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Russell Crowe Advises RZA on How to Properly Beat Up Russell Crowe

Has movie stardom softened Russell Crowe? No! He shot his new Paul Haggis thriller, The Next Three Days, in Pittsburgh in the dead of winter and biked to and from work every day. “It was an hour and a half every day. Up hills, down hills. And then he’d work out in a gym for an hour,” said Haggis with awe at the film’s premiere on Wednesday. “The weather in Pittsburgh certainly gets you ready for a day’s work,” Crowe explained. “Pittsburgh people tell me we actually got really lucky. There was only snow right at the end and only sleet a few times. But I remember one day riding to work and it was only nine and a half, ten kilometers — not that long, seven miles or whatever — but gee whiz!” (Yes, he said, “Gee whiz!”) “By the time I actually got to where I was going, my hands were just BURNING. You know that tingling sensation you get just before frostbite kicks in?”

As he does in most of his movies, Crowe also did all his own driving, with Haggis in the back, screaming at him. “It’s amazing driving,” said Haggis. “I was the guy in the backseat going, ‘Okay, now weave around the car. Go there. Go faster. You can go faster than this! Now take off your coat.’ We’re going through a tunnel, turning at 60 miles an hour, weaving through cars, and I have him take off his coat and put another one back on while he’s driving himself. It’s insane.” He was such a good driver that the only accident they had was while they were pulled over waiting for police to escort them back to their first position for another take. “A fire truck went to pass us going five miles an hour, turned in front of us, and ripped off the whole front of the car, while we were sitting in it,” said Haggis. “We’re doing all this insane driving, and sitting still we get the front of the car ripped off.”

In another scene, Crowe manages to throw off four cops who were trying to restrain him. “And these are real cops!” said Haggis. “Big guys. I cast real cops. They couldn’t hold him down. He knocked them all over.”

According to Haggis, Crowe only refused to do one stunt. “It wasn’t a dangerous thing. I just think he didn’t want to get the shit kicked out of him lying on a sidewalk. It was cold,” said Haggis.

But Crowe was game for a scene in which his good friend RZA beats him up, which made RZA very happy. “You get to see the RZA beat up the Gladiator. So I think, artistically, that’s real cool and real fun,” RZA told us. Did Crowe get hurt? “No, he said I wasn’t doing it hard enough at one point. He wanted it tougher, yo! He had to show us how to beat up a person. He’s a tough guy." Later, we asked Crowe for his version of events. Had he really told RZA to punch him harder? “No,” said Crowe, “he hit me with a stick. I told him to switch to his strong hand.”

Photo: Patrick McMullan