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Crowe: 'Master' Of New Role

Movie stars don't come much bigger than Russell Crowe. His films have grossed close to a billion dollars at the box office, and he's received three consecutive Academy Award nominations, winning in 2001 for "Gladiator."

Crowe says he appreciates the recognition, but it's the trappings of fame that bother him.

These days he gets as much attention for his personal life as his film career, and he tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler most of it is undeserved.

"I tend to speak directly and specifically." Crowe says with a laugh. "And answer questions honestly. I don't see that I need, at any stage, really, to pretend to be some kind of icon. I'm just a human being. And my job happens to be doing movies and stuff. And I take it seriously, and I'm not supposed to take it seriously. I'm supposed to view it from an outside point of view where it's all about money and it's about fame. The money is very useful. Thank you, God. The fame is a pain in the butt."

The latest role that Crowe has taken seriously is that of Capt. Jack Aubrey in the new blockbuster "Master And Commander:The Far Side Of The World". Based on a series of best-selling novels by Patrick O'Brian, the film takes place during the Napoleonic wars. Crowe says it was a very demanding role that required months of preparation, both physical and mental

"I can't go and get the available video footage of the time period," he explains. "So, you've got to fill your imagination with books. The bibliography for the research is about two and a half pages long. Jodie Foster sent me 'Sailing For Dummies.'"

Did it help? Crowe says with a laugh, "It was very helpful because it was in much plainer language. Other than a book that was written 100 years ago that assumed you knew x amount. 'Sailing for Dummies' gave me it, right from the beginning. But the character also plays violin. So that took up a lot of my time."

Although the backdrop is war on the high seas, the film also focuses on Aubrey's relationship with his best friend, the ship's doctor Steven Maturin, played by Paul Bettany. Crowe also costarred with Bettany in "A Beautiful Mind" and says the two actors clicked right away

"It was something that was in the first handshake. We were just very comfortable with each other," Crowe says, "It was just there. Your conversations tend to be very specific and to the point. And it's about what you do. And it's also OK, if he asks me how he went in a scene, I'll give him a direct answer."

Crowe notes he is free to just speak plainly, "It's not about affecting his self-esteem. It's just pure: 'Did I get that right?' 'No, you didn't.' 'Right. Let's do it again.' Simple."

No egos hurt. No hurt feelings. Crowe says, "It's a mutual thing."

Director Peter Weir says, when Crowe walked in, he carried himself with command and authority, behaving as the captain of all actors.

Asked if this is the role he was born to play, Crowe answers with a laugh, "No. I was born to play roles. But whatever they are, as they come along - whether it's a Roman general or a schizophrenic mathematician or in this case, a sea captain. I think, for, me the job is the important thing. I really enjoy characterization and performing in the context of a feature film. I don't necessarily see that there's any one particular role that I'm completely suited for anything. Because I think that goes against what the actual job is, which is being able to be fluid. And take on different roles."

Tuesday, stay tuned for more of Syler's conversation with Crowe, including how his life will change with the impending birth of his child and the truth about his prickly reputation.