In "Les Misérables," Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe play the ultimate adversaries – the repentant petty thief Jean Valjean and the self-righteous inspector Javert, who can't see anything beyond the law. It's a highlight of the season to see these two fierce actors from Down Under go head-to-head in an epic, emotional musical.
The distinguished leading men have had very different careers, but they have a lot in common. Only four years apart, the two actors both got their start around the same time, have musical sensibilities (Jackman through theater, Crowe through his rock band), and have played men you don't want to mess with.
So who's got the advantage? See how Crowe and Jackman stack up against each other in our latest head to head.
Allegiance to Down Under
Russell Crowe: The Gladiator was born April 7, 1964 in Wellington, New Zealand but grew up in Australia for most of his childhood, until he was 14 and moved back to Auckland. Crowe returned to Australia at age 21 and got his first break in a production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." A few years later, he gained notoriety for playing a young skinhead in the drama "Romper Stomper."
Hugh Jackman: The Wolverine hails from Sydney and was born on Oct. 12, 1968. After catching the acting bug in a college drama class, Jackman studied it for a year at the Actors' Centre in Sydney and then another two years at drama school. The night of his graduation performance, he was offered his first professional role in a miniseries. Coincidentally, he met his wife Deborra-Lee Furness on that set.
Advantage: Jackman. He gets extra points for going to drama school in his motherland and starring in two high-profile productions that explicitly deal with his homeland: Baz Luhrmann's "Australia" and the Tony-winning "The Boy from Oz."
Breakout Hollywood Role
Russell Crowe: "L.A. Confidential" (1997) Director Curtis Hanson cast two relatively unknown Aussies in his neo-noir drama: Guy Pearce, as the straightlaced detective, and Crowe as his hotheaded partner who acts first, thinks later.
Hugh Jackman: "X-Men" (2000) was the reason Hollywood (and audiences) first took notice of theAussie heartthrob. As Wolverine, Jackman impressed with his transformation from being a loner mutant to part of the justice-seeking X-Men.
Advantage: Crowe. As much as we love Jackman sporting spiky hair and even spikier talons, Crowe's performance as a broody, fists-first cop in "L.A. Confidential" is nothing short of extraordinary.
Russell Crowe: In the early 'aughts, Crowe pulled a hat trick with Academy Award nominations. He scored noms in 2000 ("The Insider"), 2001 (and won for "Gladiator"), and 2002 ("A Beautiful Mind"). He also has a BAFTA, three Critics' Choice Awards, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and dozens of individual critics' association awards (primarily for those three films, but also for "Cinderella Man," "Master and Commander," and his first big role in "Romper Stomper."
Hugh Jackman: Although he's got an Emmy (for hosting the Tony Awards) and a Tony Award (for starring in the Broadway show "The Boy From Oz"), Jackman has never won a serious film acting award. Not counting his accolades for "Les Misérables," his only big nomination is a Golden Globe nod for the 2001 romantic comedy "Kate & Leopold." But the popular actor's luck with awards is sure to change thanks to his performance as Jean Valjean.
Advantage: Crowe. No contest: Crowe's got a far more prestigious filmography and the award nominations (and wins) to prove it.
Body of Evidence:
Russell Crowe: There's no denying Crowe is a handsome leading man, and in his "Gladiator" and "Cinderella Man" days, the Oscar winner could have given any of the "300" cast a run for their six packs. But in the past couple of years, Crowe, who's never been afraid of gaining weight for a role, has looked a bit bloated and disheveled – definitely not our favorite look for him.
Hugh Jackman: Like Channing Tatum and Bradley Cooper, Jackman is a member of the elite club of men who've been named People's Sexiest Man Alive (in 2008, the same year he starred in "Australia"). Unlike Crowe, Jackman has remained remarkably fit (especially in the "X-Men" franchise) his entire career, and looks as good, or even better than, actors 20 years younger.
Advantage: Jackman. They're both dashing, but we've got to give it to Jackman, who still looks positively swoon-worthy whether in a tux or shirtless on the beach.
Russell Crowe: He's infamous for letting his temper get the best of him and was even arrested forallegedly throwing a phone at a hotel employee in 2005
Hugh Jackman: He may play an ex-con in "Les Miz," but off-camera Jackman is a squeaky clean family man.
Advantage: Crowe. If you're stuck in a pub brawl, you'd definitely want the former Gladiator by your side. On the other hand, considering his past, he'd likely be the one you're dodging.
Russell Crowe: Although he has been married since 2003, Crowe and his wife, Australian singer Danielle Spencer, announced their separation last October. In 2000, Crowe famously engaged in an affair with Meg Ryan on the set of "Proof of Life.
Hugh Jackman: He might be plenty of women's dream man, but in real life, Jackman only has eyes for his wife, fellow Aussie actor Deborra-Lee Furness, who married him long before he became an international sex symbol.
Advantage: Jackman. Crowe has been dogged with infidelity rumors and is reportedly trying to reconcile with his estranged wife. On the other hand, Jackman has been a one-woman man for the past 16 years AND he married a woman 13 years his senior. That might as well be a golden anniversary in Hollywood marriages.
And the winner is: If this were a few years ago, no doubt the scales would've tipped in Crowe's favor, but right now, Jackman edges him out for his ability to navigate both action and drama (like Crowe) but also spectacular stage productions. He may not have as many acting awards as Crowe, but he's got the intensity (as "Les Misérables" proves), the looks and the talent.