Oscar-winner Russell Crowe returns to UK cinemas this week in the gripping new road rage thriller Unhinged, and his character is real nasty piece of work. He plays a crazed stalker who, over the course of one terror-fuelled day, makes the life of a young mother (Caren Pistorius) a living hell.
Although he made his name, and won his Academy Award, as the virtuous Maximus Decimus Meridius in 2000’s Gladiator, and has played many heroes on screen, the 56-year-old actor seems to be choosing increasingly darker roles. From a Baptist preacher pushing gay conversion therapy in Boy Erased, to Fox News’ Roger Ailes in The Loudest Voice, and as Ned Kelly’s mentor in The True History of the Kelly Gang, Crowe is clearly on a bad guy streak.
Talking to Yahoo, he says exploring his dark side is less about the roles he’s offered, and more about trying new things as an actor.
“It’s about unexplored ground too,” Crowe tells us.
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“If you really go through it, I’ve played some dark s*** over time – Romper Stomper, Virtuosity, Winter’s Tale – these are some deeply dark characters. But I’m certainly finding myself more and more doing stuff that I’m afraid of.”
“What you find is different things attract you at different points,” he adds. “So something you might not have done ten years ago now feels really fresh, because you haven’t actually done it before.”
“For me I’ve never wanted to repeat what I’ve done before. I’ve just looked for something that’s a degree or ten degrees or one hundred and eighty degrees away from the previous thing that I’ve done.”
His next film, The Georgetown Project, which is currently in post-production, will see Crowe doing another career volte-face. From the directors of The Final Girls, it sees Crowe heading up his first straight-up horror film for the first time.
Unhinged veers into horror, with Crowe’s unnamed character relentlessly stalking his prey like a bearded, albeit more chatty, Michael Myers, but stays grounded as a chilling exploration of unchecked rage and aggression in the 21st century.
He says he still gets offered hero roles like ‘this detective or that detective’, but was drawn to ‘the truth’ of Unhinged, which will be one of the first big releases in UK cinemas when most chains reopen on 31 July.
“We’re seeing these events of rage from individuals more and more,” Crowe explains.
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“Our particular example is a guy using his car, but we’ve seen it over and over again, people stepping into houses of worship or nightclubs or schools and opening fire. We’ve seen it more recently, people going crazy apes*** in supermarkets over a roll of toilet paper, and this expression of rage is something that we seem to be a place we have arrived at in society.”
“I was afraid of it, but I recognised that I was afraid of it, and I was afraid of it because of the truth it was speaking.”
His co-star Caren Pistorius is on the same page.
“Anger is, sadly, like its own pandemic,” she adds. “And I think there has been anger for centuries unfortunately. Definitely there’s a part of [Unhinged] that is very real. We were in a very different place when we started filming this, but it’s interesting how it’s found its own relevance.”
Unhinged comes exclusively to cinemas on 31 July. Find a cinema near you: https://unhinged.film/