Russell Crowe joins 'Robin' flock at Cannes

Cate Blanchett also hit the Croisette on fest's opening day

CANNES -- Who would a Robin Hood go after today?

Not necessarily those greedy Wall Street bankers (which will be left to Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" redux on Friday) but rather -- and who knew -- disseminators of information. After all, it is arguably "the monopolization of media that is the greatest danger today."

So opined Russell Crowe on Wednesday in that off-handed way that actors have when it comes to grappling with the international press.

Actually, the actor grappled mostly charmingly in what is a de rigueur ritual for talent with a big film in Cannes: Facing some 200-odd reporters and critics (fairly) immediately after the first screening of one's picture in Cannes.

His "Robin Hood" is screening Out of Competition as the opening-night picture -- one in which the French come off as oyster-eating effetes but the Brits fare even worse: They have no oysters and they're embroiled in all kinds of regime corruption, churchly abuses, heavy taxation and general impoverishment of the masses.

Kinda like today, what with regime change happening in the U.K. right now and that country's economy in tatters.

"Ironic indeed," Cate Blanchett, the Lady Marion of the picture, called it during the hour-long presser. Also, she added, "a testament" to helmer Ridley Scott's ability to make a medieval tale relevant today.

Crowe also joked that being a producer himself on the pic was actually the Hollywood studio's idea so as "to have someone else to blame." If the film flops, that is.

Such were a few of the more cerebral and at the same time bemused sentiments of the protagonists involved in Universal's upcoming release of the Imagine movie which has a hefty budget, some bang-up action scenes and a grown-up love story that some critics have already said cries out for greater amplification.

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And seeing the friendly banter between the two stars onstage in Cannes would suggest that more of them together onscreen in the picture would have done the movie more justice -- but that's for the critics and the moviegoers to decide. The movie opens Stateside this weekend.

In the wide-ranging exchange with journalists Wednesday in Cannes, Crowe in particular made a point of explaining why he thought a remake of the Robin Hood legend needed to be done.

"Is it time to remake Robin Hood?" was how Scott broached the subject with Crowe in his trailer during the making of "American Gangster." Crowe was onboard immediately and many discussions about the direction of the tale and the motivations of the character ensued. They came up with a plan, but it would have meant 7 1/2 hours of film. They went back to the drawing board.

The actor dispelled the myth that he was initially toying with playing the Sheriff of Nottingham or even, it was at one point rumored on the web, Friar Tuck!

Crowe "performed" the moment when a clueless journo got it all wrong, not understanding in some long-ago junket that the actor was describing the disguises and deceptions his character would have to embrace in playing the role of Robin Hood but instead translated it all as Crowe simply playing a different personnage in the movie.

As for the treatment of history in the movie, Crowe & Co. took pains to explain that "you have to do enough to pique people's imagination and curiosity" but that history is really a jumping-off point. The picture is really about "a revolutionary shift" in the culture and how "a rebel hero and resistance fighter" helps bring some democracy to a feudal society.

Most folks in those days traveled no more than 14 miles from their homes, Crowe (who is known for his painstaking research) said, whereas Robin had been to France, to Palestine, to Greece, and back, only to discover that the worst poverty and oppression was in his own country.

And don't forget, Blanchett interrupted, those green tights Robin wore. "Fetching," she called them.

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The Ridley Scott-directed epic is opening the 12-day movie marathon Wednesday evening. (His earlier "Thelma and Louise" closed the festival almost two decades ago.)

The stars were flanked at the packed presser by Imagine's Brian Grazer and Charlie Schussel, who are both producers on the pic.

Scott himself was a no-show because of recent knee replacement surgery which wasn't healing as quickly as hoped, he said in a message read out by session moderator Henri Behar.

In other remarks, Blanchett responded she was not particularly inspired by earlier incarnations of Maid Marion but rather, "I always wanted to be Robin. I really wasn't interested in the maiden in distress."

Though distracted a couple of times by soccer-related questions, Crowe mainly put the accent on the rethinking of history in the movie. After all, King Richard, long the hero of the epoch to school children, is dispatched in the first scene.

That, Crowe amusingly explained, and he was shot with an arrow by a French cook. Hardly puts the Brits in a more favorable light than the French.

Will there be a franchise?

Crowe said there are no follow-up scripts "under Ridley's bed" but, on working with Ridley and Cate and Brian, "We still haven't seen a love scene in the forest, with the dappled light coming through ..."

As for all that chain mail they wore, and that she got to peel off Crowe in one of the best scenes in the movie? "It was plastic," Blanchett said. 
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