Russell Crowe reinvents Jor-El in 'Man of Steel'
New Zealand-born, Australia-raised Russell Crowe has had his share of playing heroes (“Gladiator,” “Robin Hood”) and villains (“3:10 to Yuma,” “Broken City”) over the years. He’s also taken parts in which his characters couldn’t be so easily compartmentalized (“L.A. Confidential”). But there’s no questioning his ethics in “Man of Steel.” He’s Jor-El, loving husband of Lara, loving father of Kal-El, brilliant scientist and patriotic council member on Krypton. Heroic and patriotic, he’s one of the good guys. But he’s faced with an unthinkable dilemma. As Krypton literally explodes around him and his people, he must put his small son into a spacecraft, then send him hurtling across the heavens to Earth in order to save him. Crowe’s early scenes in the film are incredibly moving. His later ones, when he returns as a lifelike version of his own consciousness, are thoughtful, almost noble. His approach to the role convincingly makes Jor-El the soul of the movie. He recently spoke about why he took the iconic part, and the differences between being a father in real life and playing one onscreen.
Did you dust off a copy of “Superman” from the ’70s to see how Marlon Brando played Jor-El?
I have a confession. Might as well just get it out right now. I’ve never seen any other Superman movies. I don’t have any references in terms of cinematic experience. The only Superman reference I have is the 1950s black-and-white TV show that was on after school when I was a kid. So I didn’t have anything to draw on. The simple thing for me is I read the script, I thought it was a complex and really cool story in and of itself, and I thought the problems that Jor-El faced in terms of his decisions as a father was a very interesting thing to do. That’s why I got involved.
Did you manage to bring any of your own know-how of being a father to the set when you did the scenes with the infant Kal-El?
I had a very interesting experience being a father on this movie. Four babies were employed to play the recently born Kal-El. In my own experience as a father of two, I’ve managed to dodge all the piss and the poo, even though I’m pretty slick with a nappy. But on this movie, I got farted on first. That was OK. Got pissed on. That was a little inconvenient. Then it happened, under those got lights. I got a handful of the essential Kryptonian material. So I learned a lot. (laughs) I had new experiences as a parent in this movie that I hadn’t previously had.
“Man of Steel” opens on June 14.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.