Russell Crowe's decline is an odd one. The Oscar-winning actor still gives great performances, like he did in "3:10 to Yuma" and "State of Play," but even his biggest-grossing films of late are viewed as underperformers ("Robin Hood") or not really his movies ("American Gangster" is a Denzel Washington film, right?). His latest, "The Next Three Days," is an outright failure: He's not bad in it, but the movie just doesn't work, and it was a total box office bomb. Crowe's career is at a serious crossroads. This looks like a job for The Wolf.
He's Winston Wolfe. He solves problems. He's here to help.
Here's how to fix your career, Mr. Crowe.
1. Play the villain. Our favorite role of yours of the last five years was when you played the charismatic, murderous cretin in the "3:10 to Yuma" remake. While you're quite capable of playing the hero, which got you an Oscar for "Gladiator," your gruff offscreen persona works to your advantage as the bad guy. When you were "Yuma"'s Ben Wade, you were intimidating and slightly dangerous, and you seemed to be loving every single minute of it. We did, too, and you should do more of it. In an article in The Wrap, an unnamed studio executive thought you'd make a great Bond villain. We think that's a terrible idea: You don't need to be flashy; you need to be frightening. Which is why we're hoping your role in RZA's kung-fu film "The Man With the Iron Fist" as the "baddest man alive" is actually a bad-guy role -- that sounds just about perfect.
2. Forget that you're a box-office star. We think you're a terrific actor, but are you really a star in the way we think of stars? By this we mean that most people consider you an Actor first and foremost -- honestly, the fact that you've been in some big movies almost feels like an afterthought. With that in mind, maybe it's time to focus on some roles that don't rely on your bankability. Play a supporting part where you dive into a character the way Tom Cruise did in "Magnolia." Sign up for an ensemble film. The important thing is to refrain from parts that will be viewed as some sort of referendum on your box-office appeal. You're not an action hero; you're an actor -- get back to that.
3. Go away, but just for a little while. In the last three years, you've been in six movies. If you were on a hot streak, that wouldn't be so bad, but since you're not it seems like we keep be reminding that your star has slipped a bit. Make us miss you by staying out of sight for a time. And while you're gone -- and this is important -- stay out of the tabloids and don't cause any trouble. It's often said that people have an amazing ability to welcome back celebrities with open arms, but that only works if during your hiatus you don't reinforce our negative impressions of you as a surly, brawling hothead.
4. Do not, under any circumstances, try comedy. The usual advice for a struggling star with a reputation for seriousness is, hey, why don't you lighten up and be funny? In that same article from The Wrap, the anonymous studio executive suggests you come back as Alec Baldwin, i.e. a once-serious actor who now plays off his image in comedic roles. We are strongly opposed to this idea for you. You've shown moments of being warm and funny in your movies, but trying to switch gears and do a comedy would prove to be a nightmare if it flops, proving to many that you are as humorless as they suspected. That's again why we like the idea of you being a villain -- it allows you to show your humor without worrying about being "the funny guy."
5. Direct. As far as we can tell, you don't have any aspirations to become a director. (You may be the only actor who doesn't.) But if you've never thought about it, we'd suggest you start. Directing a passion project (that you're not in) could be a great change of pace that would keep you working without having to worry about being "Russell Crowe the Star." It can even be a small, little project that nobody sees, but it would allow you to step away from acting and clear your head a bit. And if it's a good movie, hey, that's fantastic: It shows that you're about the art more than you are about the fame. And that's what you've always said anyway, right? Directing would be a great chance to prove that.
There you go, sir. That should do it.
Meet Russell Crowe: Former A-List Actor [The Wrap]