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The Next Three Days – Russell Crowe gets into a conundrum

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The Next Three Days - Olivia Wilde and Russell Crowe
Nicole (Olivia Wilde) and John Brennan (Russell Crowe) © 2010 Lionsgate

Russell Crowe received three consecutive Academy Award Best Actor nominations for his performances in The Insider (1999), Gladiator (2000) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), taking home the Oscar for is role in Gladiator.

He’s in good company with his new movie The Next Three Days, which is written and directed by Paul Haggis, who won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for Crash.

In The Next Three Days Crowe portrays John Brennan, who seems to have a perfect life with is wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) and son, until she is arrested for a murder she says she didn’t commit. Three years into her sentence, with the rejection of her final appeal, John decides to break his wife out of prison, and devises an elaborate escape plot risking everything for the woman he loves.

What was it about Paul’s script that intrigued you?

The Next Three Days - Poster 1
Poster 1 © 2010 Lionsgate

It all happened very quickly. Crash was a great movie, and of course an excellent calling card. I loved the suspense of this. If you’re going to take on a thriller like this, you have to have a mind and eye for a complex narrative. It’s clear from Paul’s work, that this complexity is one of his specialties. So I knew we could make a great film.

I was really stuck by the conundrum John Brennan faces. This man has an undying love for his wife and would do anything to save her. Yet to achieve what he has to achieve, he must turn into somebody she may not love. To me, that was an interesting journey to go on.

There’s a certain ambiguity where Lara’s innocence is concerned.

If you watch the film properly you get really told very clearly that her story is the one you should be listening to; the circumstantial evidence. My whole drive is I have an unshakable belief and it carries into this interview!

How was it working with Elizabeth?

The Next Three Days - Elizabeth Banks and Russell Crowe
Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) and John Brennan (Russell Crowe) © 2010 Lionsgate

We had an audition process and Elizabeth won the day, and then I had to defend Paul’s decision to actually have an audition process. I said to him on the phone, ‘I don’t think you should acquiesce to talking to other actresses because you said you were going to audition, she was obviously the best on the day, so it’s bad karma to now go out and say, ‘Forget that.’ So I was naturally defending her from the beginning.

The beginning of the movie establishes John and Lara as leading this normal, relatively placid life with their young child. In a finite number of scenes, Elizabeth made it feel absolutely real.

What was it like shooting this in Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh is very much a character in the film, which is great. The geography and the cityscape and the bridges and tunnels and the Allegheny County Jail are all heavily featured in the actual screenplay.

Three rivers converge there and I think there’s kind of a great euphemism in that in terms of what happens in the movie.

Can you talk about working with Ty Simpkins who plays your son?

The Next Three Days - Ty simpkins and Russell Crowe
Luke (Ty simpkins) and John Brennan (Russell Crowe) © 2010 Lionsgate

He’s a fine little actor, and as the days and weeks rolled by, we just got closer and closer. I was away from my family for 87 days making this film, so it became a really centralizing, settling thing for me, spending time with Ty every day and just talking to him.

When I got home I said to the wife, ‘If you can’t be energized to at least take part of the strain of this being away, then I’m not doing it anymore.’ And I haven’t since. We’ll see how we go.

When you’re home are you anxious to make a movie?

I love being on a film set, that’s a real simple thing for me. When I’m walking towards the camera, quite often it goes through my head, ‘This is where I should be, this is my place.’

John does a lot of research, but then he has to think on his feet because real life intervenes – does that happen to you when you act?

The Next Three Days - Liam Neeson and Russell Crowe
Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson) and John Brennan (Russell Crowe) © 2010 Lionsgate

One of the things I like about the film is that you see him go through the process of researching. You’re thinking maybe some of this stuff isn’t going to come in handy or useful, and then he does certain things and you realize he really thought this out. His plan is multi-layered, and I think that’s one of the things that energizes that last act.

This is one of those stories where a simple set of circumstances puts a family’s life together in complete peril. It’s very intense, and you wouldn’t want it to happen to you. But it makes it really exciting for the people watching.