts and looking and trying to find...

KING: For you, what's next?

CROWE: He's looking for the elusive Russell Crowe...


KING: You got anything lined?

CROWE: Yes. I've got a couple of things that I'm going to do, the timing of which, in terms of which one gets done first, I'm not quite sure at the moment.

KING: Thank you both very much. It was great having you Russell, Ron.

HOWARD: Great seeing you again, Larry.

KING: The movie is "A Beautiful Mind" -- and I meant it. Send in your stubs if you don't like it. And then, I'll have you examined. But I could send my doctor of choice, right?

I can -- but our guests are Russell Crowe and Ron Howard. Tomorrow night, we'll repeat our interview with Bill Maher; Sunday night, a complete program on Howard Hughes. There's a guy you'd like, I think. He was a maverick.

And "NEWSNIGHT" is next with Aaron Brown.

Thanks for joining us. Don't forget, "A Beautiful Mind" is showing wide now. Good night.