Eight years on from his directorial debut on 2014 film The Water Diviner, Russell Crowe has stepped back behind the camera – the Oscar winner not only plays the lead role in his latest movie, Poker Face, but has also written the screenplay and directs.


Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Crowe revealed that the lengthy break between directing projects came about because of the passing of his close friend, Andrew Lesnie, a cinematographer who worked on The Water Diviner and also collaborated with Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.

"I had a very unfortunate situation arise after The Water Diviner – because in reality I should have just gone straight on to the next film and the next film," Crowe explained. "But my partner in crime, Andrew Lesnie, who had been a friend of mine for 20 plus years, he passed away, and he was the Costello to my Abbott, if you know what I mean. I found it very, very difficult to think about being on a set [without him].

"We'd grown up with every single influence cinematically being the same – we finished each other’s sentences, we just were two halves of a whole and to lose that really took the momentum out of me wanting to direct."

Poker Face sees Crowe play Jake Foley, a tech billionaire and gambler who invites his best friends to a high-stakes poker game. But there's more to Jake's invitation than meets the eye and events spiral out of control when outside forces intrude on what he has planned.

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Crowe explained that it was another sad loss, that of his father in March 2021, that eventually inspired him to return to directing. "This came along and it came along very quickly and it came along completely imperfectly. And it was an impossible ask – a sensible person would have just said no, but, you know, I love my job, I love the artform and I have faith in my experience.

RZA as Drew & Aden Young as ALEX & Daniel MacPherson as SAM & Liam Hemsworth as MICHAEL & Russell Crowe as JAKE FOLEY & Steve Bastoni as PAUL in Poker Face
RZA as Drew, Aden Young as Alex, Daniel MacPherson as Sam, Liam Hemsworth as Michael, Russell Crowe as Jake Foley and Steve Bastoni as Paul in Poker Face. Sky UK

"I was in a particular place, man, just for context, because my father had passed away a few days before this question [of directing the film] came up. This is the question, 'Will you step in on a feature film with five weeks preparation before your first shooting day? The script has become an absolute mess, the film is not cast, the sets are unfinished, we're in an impossible situation... but there's 280 people who will be out of work, in a pandemic, in a citywide lockdown, if you don't say yes.

"I could hear my father's voice because at that point in time, it's really only about my willingness to give to the project. And I found myself saying yes.

"Now, to be totally honest with you, in the 12 months following, 10,000 times I would have asked the question, 'What the f**k were you thinking?'. Because it's virtually impossible. But I just had to have faith in my experience."

Crowe revealed how he encountered a number of difficulties as the Poker Face shoot continued, including a shooting hiatus due to a crew member testing positive for COVID and one set being flooded after torrential rain in New South Wales.

"You have to accept that art is always going to be imperfect," he said. "There's always going to be difficulties way beyond what you've put you considered to be humanly possible to overcome. And that is actually, at the end of the day, what makes the medium so special."

Poker Face – also starring Liam Hemsworth, Elsa Pataky and RZA – is available on Sky Cinema from 12th November. Find out more about how to sign up for Sky TV.

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