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Hey Anglophenia readers: let me introduce you to our new guest blogger, Paul Hechinger. He is a longtime journalist and producer, with credits from The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, Time Magazine, National Public Radio, CourtTV, ABC News, MSNBC, and Dow Jones Television to his name. His love of film and literature will make him a fine addition to Anglophenia. Treat him well.

Whatever you think of the new Ridley Scott film Robin Hood – whether you think it’s historically authentic or humorlessly ponderous – you probably won’t be surprised at a little drama on the publicity tour from the movie’s notoriously tightly-strung star, Russell Crowe.

Our friends over at BBC4 Radio were on the receiving end of some sharp barbs from Crowe, who ended up, it appears, walking out of an interview with Mark Lawson of the radio program Front Row.

Hear the complete interview here.

The new film, opening today, tells the story not of the Robin Hood we know – but the story – “backstory,” in Hollywood terminology – of how Robin Hood became the legendary thief and equitable re-distributor of wealth.

Lawson asked Crowe about the history of the character, who’s been portrayed in dozens of films. Crowe said he’d seen all of the significant ones, but minced no words about his feelings for perhaps the most famous Robin Hood of them all, Errol Flynn.

“I don’t really have that much of an interest in Errol Flynn,” Crowe said. “I’ve seen a number of his movies and if you could point out the character that he played with any level of truth, let me know, so I can watch that film.”

Okay, so he doesn’t like Errol Flynn, a fellow Australian. (Flynn was born on the island of Tasmania; Crowe in New Zealand, but has since become a naturalized Australian citizen.)

But the real trouble started when Lawson said he detected a “hint” of an Irish accent in Crowe’s Robin Hood dialect.

“You’ve got dead ears,” Crowe answered. “You’ve seriously got dead ears if you think that’s an Irish accent.”

“Hints of, I thought,” Lawson offered.

“Bollocks,” Crowe responded, and then went on to discuss the argument among Robin Hood scholars and fans, about whether the hero hailed from Nottingham, with which he is widely associated, or a bit further north, in Yorkshire. (By the way, for excellent background information on the character of Robin Hood from scholarly points of view, take a look at the University of Rochester’s Robin Hood Project.)

But Crowe was drawn back, on his own, unprompted, to the suggestion that he had used a touch of an Irish accent in his performance.

“I’m a little dumbfounded that you could possibly find any Irish in that character – that’s kind of ridiculous,” Crowe said. “But then it’s your show.”

“Well, then, you’re going for northern English?” Lawson asked, sounding as though he was trying to placate Crowe.

“No,” replied Crowe sarcastically. “I was going for an Italian, yeah – missed it?” He then used an expletive, which was bleeped out in the online broadcast.

Lawson toiled on, seemingly trying to ignore Crowe’s anger, asking whether the actor was personally drawn to Robin Hood’s outlaw status: “In the social outcast you can find the reality of the thought process of any given time,” Crowe explained.

Lawson’s last question was about a recent report of Crowe’s alleged misbehavior during the filming of Gladiator. According to a new book, in addition to supposedly threatening to kill one of the movie’s producers, Crowe didn’t want to say the film’s famous line: “I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” Crowe, of course, went on to say it, but is reported to have told Ridley Scott afterwards: “It was sh**, but I’m the greatest actor in the world, and I can make even sh** sound good.”

Lawson, apparently knowing that a question about this topic would set Crowe off, tried to coat it with extra journalistic politeness: “And finally, you can either answer this or not, I’ll just give you the chance because it’s out there at the moment: the suggestion that you didn’t want to say the famous line in Gladiator in this book that has come out.”

But that’s as far as he got – it was indeed the final question. Crowe chose not to answer, and the audience hears what appears to be the actor getting up and leaving. But as he exits, it’s Lawson’s suggestion about the Irish accent that’s still on his mind: “I don’t get the Irish thing,” Crowe mutters. “I don’t get it at all.”

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By Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks is the founding editor of Anglophenia.