One of the most surprising new avenues to have formed for celebrities over the course of the pandemic has been Cameo. For the uninitiated, Cameo is a service where celebrities can create personalised messages for their fans. For £75, Hodor from Game of Thrones will wish you a happy birthday or – if you have £750 lying around – Richard Dreyfuss will put on a Jaws shirt and struggle to pronounce your name.
But maybe this isn’t enough for you. Maybe you want to find direct engagement, with a much bigger star than Cameo offers, and for free. If that’s the case, I can heartily endorse not liking a Russell Crowe movie. Because, even if it takes him a while, Crowe will do his best to respond to your criticism. And if you’re really lucky, he’ll sound like an out-of-touch bus stop crackpot in the process. Here’s what happened.
On 9 January, Ian McNabb, frontman of The Icicle Works, wrote the following about the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: “Lots of folk complaining about lack of sleep during the Pandemic. May I recommend Master And Commander starring the usually captivating, attention-grabbing Russell Crowe. I’ve never made it past the ten minute mark. You’re welcome. And thanks Russell.” The tweet began to pick up steam and, just nine days later, found its way to Crowe himself.
Now, Russell Crowe is a very famous man who has almost three million followers. However, despite this he was unable to let the criticism sit. Instead, he narkily replied: “That’s the problem with kids these days. No focus. Peter Weirs film is brilliant. An exacting, detail oriented, epic tale of fidelity to Empire & service, regardless of the cost. Incredible cinematography by Russell Boyd & a majestic soundtrack. Definitely an adults movie.”
As it happens, both parties are wrong here. Master and Commander was a perfectly adequate film, although I’d be surprised if anyone thought about it in any meaningful way from the moment the credits ended, but the important thing is that Crowe reacted.
Again, not much new there. He reacted to Bafta editing a poem out of an acceptance speech by pinning a television executive to a wall and calling him a “motherfucker”. He reacted to poor hotel telephone coverage by throwing the telephone at a clerk’s face. This time it is different, because he did it on Twitter via the means of a “kids these days” rant.
And this is brilliant. This is confirmation that Crowe is willing to share his generalised biases with the world, and all you have to do is have an opinion on one of his films. Perhaps you could write that Cinderella Man felt like such a deliberate piece of Oscar bait that it failed to be emotionally captivating, or that A Good Year felt shallow and redundant compared with its previous television adaptation, or that the promotional campaign for Unhinged was more entertaining than the film itself. Either way, there’s now a good chance that Crowe will respond by saying, “In my day children were taught to be seen but not heard”, or “We never used to wash our hands after going to the toilet when I was growing up, and it never did me any harm,” or “Is it just me or are Wagon Wheels getting smaller?”
This could have huge repercussions. After all, Crowe is so influential that dozens of stars might start joining in. It’s the Twitter equivalent of the Law of Attraction. Tell the universe that you didn’t entirely love a film made 18 years ago, and the universe will tell the star to inform you that you are incorrect. Perhaps rolling your eyes at Bruce Almighty will bring Jim Carrey to your door. Perhaps frowning at Hulk will make Eric Bana say hello to you. Perhaps, if you’re really mean about Maid in Manhattan, Ralph Fiennes will create a Twitter account specifically to call you a prick.
And anyway, Crowe is right. Kids these days are to blame for everything. Kids have got no attention spans. Kids only like superhero movies. Kids can’t sit through a ponderously slow film about boats because they’d rather be watching an unboxing video on YouTube. Kids won’t watch a film that doesn’t have any sequels, even if it has been deliberately titled to make it look like the first part of a new and exciting maritime franchise. Kids eat candy. Kids make too much noise. Kids are responsible for everything bad in the world.
Ian McNabb is 60 years old.