In 2001, Russell Crowe and Ron Howard teamed up to make A Beautiful Mind, an inspiring true story that garnered an Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director, in addition to a Crowe nomination. Four years later, they re-teamed for Cinderella Man, another inspiring true story. But this time, the Oscar love was scant, earning only three nominations, and none for Crowe. You know who did get nominated? Crowe’s co-star, Paul Giamatti. And in a GQ interview breaking down his iconic characters, Crowe revealed the surprisingly wholesome reason why this happened.
First of all: No shade, at all, to Mr. Giamatti. He’s a phenomenal damn performer, and a personal favorite “screen shouter”. But Cinderella Man is undoubtedly Crowe’s film, an absolute piece of Oscar bait acting if ever I’ve seen one. Why would the Academy ignore this and solely reward Giamatti’s supporting role as Crowe’s manager? To answer, we have to go back to 1999’s The Insider.
Michael Mann‘s masterful film, itself a kind of “inspiring” true story, stars Crowe in a role he couldn’t see himself in — a middle-aged tobacco company whistleblower many years above Crowe’s actual age at the time. Obviously, Crowe gave a phenomenal performance (perhaps his best?), resulting in the studio wanting to push him for an Oscar nomination. Now, The Insider also stars heavyweights like Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer. So Crowe, naturally, asked if they were also getting pushes:
I said, “Oh cool, so that’s, like, me and Al? That’s fantastic.” And they said, “No, well, we’re gonna put our emphasis on you, and we asked Mr. Pacino, and he said, ‘Back the kid.'” It’s a massive thing for him to have done.
Crowe wound up getting an Oscar nod for The Insider, and Pacino did not. Crowe was so touched by the gesture, that when the time came for Cinderella Man‘s studio to begin strategizing Oscar campaigns, he wanted to pay the favor forward — especially given his co-star’s recent real-life tragedy.
Paul Giamatti’s mum died during the course of shooting Cinderella Man, and I made her a promise on the phone that Paul was such an an incredible actor that he would be nominated. And the studio asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, “Back the kid.” And Paul Giamatti got an Academy Award nomination. So The Insider is very, very important for my growth as an actor, and also extremely important for the way my career went just after that.
A lovely gesture paid forward by groups of lovely professionals. You simply love to see it! Now, the time has come for Giamatti to star in his Oscar flick only to tell his studio to “back the kid” instead! Greenlight this immediately!
Check out Crowe’s full, very charming interview below. For more on the man, here’s Crowe explaining the changes made to Gladiator while shooting.