Russell Crowe on 'anarchy' at Glastonbury and 'tinge of jealousy' over Gladiator sequel

By John Mercury June 22, 2024

Russell Crowe has the war wounds of an actor who has completed his own stunts, including several “that didn’t go fully correctly”, over the years. “A whole screed of injuries,” is how he describes it.

So, the thought of a potential Glastonbury mud-fest after weeks of rain? The man who played Maximus Decimus Meridius will be able to handle it.

Well… “Probably,” he laughs. “We’re in the acoustic tent, which is a large tent with a covered stage, so we’ll be okay.”

Crowe makes his Glastonbury debut this year, not as an A-list VIP guest (although he is that, too), but as a performer with his band, Indoor Garden Party.

For those who know him for his “other job”, as he describes his Oscar-winning career of films including Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, LA Confidential, Les Miserables and more, this may come as a surprise – but the star has been playing guitar for far longer than he’s been playing characters.

“I had years and years and years of touring and playing in pubs and clubs and releasing records before I got a feature film,” he says, speaking on Zoom from a studio in Sydney, Australia, just a few days before travelling to Europe. “In fact, when I first started [acting], the idea I would be in a feature film one day was ludicrous.”

Russell Crowe's Indoor Garden Party will play at Glastonbury 2024
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Indoor Garden Party are playing Glastonbury, Dublin and Warrington gigs. Pic: Joe Machart/Nick Hodgskin

‘We’re going to blow that place up’

There is a “reset and rebalance aspect” to making music, he says. “Film sets tend to be very controlled. You’ve got to respect the gods of film and be completely ready and have done your research. Just recently, for example, I had a 17-page scene to do with an actor, and that takes an enormous amount of preparation and quiet contemplation to get yourself in the groove.”

But walking out on to a stage to sing is different. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve necessarily prepared, the way the audience responds and everything will adjust and move that show. It’s that kind of anarchy, where you just don’t really know for sure what’s going to happen, that is really attractive.”

Actor and singer Russell Crowe performs with his band Indoor Garden Party after the opening ceremony of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic in 2023. Pic: Katerina Sulova/ CTK via AP
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Crowe performing in the Czech Republic last year. Pic: CTK/AP

Crowe says he was “chuffed” to get the call for Glastonbury, where Indoor Garden Party will play on the Saturday evening. People who “feel like hooting and hollering” should forget about Russell Crowe, the famous actor, he says, and turn up for the music.

“We’re going to blow that place up,” he says. “It’s like, chuck, all the celebrity bullsh*t aside, or the fame for doing some other job aside. You’ll see a serious band and it’s full of monster musicians who know what they’re doing.”

‘As luck would have it, I saw him again…’

About the music, then. Indoor Garden Party is a collective, led by Crowe and featuring The Gentlemen Barbers band – made up of artists including members of his previous groups, Thirty Odd Foot Of Grunts and The Ordinary Fear Of God – as well as singer-songwriter Lorraine O’Reilly. The music veers between blues, rock, gospel and country, and they have a new album, Prose And Cons, released independently, out now.

The artwork is a simple but beautiful photograph of a swimmer, captured from behind as he looks out over a vast stretch of ethereally lit water.

“Tell you what, I took that photograph with my iPhone, at a place called Woolloomooloo, where I have an apartment, in Sydney,” says Crowe. “I was just walking around the bay and there was a man standing; it was a winter’s morning and it’s quite cold, Sydney Harbour water, in winter, and I think that’s probably what he was contemplating, the temperature he was about to experience.

“If you see the photograph up close, it’s so painterly, what the light was doing with the water – and we haven’t affected it at all, there’s no filters or anything.”

Russell Crowe took the cover picture for his band Indoor Garden Party's latest album, Prose And Cons. Pic: Indoor Garden Party/ Russell Crowe
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Pic: Indoor Garden Party/ Russell Crowe

Does the mystery swimmer know he’s a cover star for a Russell Crowe album?

“As luck would have it, I was sitting on the balcony one day and I saw him again. So I took off down the wharf and ran around the other side of the bay and had a conversation with him, and he was delighted to be on a record cover. So that’s cool.”

‘I’m a very sentimental person’

Fans will get to hear the new songs live at gigs in Warrington and Dublin, as well as Glastonbury, in the UK and Ireland. But before that, Indoor Garden Party have dates in Italy – including a special gig next to Rome’s Colosseum.

Crowe, who in 2022 was appointed by the mayor of Rome to be the city’s “ambassador to the world”, says he has had a special relationship with Italy ever since Gladiator, the film for which he won his Oscar for best actor in 2001.

Julia Roberts and Russell Crowe pictured after winning Oscars for best actor and actress during the Oscars in 2001. Pic: AP/Richard Drew
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Pictured with Julia Roberts after their Oscar wins in 2001. Pic: AP

“This relationship that I’ve had to Italy and Italian people since the release of Gladiator has been incredible,” he says. “I’m the ambassador for Rome in the world… it’s only a little bit of fun, but it’s cool, you know?”

With director Ridley Scott’s Gladiator sequel due for release next year, he says he has considered if things may be different after that.

“Next year they’ll have a new Gladiator, so my relationship to the people of Italy might change quite dramatically. So in a funny way for me – and I know this sounds very sentimental, but I’m a very sentimental person; I was born in New Zealand, I grew up in Australia, we tend to be that way – I’m going to get to go around the country [touring]… and say g’day and goodbye at the same time.”

 UNDATED FILE PHOTO - Russell Crowe, nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role February 13, 2001 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is seen in this undated file photo from "Gladiator." The Oscars will be held March 25.
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Crowe says the Gladiator sequel makes him feel ‘old’ – and a ‘tinge of jealousy’. Pic: Reuters

‘There’s a tinge of jealousy’

The Gladiator sequel stars Paul Mescal, Denzel Washington and Pedro Pascal, and will be released 25 years after filmmaker Scott’s first film. Crowe, now 60, has had no involvement, due to (spoiler alert) the events of the original.

How does he feel about it? “I feel old. That’s how I feel about it,” he says. “That period of my life, you know, was a huge change. Everything just went kind of crazy for a while.

“I do have extremely fond memories of it. And, to be completely honest, there’s a tinge of jealousy because I certainly wish I was back at being, you know, 35, 36, in a certain way, so I could have that kind of experience again.”

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The star says he still feels “humbled” by the attention he received for his performance. “Because really, my contribution to the film is quite small. It’s very definitely a director’s movie.

“The world created in that film is the work of Ridley Scott, you know? We did end up making five movies together, Ridley and I, and he’s probably still my favourite director to be on a on a set with.”

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While he has his own films out as well this year, for the next few months, it’s all about the music. There are tour dates in the US after Europe, and after that – who knows. If he likes Glastonbury, maybe there’ll be a sequel to that performance, too.

“If we make the main stage [next time],” Crowe laughs. “We’ll have more time then.”

Russell Crowe’s Indoor Garden Party play Glastonbury on Saturday 29 June, followed by shows at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre and Warrington Parr Hall. Their album, Prose And Cons, is out now

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