Russell Crowe in 2000
Photo: Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection (Getty Images)

Suggesting that Russell Crowe is also still perplexed about that period in Hollywood history—stretching from 1997 up through, let’s say, 2007's Cinderella Man—when studio executives were inordinately horny for Russell Crowe, the actor recently opened up about passing on a role that was nearly one of the biggest paydays of his career: Playing Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Per THR, Crowe was talking to Howard Stern this week—hyping up his excellent performance as Roger Ailes in Showtime’s new Fox News miniseries The Loudest Voice—when Stern asked him about being offered the job that ultimately went to Viggo Mortensen, and why he turned it down.

Casting of the eventually returning king was one of the trickier parts of Jackson’s incredibly ambitious adaptation endeavor, with names ranging from Daniel Day-Lewis to Vin Diesel all either being offered, or auditioning for, the part. In the past, Crowe has suggested that the role was too similar to one he had already signed on to do in Gladiator—what with the swords in all—but it also sounds like he just knows when he wasn’t wanted: “I didn’t think Peter Jackson wanted me on that film,” he told Stern bluntly. Crowe makes it clear that Jackson was forced to talk to him by the movie’s producers, who were presumably not super excited to be funding an extremely expensive trilogy of films starring the leads from North, The Goonies, and Apt Pupil, and were maybe hoping to pick up a bit of that L.A. Confidential heat courtesy of Crowe.

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“He was forced into talking to me,” Crowe noted, “Because there was a moment in time when everyone wanted me in everything. I’m talking to him on the phone, it’s like, I don’t think he even knows what I have done. I just knew that my instinct was that he had somebody else in mind, which turned out to be Viggo, and he should be allowed to hire the actor who he wants.” Crowe also didn’t seem to be too put out by the financial ding that passing on the part represented—he was reportedly offered 10 percent of the films’ back end gross, which would have come out to something like $100 million when all was said and done—joking that he’d “Never thought about it—only in situations like interviews where people are polite and kind enough to add shit up for me.”