Crowe to teach drama in Durham (the students better do what he says)

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The Independent Online

There is little doubt that Russell Crowe has a lot to teach aspiring young actors.

There is the art of the late night brawl; the storming out of interviews; the subtle skills of courting bad publicity; and, of course, the small matter of how to win an Oscar.

Despite his reputation as one of Hollywood's wildest and most controversial stars there is considerable excitement at the suggestion that the New Zealand-born actor is about to land a role teaching drama at one of Britain's most illustrious seats of learning.

This week Crowe, whose film credits include Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind, sought to make good on an offer apparently put to him by the outgoing chancellor of Durham University, Bill Bryson, requesting that Crowe help shape some of the talent of the future.

Having learnt that the American writer was about to leave his post at the historic university to spend more time writing, he tweeted his renewed interest in a possible position.

"Hey Bill Bryson didn't you promise me a knighthood if I taught drama at Durham... if you are leaving we need to get this done," he said, later adding: "Tell him I'm up for teaching drama there before he leaves."

It would perhaps be a welcome return to the North of England for the star who famously swore and walked out of an interview with the BBC's Mark Lawson when it was suggested that his accent in the film Robin Hood contained hints of Irish. Yesterday Crowe, 47, whose wife, Danielle, has family living nearby in York, sought again to clarify his position. "A long time ago," he tweeted, "I agreed to Bill Bryson's request to go to Durham during his tenure. However, polite and erudite soul that he is, he has never called upon me. I heard he was leaving."

He added: "Of course, on his side he promised me some kind of academic garland... though it's never for the spoils, it's always for the art. If it so happens that I'm scheduled to be somewhere near, only if the chancellor wants then the final step is for the Drama Society (and only the DS) to come up with a compelling subject for me to chat about. Great respect for Bill Bryson and if he requests me to fulfill promises made over Chinese food... I may be bound."

Crowe then used his Twitter account to contact Durham Student Theatre (DST), saying: "There are two experiments I'd like to try on you. Leadership & Original thought. Other departments might like to witness. As I have said though, at the chancellor's request only."

Sarah Peters, 20, president-elect of DST, who is studying music, English and French, said: "We would love it if he did turn up and I think it is a definite possibility. He is holding out for an invitation from Bill Bryson so until he gets that he is not making any promises. He is a fantastic actor and anything we can learn from him would be brilliant."

A spokesman for the university confirmed that Mr Bryson and Crowe had dined together but said the chancellor was unavailable for comment. Although it does not offer a drama degree, DST is one of the most respected student theatres in the country, boasting 860 members and staging 50 performances a term.

It was reported last month that Crowe is considering making his directorial debut with a film version of a new screenplay by James Ellroy, the creator of LA Confidential. The star's latest film, The Man with the Iron Fist, is due out later this year.

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