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Russell Crowe's Robin Hood to woo Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian: Will he finally be reunited with Oscars as well?

February 26, 2009 |  1:21 pm

Because Cate Blanchett and her playwright husband Andrew Upton are co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company she has scaled back her film commitments to barely one a year. That makes the news that  Blanchett is about to sign up to play Maid Marian opposite Russell Crowe's Robin Hood even more intriguing.

This legend of rogues and romance has been the inspiration for many films, including 1938 best picture nominee "The Adventures of Robin Hood," which starred Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland — it lost to "You Can't Take It With You." In 1976's "Robin and Marian," Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn played the pair in their later years. And in 1991's "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," a miscast Kevin Costner and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio starred.

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Sienna Miller was attached to this project but exited last fall. Cate Blanchett is much better matched to hold her own against Russell Crowe. And her presence increases the profile of the picture with Oscar voters. It was a surprise this year when Cate Blanchett — the darling of the Oscars — failed to make the lead actress race for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." After all, the film earned 13 nominations in all and Blanchett is a five-time nominee. She has one win in supporting actress ("The Aviator," 2004), two more nods in that category ("Notes on a Scandal," 2006; "I'm Not There," 2007), and another two in lead actress ("Elizabeth," 1998; and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," 2007).

This new film for her — now titled "Nottingham," but subject to a name change — is to be helmed by three-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott, who directed Russell Crowe to the lead actor Oscar in best picture champ "Gladiator" back in 2000. Director and actor have made three films together in the past three years — "A Good Year," American Gangster," and "Body of Lies" — with varying degrees of success. An iconic role like the heroic Robin Hood could finally restore Crowe's credibility with the academy after his bad boy behavior cost him at least one Oscar.

In 2001,  Crowe was the front-runner for lead actor at the Oscars as star of the eventual best picture winner, "A Beautiful Mind." He coasted through the early part of the derby, winning with the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, SAG and finally BAFTA. That Brit fest is where the gladiator threw himself to the lions. He did so by "roughing up," according to the London Sun, a British TV producer for daring to edit down Crowe's rambling recitation of a poem during his acceptance speech. While Crowe eventually apologized, that rang hollow with Oscar voters who went with Denzel Washington ("Training Day").

Two years later,  Crowe proved he was still a commanding screen star, although no longer the ruler of his domain. He steered "Master and Commander" — an epic, high seas adventure —to 10 Oscar nods including best picture. But the actors branch did not nominate Crowe. The film ended up winning only two Oscars, both in tech categories.

An even greater shipwreck lay ahead with his next project, "Cinderella Man." This 2005 biopic helmed by Ron Howard was perfect Oscars fare: a well-crafted, feel-good tearjerker starring  Crowe as a down-on-his-luck boxing hero and Renee Zellweger as his dutiful wife. Reviews and buzz were excellent when it opened but then Crowe pulled his biggest blunder yet. He got furious while dialing his hotel phone in Manhattan, yanked it out of the wall, marched down to the lobby and hurled it at an innocent hotel clerk. The clerk struck back by filing criminal charges.

Unfortunately for Crowe, this time Crowe wasn't taking a punch at a pesky paparazzo or fellow Hollywood bad boy. He took a potshot at an honest, hard-working, innocent Everyman, a regular Joe, just the kind of guy who spends a chunk of his paycheck to see Russell Crowe movies. Produced for $88 million, "Cinderella Man" ended up earning only $61 million domestically.

While voters for the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes thought his performance in "Cinderella Man" was good enough to merit a best actor bid, Crowe was snubbed once again by the Oscars. And since then, Crowe has had to make do with a pair of 2007 SAG ensemble nominations for his acclaimed performances in "3:10 to Yuma" and "American Gangster."

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Photo: Warner Home Video

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