Few contemporary actors can match the award-winning success of Russell Crowe. The powerhouse actor from New Zealand is most known for his dramatic roles in Gladiator or A Beautiful Mind, but more recently, Russell has entered the news cycle for his scandalous off-screen behavior. Not many people know the real Russell, but his tumultuous life may shed some light on some of the hidden aspects of his personality.
Russell Crow was born on April 7, 1964, in Strathmore Park, a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand. Some actors get introduced to the film industry by chance, but for Russell, you could say it was in his blood!
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Russell’s parents were both set caterers, and when he was four years old, they moved to Sydney, Australia, to be at the heart of the region’s film business. His grandfather was also a cinematographer, so the whole family was familiar with show business.
Russell’s maternal great-great-grandmother was Māori, an indigenous people to New Zealand, and he also has English, German, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Scottish, Swedish and Welsh ancestry. His heritage would later inspire him to voice support for the Māori people.
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Having parents who rubbed shoulders in the movie industry definitely helped Russell get his foot in the door. The producer of an Australian TV show called Spyforce was his mother’s godfather, and when Russell was six he was hired to act in an episode!
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The Spyforce taping went great! And Russell ended up playing opposite Jack Thompson. Little did Russell know, Thompson would end up playing his father in The Sum of Us decades later! This was only the beginning of his acting career. But he was also attracted to a different field.
Even though Russell ended up being an actor, he comes from a family of athletes — specifically, cricket players. To pay tribute to the sport and its legacy, Russell later built a cricket field named after his uncle!
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In 1977, Russell got a role in The Young Doctors. At the same time, he attended high school in Sydney, but ultimately moved back to Auckland. For a second, it seemed like this could bring his acting career to a halt.
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Once he’d gotten a taste of acting professionally, Russell found it hard to snap back into normal life in New Zealand. He was doing fine in school but missed acting. Good thing his days back in Wellington were numbered!
Living the life of a normal boy had an expiration date for Russell. It didn’t take long for him to leave school to pursue acting, but no one expected him to do it when he was only 16!
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Russell definitely had planned on becoming an actor. After all, between his family history and his early successes, it made the most sense. But at the advice of a friend, he began performing under the stage name “Russ Le Roq” in the early ‘80s and tried to make it as a singer.
The extent of Russell’s success in music was managing an Auckland music venue called The Venue and performing in a promotional video for a local Christian education provider. He knew it was time to hang it up and get back to what he was best at!
When he was 21, Russell decided to move back to Australia to give acting another shot. To make ends meet and learn more about movies, he worked at a cinema. This opportunity would take him somewhere he didn’t expect.
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While at the theater, Russell came across a man who worked at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA). But instead of giving him an in at the Institute, the man gave him a piece of advice he’d never forget.
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Russell recalled the conversation that encouraged him to skip acting school: “I asked him what he thought about me spending three years at NIDA. He said, ‘You already do the things you go there to learn…so there’s nothing to teach you but bad habits.’”
It’s a good thing Russell took his advice, because not long after that conversation he was offered a role in the New Zealand production of The Rocky Horror Show. From there, he got a few other roles before making a bigger career move.
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After having his fill sharpening his technique as a theater actor, Russell took on a role in the TV shows Neighbours and Living with the Law. Eventually, he got noticed enough to be cast in a movie called The Crossing. He was in!
In 1995, Crowe starred with Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Quick and the Dead. This wasn’t his most famous role, but it definitely put him in the ranks of Hollywood’s elite.
Russell developed his career until landing several critically acclaimed roles. He raked in awards, but his biggest claims to fame are the two Best Actor Oscars he won for lead roles in Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. But surprisingly, not everyone was so eager to work with him.
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Russell had secured his place as a Hollywood living legend, but his private life wasn’t going so smoothly, plus it wasn’t all that private. Russell got in nasty spats with service staff, and news even spilled about him choking and spitting on rapper Azealia Banks. One incident put him in serious legal trouble.
After getting into an argument with a hotel concierge in 2005, Crowe struck the unsuspecting man in the face with a telephone! The Oscar winner was arrested, handcuffed, and brought to court. But Russell saw himself as the victim, explaining, “More violence perpetuated me walking between the car to the courtroom with the waiting media than anything I’d done”
In recent years, the aggressive star seems to have settled down when it comes to drama — he’s also poured a lot of his energy into cricket and rugby. Fans may be disappointed he’s not the same leading man, but Crowe has turned in celebrated supporting performances that could mark a new chapter in his career. Perhaps he’ll wish to reunite with his Gladiator co-star…
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Crowe got the better of Joaquin Phoenix in the Roman epic, though 20 years later, Phoenix still has the star-power to win Oscars and lead blockbusters. He keeps his cards much closer to the vest than Russell, but the Joker star did reveal the origins of one of his most distinguishing characteristics.
Whether a budding child star or Hollywood mainstay, Joaquin has always had a very peculiar scar on his upper lip; yet, even in Hollywood, it never gets much attention. How could it? When discussing Joaquin, there’s so much else to talk about.
For one so steeped in mystery, it should come as no surprise that his beginnings were equally as peculiar. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as Joaquin Rafael Bottom, the future megastar lived his early days a member of the religious cult Children of God.
Alongside his four siblings and parents, John Lee and Arlyn, Joaquin spent his childhood traveling through South America with the Children. Eventually, John Lee and Arlyn became disenchanted with the group and returned to the U.S. aboard a cargo ship in 1978.
Changing their last name to “Phoenix” to symbolize a new beginning, the free-spirited family settled in Los Angeles and tried their hand at the entertainment industry. Arlyn took a job as a secretary for NBC, and Joaquin and his siblings began performing on the streets to make ends meet.
Eventually, the Phoenix children were discovered by Hollywood agent Iris Burton, who found them work on commercials and television shows. Joaquin made his acting debut alongside his brother River in a 1982 episode of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.
His first major role came two years later when he again appeared opposite River in the ABC Afterschool Special episode Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia. That same year, Joaquin appeared on several notable programs, including The Fall Guy, Hill Street Blues, and Murder, She Wrote.
Joaquin made his film debut in 1986’s SpaceCamp as Max, a 12-year-old who visits the Kennedy Space Center to learn about NASA and undergo astronaut training. But despite consistent work, there was another Phoenix on the rise.
River had quickly established himself as the premiere child actor in the family, receiving critical acclaim for his performances in Stand By Me (1986), Running On Empty (1988), and My Own Private Idaho (1991). With all eyes on his elder brother, Joaquin felt like the odd man out.
He decided to withdraw from acting for a time, choosing to travel Mexico and South America with his father. But Hollywood wasn’t finished with young Joaquin just yet, and before long he found himself back in L.A. — although under tragic circumstances.
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On October 31, 1993, Joaquin placed a frantic 911 call after River succumbed to an overdose outside the The Viper Room in West Hollywood. River was pronounced dead hours later, and Joaquin, having quickly become the focus of a media frenzy, retreated from the public eye.
It wasn’t until a year later, with the encouragement of family and friends, that Joaquin returned to acting, though he remained selective with the scripts he took. His first hit role came opposite Nicole Kidman in 1995’s To Die For, playing a disturbed young man seduced into murder.
Yet the next few years were marked with struggle for Joaquin, as his films found little critical success. Films like U Turn (1997), Inventing the Abbotts (1997), and Clay Pigeons (1998) were universally panned by critics.
In 2000, Joaquin burst back into the public consciousness with his iconic performance in Gladiator. For his role as the merciless Emperor Commodus, the 26-year-old received universal praise and was even nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
From there, Joaquin only continued to pad his resume with memorable performances. The ’00s highlighted his versatility as an actor, his talents on full display in films like Signs (2002), Hotel Rwanda (2004), and Walk The Line (2005).
In 2010, Joaquin convinced the world he’d gone crazy and was leaving Hollywood behind in pursuit of a rap career. This, as it turned out, was all a publicity stunt for his mockumentary I’m Still Here, a bold reaffirmation that the veteran actor was as sharp as ever before.
He made good on this promise throughout the 2010’s with a slew of critically acclaimed performances, including those in The Master (2012), Her (2013), and Inherent Vice (2014). For each film, Joaquin was nominated for several leading-actor awards.
In 2019, Joaquin cemented himself as a master of his craft when he became the titular character in Todd Phillip’s Joker. Critics and audiences alike hailed the performance as arguably the best of Joaquin’s career.
But even with so much attention over the years, there’s one bit of information that’s eluded the public since the very beginning. Ever since Joaquin came onto the scene back in the ’80s, fans have wondered what the deal is with the legendary actor’s infamous scar.
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Some believe it’s the result of a cleft lip, a birth defect that occurs when the upper portion of the lip doesn’t form completely when a fetus is in utero. Others, however, suspect a far more sinister cause, such as some kind of violence.
The scar is actually a microform cleft (the mildest form of a cleft lip), though in Joaquin’s mind, it was the result of an “act of God.” “While pregnant with me, my mother felt a sharp pain one day, and I was born with a mark on my lip,” he once said of the scar.
Fortunately, this unsightly blemish didn’t stop Joaquin from finding success in the industry. Maybe Hollywood isn’t all about appearances after all, as there are more than a handful of stars with scars of their own.
1. Harrison Ford: While driving to work one day, Ford lost control of his car, veered off the road, and hit a telephone pole. His face collided with the steering wheel, resulting in a lifelong scar.
2. Jason Mamoa: Although the line through his brow perfectly fits most of his tough-guy roles, Jason Mamoa might not be too happy with how he got it. He was reportedly in a bar fight and got smacked with a pint glass.
3. Padma Lakshmi: She started her career very early as a model until she was scarred in a car accident. At first, she was self-conscious about it, but that all changed with time. “It is so much a part of me. I’m not sure I would remove it even if a doctor could wave a magic wand and delete it from my arm.”
4. Seal: There are three things we associate with Seal: Kiss From A Rose, Heidi Klum, and the scars on his face. Despite the stories that they are burn marks, they were actually caused by discoid lupus erythematosus. Thankfully he is perfectly healthy now, but will never forget what it’s like to struggle.
5. Elizabeth Taylor: For her, a case of pneumonia in the spring of 1961 led to an emergency tracheotomy. “There must be some reason that God wants me to live,” Taylor said. “There must be something left for me to do.” Rest easy Taylor, you did plenty in your lifetime.
6. Tina Fey: At first the Mean Girls writer was secretive about her scar, stating she didn’t want to focus on it too much; eventually she revealed that her face was slashed by a stranger behind her house while she was still in kindergarten.
7. Kate Middleton: After her wedding to Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge began showing the scar under her hair. At first, the English were very worried about her health, but she assured the people it was caused by a childhood operation.
8. Kylie Jenner: When Kylie was small, she tried to climb over a sharp fence, but pierced her leg in the process, leaving a scar that became smaller as she grew. Lately Kylie has been showing it off in her Instagram posts, stating: “I love my scar.”
9. Jonah Hill: When this Superbad was 15, he was out drinking with friends while they drove around. With his elbow resting out the window, the car collided into another. His arm was almost amputated, so he decided to get his act together.
10. Catherine Zeta-Jones: This actress doesn’t mind showing off her tracheotomy scar while flaunting her acting skills in movies like Ocean’s Eleven and Chicago. “Without it, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” she said.
11. Miles Teller: Also in a car accident, he flew out the window, scraping his face along the road. He’s had several surgeries since then, but not every scar or piece of gravel could be removed. That didn’t keep him from earning a successful acting career.
12. Sharon Stone: This model was apparently riding a horse as a child when she got slashed by a wire she didn’t notice. It used to make her very self-conscious, but now she confidently embraces the mark.
13. Mary J. Blige: Nobody except Mary J. knows how the scar under her eye came into existence, but she certainly isn’t shy about showing it. “If I don’t accept the scar on my face, the lips that God gave me, the big giant feet, whatever it is that I’m deformed with, I got to love it so everybody else can love it,”
14. Sean Bean: Harrison Ford accidentally hit Bean in the face with a boat hook while filming a movie. Luckily, it was one of the only times in his life that Sean Bean didn’t die.
15. Kaley Cuoco: Much like Sharon Stone, Kaley’s ankle was scarred when she was out horse-riding at the age of 8. She fell off and had her ankle crushed when the horse stepped on it. She still loves horses though, and has literally climbed back up on that horse, even becoming a show jumping equestrian!
16. Queen Latifah: She got the scar on her forehead by playing tag with her brother. “I tripped over the telephone cord and hit my head on the corner of a wall,” she said. “I got three stitches. Then I fell on my grandmother’s steps and busted it open again.“
17. Princess Eugenie: This royal lady (9th to the throne), made headlines when she showed off her back in her wedding dress. The media seemed just as concerned about what she wore as what it showed: the scar from her childhood scoliosis surgery.
18. Ed Sheeran: It was actually Princess Beatrice who caused the scar on the English singer’s cheek. She was throwing a lively party when another singer asked to be knighted. Beatrice waved the sword around a bit too hard and slashed Ed’s face.
19. Andy Warhol: An attempt on the artist’s life left him with many markings all over his torso. There is the bullet wound from when he was shot, the surgery scars from where the doctors opened his chest to massage his heart, and finally, some scars from a gallbladder surgery before his death.
20. Andy García: For every celeb that proudly shares their scars, there are those that keep theirs a secret. Even though he had 94 acting credits to his name, Andy García never took his shirt off for cameras. The reason? He has a massive scar on his shoulder from where doctors surgically removed his conjoined twin.
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Many celebs carry blemishes that aren’t physical. Back when Marky Mark kept it cool with the Funky Bunch, he wasn’t what you’d call a “model citizen.” Besides reportedly being prone to the use of racial slurs, Wahlberg also once nearly blinded a Vietnamese man by sucker-punching him in the eye.
Mila Kunis: When casting for the hit sitcom That ’70s Show, the producers agreed that all cast members—who played teenagers—had to be over 18. Kunis was only 14 when she auditioned, so she had to lie about her age. Hey, it worked.
Tyga: People credit the rapper with escaping “the streets” and making it to the big-time rap scene, but a 2008 video showed Tyga — not yet a celebrity — on a game show admitting that his childhood was cushy. He even said his mom drove a Range Rover.
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Angelina Jolie: While the exact reasons Jolie and ex-husband Brad Pitt split might be a court secret, some have claimed that her violent temper contributed to the schism. Did she really throw kitchen knives at Pitt, as some sources claim?
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Peyton Manning: As a college athlete—before he became one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time—the future Colts legend allegedly harassed a team medical staff member. Another student backed up the harassment claim, too.
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Joaquin Phoenix: As a child, Phoenix (left), who played Jesus in 2018’s Mary Magdalene, faced a different sort of pious challenge. His parents raised him and his siblings as part of the cult Children of God (though eventually they all fled).
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Drew Barrymore: It didn’t take long for this actress — who’d been working since she was 11 months old — to feel suffocated by the weight of the world. In fact, she battled alcohol issues before high school and ended up institutionalized by 13.
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Aaron Eckhart: To get inspiration for his role as a father who lost his son in the movie Rabbit Hole, the Dark Knight star attended a support group for grieving fathers. People felt he went too far, however, when he pretended he actually was a father with a dead kid.
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Samuel L. Jackson: Upset by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackson and a few classmates at Morehouse College once held members of the board of trustees hostage until they reformed the school’s curriculum. He got his wish.
Elvis Presley: While the singing sensation might have had hips that don’t lie, he wasn’t really the lady’s man he made himself out to be. When he met his wife, Priscilla, for example, she was just 14 years old!
Tyler Perry: This filmmaker and actor might’ve made people laugh with his zany comedy flicks and characters, but his past was far darker than his sense of humor let on. He confessed he suffered abuse at the hands of his father.
Robert Downey Jr.: Nowadays, its hard to see Downey as anything but a suave, sharp, and witty hunk, but he once suffered through horrendous drug addictions that landed him in jail.
Zach Braff: The Scrubs star once caught a 12-year-old kid spray painting his brand-new Porsche, so he chased the kid down and nearly beat him up. Braff didn’t learn until later he was on the prank TV show Punk’d and the paint was fake.
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Tim Allen: Despite family-friendly roles in shows like Home Improvement, Allen faced life in prison in the ’70s after authorities caught him smuggling drugs through an airport. He received just two years in prison after giving up the names of other criminals.