If there’s one celebrity not to get on the wrong side of, it’s Russell Crowe. The onscreen hard man appears just as tough away from the camera.
His no nonsense approach to stardom has earned him both respect and ridicule. Some see his irritation at playing the showbiz game as refreshing, though it has led to some famously temperamental behavior.
The Australian actor had been in hot water before after a notorious phone-throwing incident in the early Noughties. It’s safe to say getting on his nerves wouldn’t be the most advisable move.
However if one individual could get away with it, it was Michael Jackson.
Whilst promoting his directorial debut The Water Diviner, Crowe revealed a secret and somewhat silly connection between himself and the King of Pop.
When staying at hotels around the world, Crowe would use the pseudonym Mr. Wall. Somehow Michael Jackson found out about this and hilarity ensued. This time however, Crowe was answering the phone rather than using it as a projectile. The voice on the end of the line was strangely familiar.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2015, he described the prank calls from Michael he used to get: “he’d ring up [and] do this kind of thing, like you did when you were 10, you know, ‘Is Mr. Wall there? Is Mrs. Wall there? Are there any Walls there? Then what’s holding the roof up? Ha, ha.’”
Crowe’s reaction to Jackson’s calls, which were numerous, was one of surprise rather than savagery. “You’re supposed to grow out of doing that, right?” he asked the journalist.
Had the artist been in the same room as the star, the response may well have been different.
Not long after his breakthrough success in 2000’s Gladiator, Crowe reportedly got into a scuffle with a businessman in a London restaurant. The same year, according to the Guardian, he “pinned the (Bafta) show’s television producer against a wall and subjected him to a barrage of abuse after a poem recital intended as part of his acceptance speech was cut.”
Despite risking the wrath of Crowe, Jackson continued calling him for around 3 years. That’s a whole lot of pranking. It isn’t clear if it was being done out of admiration for the actor’s work or just for the music legend’s amusement.
Jackson had form for elaborate gags, as mentioned by actress Rashida Jones. With her father being producer Quincy Jones, she spent time with the pop juggernaut and witnessed his antics first hand.
Quoted in the Huffington Post in 2011, she said “He was definitely a little bit of an alien, for sure, and when I was young, it felt as if he was my age, not 18 years older…”
One incident involved a water pistol. “Later, we’d go out on the town together. He always wore those surgical masks… (we) got in a car with Super Soakers and went by a movie theater and supersoaked the hell out of people waiting in line. They had no idea they’d just been supersoaked by the King of Pop.”
This appears to have been a recurring theme, as during a Jimmy Kimmel interview, director Brett Ratner told the host that “he was sleeping in ‘The Elizabeth Taylor Suite’ when Michael’s voice floated in via intercom.”
He then went “on a trip he’ll never forget. They ended up at the bathroom of a 7-Eleven convenience store, filling up water balloons with Jackson wearing a Hulk mask.”
The eye-opening punchline was the random homeless person who was selected as the target, before suffering the indignity of being pelted with the balloons. Michael Jackson’s humor trod a fine line between “funny ha ha” and “funny peculiar.”
When he passed away in 2009, people had lots of stories to tell. Russell Crowe’s contribution certainly fits into the peculiar category. The pair never came face to face. By the sounds of it, that’s probably for the best.