It’s been happening since I was born, when a panicked casting director busted into the maternity ward. She was looking for a newly born baby to be cast in an Australian indie film called The Magician’s Feast. It was a flashback scene where we saw the star of the film (one of the caterers for the magician’s titular feast) born to a magician and his wife, but then switched at birth with the child of a lowly butcher. And who played this caterer? Who was the star of the film? A first-time actor named Russell Crowe.
After playing the part, the casting director took down my parents’ information, and soon thereafter, another call. I was to play a toddler version of Russell Crowe in the Australian horror film The Dead Architect. Then came Argonaut Z, Copper Welcome, and Homespun. I played a young Russell Crowe in all of his early work in Australia, which was a challenge since I lived in Sedona, Arizona.
When Russell made the big leap to Hollywood, with L.A. Confidential, I was cast as a Young Russell Crowe who watches his mother get killed. After that came Gladiator. My big scene was a flashback where I was lying on the grass and staring up at the clouds. “Someday, I’m gonna be a big fancy gladiator.” That was my line. I’m pretty sure it made the final cut, but I never watch my own movies.
This all sounds great, right? A Hollywood dream come true?
Well I’m tired of it.
I’m tired of playing Young Russell Crowe.
First of all, I’m not Australian. I can’t do the accent, and they’ve never even asked me to do the accent. Are we to assume that as this Russell Crowe character aged, he gradually became more Australian? It makes me feel like a fraud. I hope it doesn’t make him feel like a fraud too, but it might.
When they first found me, I was a baby, and many, many babies could be Baby Russell Crowe. I could’ve grown up to be anybody. And I did. I have platinum blonde hair, a gaunt face, and six facial tattoos. I do not look like Russell Crowe, yet my filmography has the exact same roles as Russell Crowe, just with the word “Young” before each character name.
I sometimes think that having me on set is a waste of time for them and for me. They’ve kept me on set for every one of his movies, just in case they needed to add a scene with a childhood Russell Crowe. Sometimes it works out, like that scene in Les Miserables where he has a flashback to me lying on the grass and staring up at the clouds. “Someday, I’m gonna be a big fancy singin’ police inspector.” That one worked. But sometimes it’s like Man of Steel, where I played Young Superman’s Dad. They tried doing a flashback where Superman was remembering his dad, then his dad had a flashback within that flashback, then you saw me staring up at the clouds, saying, “Someday my son is gonna be a big fancy Man of Steel.” That one didn’t work as well. I blame Zack Snyder.
This is all leaving a very complicated stamp on my future. Playing Young Russell Crowe has become increasingly difficult now that I am 27 years old. The biblical epic, Noah, starts with Young Noah witnessing the death of his father. The casting director refused to have anyone else play the preteen boy because she said I was “the best Young Russell Crowe in the industry.” I played the part, and then they used CGI to change my body, face, size, and voice. It cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars and I spent eight months in a motion capture suit.
In addition to all of the time I’m spending as YRC (that’s what they call Young Russell Crowe in the business), I’m having a lot of trouble branching out and getting other roles. Last week I read for a part in Ridley Scott’s new movie, and when I showed up they said, “Sorry, we don’t have any parts for a Young Russell Crowe.” I even tried to get a gig for a Frosted Flakes commercial last week. It was a voiceover for Tony the Tiger when he was younger, but after the audition, the director pulled me aside and said, “I need you to know that Tony the Tiger is not voiced by Russell Crowe, otherwise you’d be perfect for this job. Sorry.”
I need to get out. I need this to end. I’m the same age now that Russell was when he starred in his first Australian film, The Magician’s Feast. It’s time for me to set out on my own, and find my ownThe Magician’s Feast.
I think that Russell would understand. We’ve never met, but I hear he’s a nice guy.
Sam Pasternack is a writer/producer living in New York City. He has written for McSweeney’s, Above Average, and a handful of TV shows you’ve never seen. If that isn’t enough for you people, his Twitter handle is @SamPasternack.
The Humor Section features a piece of original humor writing each week. To submit your work for consideration, send it here.