‘Nervous’ Crowe flies in to give British students masterclass in art of acting

OSCAR-winner Russell Crowe flew thousands of miles to give his first acting class to a group of British students yesterday.

He fulfilled a long-standing promise to his friend Bill Bryson, the author and chancellor of Durham University.

When Crowe heard Bryson was leaving his post this year and decided if he was to carry out his vow to teach Durham students, it had to be soon.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The 47-year-old flew from Los Angeles to the UK to take the session which had been agreed over a Chinese meal in London’s Dorchester hotel around five years ago.

Crowe led a session with members of Durham Student Theatre at St Chad’s College, in the shadow of the city’s majestic Norman cathedral.

Afterwards, Crowe, who won an Oscar in 2001 for the film Gladiator, admitted he had been “really nervous”.

“I’ve never done this before. I called back on the things people said to me as a young actor.

“We started off with a few games and went into a long session of interpretation. It was enjoyable, really nice.”

Invited members of the group revealed Crowe asked them to perform for him in front of their peers, and some ended up singing opera or trying out Australian and Chinese accents and making up a scene about an apple.

But the main message they received was to fall in love with acting, and face up to the fact that “99.9 per cent of actors will be unemployed at any given time”.

Afterwards, Crowe said Anthony Hopkins had inspired him as a young man. “The things that he said to me when I was 25 or 26 really drove me forward. Hopefully some of the kids today got some adrenaline out of that.

“He said things that gave me confidence to keep pursuing what I was doing.”

Crowe thought the most important lesson for the students was: “It’s not about dollars or fame or success it’s about pursuing the things that you love.”

He said Durham – with its World Heritage status cathedral and castle – was “gorgeous”.

Bryson said: “It’s incredible and I still can’t believe he’s here. It’s the most generous thing anyone has done for me.

“He’s come all the way from Los Angeles to give a workshop which is quite an honour for us and I’m so pleased people are receiving this with such enthusiasm and excitement.”

And he added: “I thought it was one of those idle offers people make but a few weeks ago, out of the blue, he got in touch and said he’d heard I was stepping down as chancellor and so we’d better get going.”