He went apesh*t in the bloody arena that was Gladiator, then sobered up to play American mathematician John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. Singing came next as Javert in Les Misérables, followed by his most recent role as Noah in last year’s biblical flood-tastrophe. But Russell Crowe is now moving on to bigger and better things: his directorial debut, The Water Diviner. Opening to positive reviews, the saga sees Crowe play a determined Aussie farmer who treks to Turkey in 1919, after the battle of Gallipoli during WWI, to search for his three sons. Here, Benita Lee digs up a few behind-the-scenes facts.
1) The movie is inspired by a kernel of a true story. While researching Aussie history for a project, co-screenwriter Andrew Anastasios chanced upon a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Hughes, who was part of the Imperial War Graves unit in Gallipoli after WWI. A single sentence caught his eye – ‘one old chap managed to get here from Australia, looking for his son’s grave’ – and with that, a story of love and loss was born.
2) Filming took place under challenging weather conditions. Three-quarters of it was shot in South Australia and New South Wales, with a threeweek stint in Istanbul and ancient sites along the Mediterranean coast. The actors had to go through nine-hour auditions and a relentless boot camp with activities like 50-kilometre bike rides, and then endure dust storms, the scorching sun and torrential downpours during production. Rough.
3) Crowe is proud that his first directorial effort is set in Australia and stars plenty of actors from Down Under. He’d never been to Gallipoli prior to making the film, but he describes his first visit as life-changing, what with the thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who lost their lives there. And if things go his way – that is, if the movie is a commercial hit – he’s looking forward to bringing films back to Australia, where he can spend more time with his family.
The Water Diviner is in theatres from May 7.