Russell Crowe brawl surfaces in blackmail trial -- A tape of the Aussie star's alleged nightclub fight spawned blackmail charges for two men
Russell Crowe
Credit: Russell Crowe: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images/NewCom

Even before he played to the masses in ”Gladiator,” Russell Crowe apparently enjoyed a good battle. Two men who stand accused of trying to sell Crowe a videotape of him allegedly starting a fight outside an Australian nightclub began trial on blackmail charges on Wednesday. A prosecutor told the court that back in 1999, Crowe was captured on videotape ”manhandling” an unidentified man and arguing vehemently with a woman, according to the French Press Agency (AFP).

The prosecutor said that Crowe — who is unlikely to testify in the trial — was apparently drunk and instigated the fight before taking off in a black stretch limo, AFP reported. The video has not yet been played in court, however, according to Reuters. The five-day trial, in the New South Wales District Court in Coffs Harbor (reportedly near Crowe’s Australian farm) is set to include testimony from Crowe’s father in lieu of an appearance by the star himself.

The three-year-old incident is hardly the first time Crowe has been accused of having a hot temper, so it’s hard to imagine how the alleged blackmailers (Philip Cropper and Malcolm Mercer, both 38) thought they could get him to pay to hide evidence of it. Most recently, Crowe blew up at the producer of the British Academy Film Awards, in an incident some believe hurt his Oscar chances for his ”A Beautiful Mind” performance (he later apologized).