Russell Crowe - Gladiator

Russell Ira Crowe was born April 7, 1964, in Wellington, New Zealand, to parents Jocelyn and Alex Crowe. Young Russell was raised in Sydney, Australia after his family relocated down-under when he was four years old. 

Since his parents were set caterers and his father was a hotel manager, the Crowe family led a rather nomadic life, the reason for which Crowe only lived in his first actual house at the age of fourteen. Acquiring a taste for acting when he served as a child extra while accompanying his parents to work, the high school dropout was more passionate about performing as a musician rather than an actor.

While he had several acting credits under his belt, 16-year-old Crowe dubbed himself Russ Le Roc -- of the rock group Roman Antix, that is -- and performed in order to supplement his income. Working as a bartender, waiter and bingo-number caller wasn't enough to pay the bills, so playing music served as an additional source of income.

"I Want To Be Like Marlon Brando" was the title of the 1980 single Russ Le Roc recorded as a solo artist (before forming Roman Antix), which eventually became 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts. With former acting experience, the singer, songwriter and guitarist returned to acting -- never giving up his musical career.

At the age of 25, Crowe was cast in his first feature film role, as Lieutenant Corbett in Prisoners of the Sun, otherwise known as Blood Oath. But his big break came in 1991, with his award-winning performance (Australian Film Institute Award for Best Supporting Actor) in Proof. 

That was only the beginning of his critically acclaimed career, as he followed up his role in 1993's Romper Stomper, as a Nazi skinhead. With another Australian Film Institute Award, this time for Best Actor, to add to his mantle, Crowe starred as a homosexual man in 1994's The Sum of Us. 

But Crowe's success was, at this point, only limited to the land of kangaroos and koalas, until a certain Sharon Stone caught his Romper Stomper performance and was convinced that he was the perfect fit for her film The Quick and the Dead. Crowe was the only positive part of the film, which stayed true to its name and died quickly at the box-office. 

But it was all good for Crowe, who was becoming recognized in the United States. That year, he co-starred with Denzel Washington, in 1995's Virtuosity, as a serial killer. Although the movie was nothing to write Australia about, Crowe's career was beginning to soar to new heights.

He finally broke through in acting circles everywhere as the no-nonsense cop and Kim Basinger's lover in 1997's L.A. Confidential. Although he was snubbed at the Oscars, Crowe was being toted as the new "it" boy of Hollywood, despite Leo's claims of being "king of the world" that same year.

In 1999, Crowe's portrayal of real-life whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand in the drama The Insider earned the actor rave reviews, as well as a Best Actor Oscar nomination. As Roman general Maximus in the blockbuster epic, Gladiator, Russell Crowe showed moviegoers and critics alike that he was unstoppable in the Roman arena, and in Hollywood, with his Oscar for Best Actor in a Motion Picture in 2001. 

His Maximus role also garnered him Best Actor awards from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, San Diego Film Critics, and Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. 

Although Crowe has been compared to legendary greats James Dean, Marlon Brando and Robert Mitchum, he refuses to give in to the Hollywood scene. The only way one can say that he has succumbed to it though, is having been romantically linked to Hollywood cutie, Meg Ryan; his Proof of Life co-star.

While filming Jodie Foster's Flora Plum, Crowe suffered a shoulder injury. He will next be seen in A Beautiful Mind, co-starring Jennifer Connelly.

While Crowe is only becoming a more powerful force in film, he continues to tour with his band, 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts. As one of Australia's greatest imports since Elle MacPherson and Mel Gibson, this gladiator is taking his career to the maximus.