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Film

The bizarre time the FBI protected Russell Crowe from Al-Qaeda

It is fair to say that Russell Crowe has lived quite a life. From starring in blockbusters such as Gladiator to cherished classics such as L.A. Confidential, to even owning an Australian rugby team, the Wellington native has done it all over his long and illustrious career, and duly, he has many a tale to tell.

During a 2005 interview with GQ Australia, Crowe recounted one of his most surreal stories to date. He claimed that Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation wanted to kidnap him as part of a “cultural destabilization plot”. 

He asserted that the threat came in 2001, only a matter of months after he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his career-defining performance as Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator. Because of the threat, Crowe’s life changed, with him needing extra security on the sets of two of his most lauded subsequent films A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Ten years after his original revelation, Crowe looked back on that bizarre time and discussed it in an interview with The Guardian. He recalled: “I still really don’t know to this day what the fuck that was all about. All I know is, I arrived in LA, got to my hotel, as I’d done umpteen times before, started unpacking, and there was a knock at the door and a team of FBI guys wanted to sit down and discuss something with me. And then, for nearly two years, they were always around.” 

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He continued: “I remember going to the Golden Globes and having, like, 16 security guys with me. I don’t even know why. They wouldn’t give me any details. And of course, people were like: ‘Look at him, he thinks he’s fucking Elvis.’ And then one day they just weren’t there anymore”.

Crowe said that the FBI had been told about the threat by a French policewoman in North Africa who had discovered a recording. His claims appear to be truthful. In 2001 the FBI officially confirmed that it was investigating a plot to kidnap the Gladiator star. However, by 2005, the actor said that the FBI believed that the “threat had probably or had possibly been overstated, and then they started to question their sources”.

Unsurprisingly, in more recent times, Crowe has been the master of his own security, at least when it comes to the internet and social media. Asked by The Guardian how he guards himself against discourteous fans, the actor responded in his customary no-nonsense way. “Well, you just block people. Block the motherfuckers.” He declared.

“The thing [Twitter] need[s] to work on is giving you more satisfaction when you block somebody. When you push ‘Block,’ there should be like a nuclear explosion, and that person’s photograph is shattered to a million fucking pieces, so you go: ‘Yeah, see ya mate.’ BOOM.”

“Sooner or later they’ll do that, right,” he added. “And you’ll know where the idea came from.”

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