Russell Crowe probably heard of al-Qaeda before you did. In early 2001, around the time Proof of Life was opening around the globe, the actor says he found himself at the center of a real-life kidnap plot, targeted for abduction by the terrorist group. In an interview with GQ magazine, Crowe says the FBI approached him just before the Golden Globes in January 2001 (eight months before the 9/11 attacks), tipped him off to the plot, and provided him with security. ”That was the first [time] I’d ever heard the phrase al-Qaeda,” he told GQ.
For a while, Crowe had his own entourage, courtesy of the federal government. ”I never fully understood what the f— was going on,” he recalled. ”Suddenly, it looks like I think I’m f—ing Elvis Presley, because everywhere I go there are all these FBI guys around.” Federal agents accompanied him to the Globes (where he lost the Best Dramatic Actor award to Cast Away‘s Tom Hanks, only to win the Oscar a couple months later for Gladiator), the Proof of Life premiere in London, and on the sets of A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Crowe also hired his own security detail.
Why was Crowe a target? ”I don’t think that I was the only person [targeted],” said the Australian actor. ”But it was about — and here’s another little touch of irony — it was about taking iconographic Americans out of the picture as a sort of cultural-destabilization plan.” Or maybe they just didn’t like Proof of Life very much.