The Water Diviner - Russell Crowe
The Water Diviner - Australian farmer Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) ©2015 Warner Bros

Academy Award winning actor Russell Crowe (Gladiator) makes his directorial debut with the new drama The Water Diviner.

Crowe also stars in the movie as Australian farmer Joshua Connor who, four years after the bloody Battle of Gallipoli, sets out to search for his three sons who never returned from the war, in the hope of bringing their bodies home to rest in peace.

But for Connor, the trek across war-torn Turkey to discover the truth will perhaps bring him his own peace. The film opens on April 24th 2015 in select theaters and IMAX.

How did this project come to you?

The Water Diviner - Russell Crowe
The Water Diviner – Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) in Australia ©2015 Warner Bros

This came out of the blue. This chose me rather than I chose it. I was in the middle of the most busy professional year I’ve ever had. Halfway through between 2011 and 2012, I did five feature films: Man of Steel, Broken City, Les Miserables, Noah and Winter’s Tale.

Normally when you express interest in more than one thing, they cannibalize themselves or they cannibalize each other and you get to do one thing. But somehow, five groups of producers managed to work it out, so I was essentially working continuously.

What was it about the screenplay that touched you?

The Water Diviner - Russell Crowe
The Water Diviner – Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) travels to Turkey ©2015 Warner Bros

It’s a story of a man with three sons who go to war and don’t come back. I’m a father of two boys. Of course, that’s going to hit me at an essential level.

There was an opportunity in the script to actually do what very few war films or films that touch on war do, and that was to show a balance that there’s going to be bravery and compassion and grief on both sides of any conflict.

It just hit me at such a deep level and for so many reasons that I found this voice coming out of me that I’ve never actually heard before, and probably the thing that I’ve been waiting for where I was saying that I have to take responsibility for this story.

I knew that all that accumulated experience and intellectual concepts aside, I was ready.

I read you have a special link to this character through your father.

The Water Diviner - Russell Crowe
The Water Diviner – Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) arrives back to Istanbul ©2015 Warner Bros

It probably meant more to me because I’ve seen my father (divining water). He never called himself that, but he had that skill, so it was a personal thing for me when I read the script.

Part of it is studying the topography of the land and looking for signs of water movement, for where rain might have seeped through fissures in the ground and then pooled in aquifers below the surface.

The Water Diviner - Andrew Lesnie and Russell Crowe
The Water Diviner – Director of photography Andrew Lesnie with Director Russell Crowe ©2015 Warner Bros

Was being a director always on your radar?

Yeah. I’ve been working in front of the camera since I was six years old. I’ve done 25 years now of lead roles in feature films. So that’s a massive accumulated direct onset experience level.

The idea of directing as an intellectual concept has been there for a long period. And pushing towards that, I’ve shot maybe 30 video clips of bands under various names and three full-length documentaries. So I’ve been educating myself in the process and also preparing in terms of developing things.

When did you know you wanted to direct this?

The Water Diviner - Russell Crowe
The Water Diviner – Russell Crowe directing ©2015 Warner Bros

[Reading the script] I immediately began making notes, which is something I do as an actor, but this time was different. I wasn’t just making notes about my character, I was visualizing the whole film.

I realized that, aside from the fact that I loved the story, I wanted to take responsibility for the entire project. It was not only what I saw on the page, but more importantly what I imagined in the shadows. I could see every part in it.

Did working with directors like Ridley Scott, Ron Howard, Michael Mann and Peter Weir give you a foundation?

I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the very best in the business, and you learn from everybody. It’s the combination of that knowledge that creates what your voice is as a director.

So I can confidently say that I’ve stolen something from every single director I’ve worked with (he laughs).

Russell Crowe – Soundbyte

Russell was asked what kind of director he turned out to be? Play the audio track below to here for his reply
The Water Diviner - Russell Crowe
The Water Diviner – Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) in war torn Turkey ©2015 Warner Bros

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.