Russell Crowe is an actor who makes the news for his pugilism almost as often as he does for turning in a good performance in his films. This month, he makes headlines for both a totally expected reason and a bizarre one: As part of finalizing his 2012 divorce from Danielle Spencer, he is holding an April 7 auction at Sotheby’s to coincide with his birthday and what would’ve been the couple’s 15th anniversary.
For his own part, Crowe told Australia’s Daily Telegraph that this isn’t some performative display of post-marital spite.
“We’ve been separated over five years now; our divorce should be finalized around the time of the auction,” he said in the Feb. 23 interview. “Just as we collaborate on the upbringing of our kids, it’s easy for us to work together on something like this. I think she feels the same way I do in regards to just moving on things that help create space for the future.”
There are, of course, myriad oddities on display which have nothing to do with his film career, as there must be in the personal collection of any actor with a career as long and bankable as Crowe’s: A $40,000 dinosaur skull, gold records originally belonging to Johnny Cash, and a small dragon’s hoard of jewelry items, some of which Sotheby’s estimates could fetch enough to put your kid through college (or, I suppose, pay a settlement to a hotel employee you threw a phone at).
For movie buffs, though, Crowe’s estimated $3.6 million pile of swag is a glimpse into some of the more entertaining parts of his filmography—and the less memorable ones. Here are some of the items, ranked roughly according to both their listed worth and how envious the other kids on the playground will be when you show up wearing or wielding them.
The film: Glorious nonsense, ostensibly based on the Biblical tradition. Crowe plays the man himself, valiantly struggling against a wrathful deity and the prospect of somehow spinning a story it takes roughly 10 minutes to tell to children into a more than 90-minute screenplay.
The swag: Please.
The film: Crowe’s directorial debut cast himself as a grieving Australian father trekking to Turkey to track down the gravesites of his sons, who died in a disastrous World War I battle. The sober meditation on the futility of war and the peculiarity of a parent’s grief over his children’s deaths garnered mixed reviews and earned its modest budget back, but the world hasn’t been clamoring for Crowe’s return to the director’s chair.
The swag: This is an awful lot to pay for some furniture nobody is going to recognize out of a movie not a lot of people saw, but at least you will actually get another flat surface on which to deposit junk mail out of the deal.
The film: A tale told from the perspective of a horse, Crowe stars as a character known only as The Man. The movie is an outdoorsy tale that follows the Milo & Otis playbook of the animals conducting dialogue through disembodied voices. That movie is, in my opinion, better.
The swag: You get moleskin pants and a full-length leather coat out of this deal, which is at least utilitarian, but I wouldn’t expect to get any winks of recognition from your barista while wearing them.
The film: Hugo Weaving stars as Martin, a blind man with deep-seated trust issues that arise from his blindness. He’s so paranoid people might be misleading him that he takes photographs, develops them, and asks other people to describe the pictures so that he might catch any of his friends in a lie. It’s an examination of how the desire to protect ourselves from getting hurt can completely isolate us from all feelings, even joy. Crowe stars as Andy, a young man who becomes an unlikely friend to Martin.
The swag: If you’re into deep, touching character studies starring a pair of big-name actors, give Proof a watch. If you want your movie cosplay to probably go unrecognized at SDCC, feel free to register for this loud yellow tee.
The film: Regarded by many as the New Zealand-born actor’s breakout role in Australia, this violent and disturbing portrayal of Melbourne skinhead culture has Crowe as a wild-eyed true believer who spends his days kicking the crap out of Asian immigrants. Hailed by some as a look at a disturbed subculture and panned by others as exploitative.
The swag: I’m not sure I would want to meet the person who would not only have the $12K lying around to go all in on this lot and who would be enthusiastic enough to actually do so.
The film: One of the more peculiar early works of Crowe before he went whole hog into hairy-chested period pieces is this movie, adapted from a play, wherein he plays the hapless gay son of a single father who is so okay with his son’s sexuality that he interrupts sex to offer all parties involved some tea. There’s some subtext here that simply isn’t being explored.
The swag: Among the least expensive things in the whole collection, I suppose it could make a symbolic keepsake with a clear purpose and an annual place of prominence. Perfect as a passive-aggressive gift whose origin you never explain to your close-minded family, if you like.
The film: Hank Azaria’s local sports writer oversells the fictional Alaskan town’s hockey team and gets them, Crowe included, into a game against a big league team. David E. Kelley’s script stuffs the town full of at least as many quirky locals as he used to populate Rome, Wis., in Picket Fences, and gives Crowe the opportunity to deliver an obscenity-laced inspirational speech in the locker room. Sadly, it was not the little sports movie that could, flopping hard at the box office.
The swag: If you can scrape together nearly three grand for the hockey enthusiast in your life over the age of, say, 30, he might actually really appreciate these. I don’t see any auctions of Goon props happening for a while.
The film: I wrote about this delightfully gritty period piece before, and I still think it’s one of the best scripts to feature three protagonists since The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Crowe plays one of three young detectives in ’50s Hollywood, digging deep to uncover a racket that’s left his partner dead and himself in the crosshairs of a criminal conspiracy.
The swag: Sadly, you won’t be bidding for Bud White’s badge or gun or the fragment of a wooden office chair he ripped apart when he lost his cool during a witness interrogation. $2,500 is an awful lot to spend on some posters, no matter how great the movie.
The film: Crowe stars as one of the most convincing daily newspaper reporters I’ve ever seen onscreen. He’s a friend-from-the-past of a show pony politician played by Ben Affleck, a man who tries to leverage his celebrity to shine a light on a ridiculously convoluted conspiracy that, this being post-2006, all boils down to shady private military contractors. It features memorable supporting characters and some of the most brutally on-point depictions of modern journalism this crusty former city hall reporter has ever seen.
The swag: Included are a Steelers scarf and some worn-out shoes. I’d have ranked this lower, but you probably know somebody who, God help them, would appreciate a Steelers scarf, especially if it came associated with a not-that-bad movie. And at the low, low price of roughly a cub reporter’s starting monthly salary, why not put in a bid?
The film: A taut corporate thriller by Michael Mann, based on the true story of an important interview between 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace and Crowe’s character, an insider at a big tobacco company. It’s nearly three hours long, but with Christopher Plummer, Al Pacino and Crowe in lead roles, quite watchable.
The swag: Wielding a baseball bat with Pacino’s name on it in a baseball game or a fight must confer some sort of blessing, and at two grand it’s almost within the grasp of the average debt-saddled American.
The film: A caustic western starring Crowe as a smiling snake of a villain and Christian Bale as the hapless local enforcer tasked with getting him to the eponymous train to be carted off for judgment. Filled with quotable lines and vicious gunplay, this remake took perfect advantage of Crowe’s glowering charm to make a Western with a liberal dash of Spaghetti seasoning.
The swag: Seriously, no hat or gun?
The film: As I just finished singing the praises of the 1938 Errol Flynn film, you might remember I panned this one hard. I reiterate that it’s a Lord of the Rings-rip-off that doesn’t have so much as a single pixel of green anywhere in it.
The swag: That said, who wouldn’t want to go gallivanting around in freaking chainmail? Dropping the price of a new car on this ensemble would be a small price to pay to show up everybody at your regional Ren fair.
The film: Every 20 or so years it seems that somebody gets it in his head to do a revival of Les Miz, and I simultaneously get it into my head not to watch it. Critics variously reported that Crowe either could or couldn’t carry a tune. Occasionally my girlfriend’s kids bust into their own rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and I guess it sounds good?
The swag: I’m not afraid to admit people were more enthusiastic about this movie than I was, and in addition to looking damn stylish, this vest and full costume just looks comfortable to me. If you’ve got the equivalent of a full year of room and board at a respectable state university, consider bidding. Maybe putting on this getup will inspire you to burst out into song yourself.
The film: Now we’re talking. It’s easy to forget Crowe was even in this enthusiastically batty cyberpunk action misfire, especially since he didn’t rate billing alongside Denzel Washington back in 1995. Crowe plays a sadistic computer program named Sid 6.7, a gestalt consciousness of horrible criminals who exists to train police in virtual reality. This being the future imagined in the ’90s, Sid 6.7 busts out, leading Denzel Washington into a game of cat and mouse where the danger is real!!
The swag: It’s conceivable that a handsome young professional like yourself has momentarily entertained the thought of at least trying on a $1,000 suit, putting this within the price range of an actual human being (though the lot info sadly includes neither chest nor in-seam measurements). When the worst-case scenario is that somebody mistakes your sartorial choice for Joker cosplay, it really might be worth seeing if you can put in a bid.
The film: The story of the changing fortunes of a real-life boxer during the Great Depression, Cinderella Man’s fights show without a doubt that not only is Ron Howard a director who knows precisely what he’s doing, but Crowe is an actor who can sell hope, exhaustion and determination in ways few others can. The final title fight is one of the most tactile bouts in film. I’m sure it had to have been scripted and choreographed to some degree, but it doesn’t at all look like it. It is simply invigorating to watch.
The swag: Sure, sure, there’s tights and a robe and even some incredible pieces of real-world documentation related to the eponymous boxer Jim Braddock that Crowe somehow laid hands on, but you know what you came here for: The leather “boxer’s protector,” (which is to say a cup) worn by Crowe for the film. Valued between $600 and $800, this may be the closest your girlfriend ever gets to the … understanding of Crowe’s craft … that she’s not-so-secretly yearned for all these years.
The film: Telling the tale of Royal Navy Captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe, in a role for which he reportedly learned violin and pored over ships’ manuals) and his crew aboard the HMS Surprise, this is a dedicated period piece that professes absolutely zero ambiguity about how awesome (and hard) it is to sail the seas in service to the Crown. Filled with well-drawn characters and tense incidents, it’s a film that is never boring even for a moment.
The swag: Crowe’s naval costume is just cool, and the violin he played is dated 1890. If you’re able to take out a mortgage on your three-bedroom house, you could be the best-dressed local reenactor at your historical society, and might even have some left over for violin lessons.
The film: Crowe’s ultimate breakout role in the States cast him as Maximus, a Roman general betrayed, widowed and sold into slavery in a coup by Emperor Commodus (a perpetually moist-eyed Joaquin Phoenix). By virtue of being very good at killing people with pointy implements, Maximus becomes a gladiator who battles his way to fame in the coliseum, culminating in fights, one-liners and monologues that have rarely been rivaled in the two decades since.
The swag: The collective value of its swag may be eclipsed by other lots, but there’s no question which film’s haul wins the Must-Have Award. Maximus’ armor and swords are up for grabs, as are two life-sized prop horses (how and why did Crowe lay hands on these?) and, I say again, an actual working chariot. Spring for a pair of good draft horses, a bucket of javelins, and a youth to whisper “Memento mori” to you, and your morning commute could be very, very different. You can also bid for posters and Crowe’s stage pass, but come on.
Kenneth Lowe will have his vengeance in this life or the next. He works in media relations for state government in Illinois and his writing has appeared in Colombia Reports, Illinois Issues Magazine and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Read more of his writing at his blog or follow him on Twitter.