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A regimen Rusty loves to crow about

James Robertson sifts through Russell Crowe's Twitter feed for insights on the star's fitness routine.

Russell Crowe has returned from another herculean gym session. Five kilometres on the rowing machine, eight on the bike, then weights and 400 sit-ups.

''Sweaty man, feels good,'' he tells me. Again and again and again.

The amount of exercise he does each day - the precise number of goblet squats and his average stationary bike speed - is the golden thread that runs through Russell Crowe's Twitter ''conversation''.

These figures are the organising principle of Crowe's life.

''I have never been stronger,'' the 48-year-old says. ''My musculature is not fine or ripped, but it's real.''

For a man who makes a substantial living portraying gruffly masculine characters, exercise is a professional necessity.


But Crowe also believes in the idea that a healthy body means a healthy mind: ''Clear your life & mind of distractions, get physically fit it will feed the brain.''

The Oscar-winning actor will be seeking out the Zen of the gym particularly this month. He flew into Sydney a few weeks ago for the first time since it was revealed in October that his nine-year marriage to Danielle Spencer was over.

Photos surfaced of him standing forlornly in the driveway of the family's home, waiting to spend time with the couple's two children, Charles and Tennyson.

''My priority is to try to bring my family back together,'' he says.

Crowe clearly feels this public tribulation acutely. As he does most things.

He talks openly about the tension between his devotion to work and family. He shot four movies this year, including Les Miserables.

''Cannot believe how [f---ed] up my schedule has become this year,'' he says. ''Need to go home & be with my children.

''Maybe 40 days with them for the year. Won't happen again.''

But he is equal to any tribulation. So he assures me in disembodied and intense masculine sentences.

''Whatever is in front of u right now, the thing that appears impossible, illegible, unreasonable … time is the greatest warrior … breathe, think.''

Almost everything Crowe says comes across in an intense and cinematic way, reminding us, perhaps, of his most famous role - that of Maximus Decimus Meridius, the gladiator on whose stubble you could strike a match.

It even seeps through when he talks about Iceland, where he was recently filming the biblical epic Noah, scheduled for a 2014 release.

''Wind tears the volcanic desert,'' he says. ''In the distance the sonambulent [sic] glacier leaks.

''Wind was so strong Puffins were smashing against the cliff face and dropping dead out of the sky.''

Like his travelogues, Crowe's political pronouncements are spoken with the soaring rhetoric of a general steeling his troops for an engagement with barbarians in the forests of Germania.

''Villagers, I don't endorse politicians. Not my thing,'' he said recently, while endorsing a politician. ''However, Obama is the light & the future. Keep going towards the light.''

But Crowe's political ideals are more social-democratic than imperial.

''Unbelievable situation in NSW politics that leads to Clover Moore being forced from her rightful place in parliament.

''In my village, hungry eat, cold have warmth. Teachers, healers and scientists lead. Education is free, aspiration encouraged, effort rewarded.''

Crowe does not play his on-screen roles so much as he comes to live them, think and talk like them.

''Tonight I have no beard,'' he says after wrapping up filming in Iceland. ''Tonight I am released and Noah has ceased.

''Can't tell you how much blood I've shed, the hypothermia, the discomfort … I've loved the experience.''

Which prompts a question: who has shaped whom? Does Crowe bring intensely masculine characters to life, or has a life of swinging swords and shooting guns imprinted these qualities on him?

Crowe himself struggles to draw a line between life and work. The intensity of performance and personality seems to be equalled by his propensity for self-doubt and examination.

''Adrenaline wearing off … sleep … will work out in my dreams how I could have done more/better today … always happens …''

Crowe is concerned deeply with the subtleties of acting. He consulted a historian expert in French policing while shooting his role in Les Mis.

''Films are like violins, you squeeze too hard you get nothing,'' Crowe says. The star particularly enjoyed being able to sing in a major motion picture, in his role as Javert. ''My voice is pinging off the rafters, cool, will probably sing the confrontation 50 times during the course of the day,'' he says after one rehearsal.

In the 1980s Crowe went by the stage name ''Rus Le Roq'' and released a single: I Want to Be Like Marlon Brando. It is highly debatable whether this remains his crowning musical achievement.

The four albums he released with the band Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts (reprised and renamed in 2005 as the Ordinary Fear of God) were occasionally the subject of ridicule. However, he recently released an album with the Canadian singer Alan Doyle. Singing, he says, is natural: ''Just gotta keep your voice open and your ass tight. Don't get these things mixed up.''

While his passion and intensity are laudable when applied to his assorted crafts, they have been known to boil over into anger whenever he feels slighted.

So it was in 2005 when he threw a phone at a hotel concierge in New York after being unable to phone his wife in Sydney. ''i haven't got a phone … anymore,'' he said.

But he has been particularly well behaved ever since, though still capable of outbursts, as he was when he read a recent British newspaper's review of his latest film: ''@guardian Should be ashamed for sending an illiterate plonker to review Les Mis, are you sure your reviewer watched the movie?'' Perhaps rugby league - ''Fastest most brutal ball in hand football code there is'' - has become Crowe's preferred arena for conflict.

He has been going to games since the age of five. And he recently assured people that although he has sold his stake in the club, he remains fiercely loyal to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, whose progress he follows from film sets around the world. The former co-owner has formed a close relationship with many Souths players. When he can be at their games, he has been seen striding onto the field at fulltime and firmly but warmly stroking players' hairy cheeks.

Crowe is a man who takes relationships between men extremely seriously. ''Hate the term bro-mance,'' he says. Recently an acquaintance posted a picture online, purporting to show off his new jeans. ''That's not your bum Scottie,'' he commented. ''I've played hockey with you remember.''

No, Russell Crowe has no time for terms that demean the seriousness of feelings. ''Always be resolute in the things that touch your heart,'' he says. ''Defend them, promote them, nurture them.''

Whatever the reason for his recent separation, Crowe must be anguished by it in a very manly way. But, he says, he knows the path to overcoming it. ''Love and perseverence [sic],'' he says. ''that's the way to march on.''

And march he will. Every day. ''4km walk.''