By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Russell Crowe and Diane Lane are both accomplished and versatile actors. Crowe is a three-time Oscar nominee, who took home the statue for his standout performance in “Gladiator.” Lane is a former child star who earned an Oscar nominee for heartbreaking performance in the relationship drama “Unfaithful.”
The two actors each have headlined films in their careers but they’ve also reached a certain level of maturity (they’re both in their late 40s) where they more frequently are called upon to deliver solid performances in supporting roles.
In “Man of Steel,” Crowe and Lane play parents to an extraordinary son, who becomes the world’s savior. Crowe portrays Jor-El, the biological father of Kal-El, whom he protects from being destroyed when their home planet Krypton is blown up. Lane plays Earthling Martha Kent, who raises the alien being with Jonathan, her husband, as their own, protecting his true identity for as long as she can so he can live a normal life.
The two are parents in real life. Crowe has two sons, Charles and Tennyson, with actress Danielle Spencer. Lane has a daughter, Eleanor, with her first husband, actor Christopher Lambert. The two performers recently spoke about playing their roles in the effects-laden fantasy adventure directed by Zack Snyder and written by David S. Goyer, and being part of the “Superman” legacy.
Q: You play convincing and heartfelt parents from different worlds. What did you tap into from your own parenting experiences?
Lane: It’s a hybrid of many things but certainly once you’re a parent, it informs everything you do. This is such a unique scenario having an alien come into your barn and you raise him and he happens to be a very beautiful human specimen (Henry Cavill). Actually, it has a lot of other things going on. The challenge and the back story that Zack and Kevin (Costner, who plays Jonathan Kent) and I really enjoyed discussing, which was not part of the script, is imagining what it would be like to temper a young person’s attitude adjustment that’s required in the rearing of children when they have the powers that Clark has. It was fun having those conversations. You can fill in the blanks and maybe there will be some funny ones written for future story plots. Once you fall in love with a being that needs you, you imprint and you want it to represent your belief system. How does that manifest and what is sacred to you? That winds up being conveyed, eventually, when you’re not even there to see it. That’s the hope of parenthood, so A for effort, and there you have it.
Crowe: I had a very interesting experience being a father on this movie, I think Zack employed four babies as the recently born Kal-El and, unlike my own experiences, as a father of two, I’ve managed to dodge all the piss and the poo, even though I’m pretty slick with a nappy. But on this movie I got farted on first. That was OK, and then I was pissed on and that was a little bit inconvenient. But then the topper happened under those hot lights. It was after lunch, to be expected, and I got a handful of the essential Kryptonian material. (He laughs.) So I learned a lot, I had new experiences as a parent on this movie that I hadn’t previously had, so thank you Zack.
Q: Russell, your Jor-El character is a much more an integral part of “Man of Steel” than he was in the 1978 “Superman” movie in which Marlon Brando played the character. Brando supposedly just came in for an afternoon to film, but your Jor-El is really the soul of the movie. What was the experience like for you?
Crowe: I have a confession. I might as well just get it out there. I’ve never seen any other “Superman” movie. I haven’t seen any of the ones with (Christopher Reeve) in it or the new young fellow (Brandon Routh, of “Superman Returns”). I don’t have any references in terms of the (“Superman”) cinematic experience. The only “Superman” reference I have is the 1950s black-and-white TV show that was on TV after school when I was a kid. So I really don’t have anything to draw on. The simple thing for me is I read the script and thought it was a complex and really cool story in and of itself. I thought the problems that Jor-El faced in terms of his decisions as a father was a very interesting thing to do so that’s why I got involved.
Q: Diane, did you think your character, Martha Kent, felt Clark had to keep his true identity secret?
Lane: The first time she sees the suit is kind of the answer to the question. I love that line that we’ve managed to come up with where she says, “Nice suit, son!” It’s been waiting to be revealed and if anybody is holding her breath more then mom, I can’t imagine who it would be. Talk about your son coming out. (She chuckles.) It’s kind of built in. So I’m sort of relieved and grateful and a bit overwhelmed by the havoc that it has wrought, coming out of the collapsed house. I love the metaphor of the family album that one would grab. What does one grab in a tornado or when something like that happens to your home? It’s the memories and it’s the value system of human life and what is the value system of human life, really, and the imprint that we provided to Clark.