The last time I spoke to Russell Crowe was during the press day for the Ridley Scott version of "Robin Hood," and it was a very good conversation even though I have very little good to say about the movie itself.

It's amazing how our first impressions of someone linger. No matter what Crowe does in his career, no matter how big he gets, and no matter how many A-list directors he works with, when I hear his name or I see him, the first thing that always flashes through my mind is his work in "Romper Stomper." That movie, and his performance in it, were seared into my mind on first viewing, and I remember watching one sequence in it something like ten times in a week when it came out on laserdisc. It's one of those introductory performances that suggests a whole world of possibilities within an actor. Crowe played both rage and tenderness with such conviction, and I hoped he would find a larger place in the industry as a result.

It took Hollywood a little while to figure it out, though. And now that Russell Crowe has reached a certain age, they're having to adjust their ideas of who he is and how to cast him again. I would think there must be something flattering about being asked to step into the role of Jor-El, father to the infant who eventually grows into Superman, especially considering that the last actor to play the role in films was Marlon Brando. His impact on pop culture in that role was so large that even in Bryan Singer's movie, they continued to use him via digital trickery rather than recast the part.

There are two different versions of Jor-El that we see in the film. One is the living breathing character in the final days of Krypton, and the other is a computer-generated ghost, an echo of the man who lives in the hardware of this dead civilization. Crowe definitely plays a difference in the two versions, and he seems to be having a great deal of straight-faced fun in the role.

Any time I speak with him, I'm struck by how seriously he regards every part of his job, and how little tolerance he has for silliness in the conversation about the work he does. I think we had as good a conversation as you can in this short amount of time, and I really appreciated his honest talk about the toll that actions films can take on an actor as he ages.

"Man Of Steel" opens tomorrow. Here's my review.