Russell Crowe is at his finest—and heaviest—in ‘The Loudest Voice’
LOS ANGELES—“I have what they call ‘resting bitch face,’” Russell Crowe explained with a laugh when asked if he is aware that like the late Fox News founder Roger Ailes whom he portrays in a new TV miniseries, he intimidates some people.
In Showtime’s “The Loudest Voice,” based on Gabriel Sherman’s bestselling biographical novel, Russell is excellent as the chair and CEO of Fox News, known for its blatant Republican bias and pro-Donald Trump stance.
The seven-part limited series focuses on how Roger, who was bankrolled by Fox Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, became the de facto leader of the Republican Party and the sexual harassment charges that brought him down.
Also starring are Sienna Miller (Beth Ailes), Naomi Watts (Gretchen Carlson) and Seth MacFarlane (Brian Lewis).
In fairness to Russell, the actor did appear to be volatile at interviews many years ago. But in recent years, the actor, now 55, appears to have mellowed, coming across as good-humored and relaxed.
Excerpts from our recent chat in New York:
What was it like when you wore the fat suit and saw how you looked in the mirror for the first time? It was really exciting in a perverse way, because when the idea first came up and I started looking at images of Roger, I just didn’t know how we were going to approach it.
But in reality, in the time period we were dealing with, Roger pretty much looked the same, apart from the fact that he was getting older, losing more hair and his skin was taking on more age damage. I felt that I needed to look like him as much as I could.
So it came down to facing that situation and this meant full prosthetics for the whole time. And then developing those prosthetics as we go to indicate the age.
We jump around through the 20-year span. The first application took six hours, so that part wasn’t fun. But looking at it, and the first one wasn’t perfect at all, there were lots of things that we had to do to sculpt, then we realized we needed a nose as well, because mine is a different shape than his.
So all you see of me is a little part of my forehead, my eyes and mouth and the rest of it is prosthetics … Over time, we went from a six-hour application, down to the fastest we ever did it—two hours and 17 minutes.
How easy or hard is it for you to gain or lose weight? It’s just as difficult for me as it is for anybody else. What I worked out was the mathematics of Roger—how high he was as to how wide he was. Because I am taller than him, I tried to have that same geometric ratio. I didn’t quite get there, so I used a fat suit.
How much do you enjoy doing projects like this that focus on recent history? It is very interesting to do things that are recent history. A lot of people have asked me, did I talk to the Murdochs before I did this, because obviously being an Australian of some fame, it’s pretty much standard that sooner or later, you are going to be in a room with a Murdoch.
I do have a relationship with them, but I personally thought it was unfair to put them in the center and ask them questions about what is really a fictionalized version of things that took place. I didn’t end up doing that, though I did reach out to Wendi Deng (the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch).
Roger said many times that he examined the marketplace and it was his viewpoint that ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, The Post, The Times, that all of these media organizations had a left-wing bent.
That’s where he saw a market opportunity. He said many times that if he saw it the other way, Fox News would have been a different kind of animal.
He had tried to create a news service like this since the late ’60s. He had an idea that the White House, when Nixon was president, should have its own news service and deliver complete reports.
My politics in this country [United States] are always on the outside because I am not an American, but certainly I feel that Roger has brought about a situation where polite political discussion is almost impossible to have right now.
Where do you get your news from these days? I am certainly not a news junkie, but given my age, I’ve grown up with the habit of morning newspapers. I like to turn the pages.
But I spent a long time, since I haven’t been able to trust anything that’s written in a newspaper, because I look at my own experience and go, right, if they are prepared to say that about me, like sometimes, here he is in a New York nightclub and I have been on my farm with my horses (laughs).
As Roger said, if 60 percent of your average man or woman on the street doesn’t trust the media anymore, part of that has to do with a collusion that is happening within media to actually be OK with the fact that you actually know it’s bullsh*t and you still put it out anyway.
What else did you learn about journalism while working on this series? Probably thousands of things, really. Obviously, I knew about Fox News. I didn’t know anything about Roger’s life or exactly the way that Fox News had come together. I didn’t think I had learned anything profound because it’s all relatively obvious, the way, as we were talking about before, how political discussion here [United States] has become so divisive. I think that has to change for us to progress.
I tried to look at Roger in terms of his times. If you think about it, at the age of 26, he is the executive producer of “The Mike Douglas Show.” You are talking about a young man in a position of power…
What was it also like when you were on set, portraying a character like Roger who is supposed to scare the sh*t out of people? I’m also the executive producer, so I am also watching the clock (laughs).
You have a prime time with makeup between six and eight hours a day. So you have to move fast, because once you get beyond the makeup’s prime, you have to start repairing it. And for every repair, you are losing 30 minutes of shooting time.
So no, people aren’t intimidated in that way, but at the same time as saying that, I want to set a level of excellence every day. I am always prepared and you have to be prepared, too.
But we want to have an exciting time while we are at work and we want to enjoy each other’s company.
I did many days with Sienna Miller and she took on a massive challenge.
I got to work with Naomi. I hadn’t been on a set with Naomi since “Brides of Christ,” which was like 1990. We were both little kids. So it was so much fun to be an adult on a set with her, doing incredible scenes.
I was blessed to have an incredible cast around me.
Some people are intimidated by you. Are you aware of that? If that exists, and I’ve been told that a number of times, it’s not something intentional. Most of the time I’m just concentrating on something else (laughs). I have what they call “resting bitch face (laughs).”
E-mail [email protected] Follow him at ruben nepales (@nepalesruben)
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