Crowe Mellows Out

In "Master and Commander: Far Side of the World," Russell Crowe (search) plays a British Navy captain who is big on deadly brawling.

But in real life, the expectant dad hasn't had a drink in two months and spends his time in baby boutiques instead of saloons.

"You ask any of the shops in Beverly Hills that deal with [baby] clothes, and I've been there," says the 39-year-old actor, who seems to have mellowed with marriage and impending fatherhood.

"I've got a black belt in shopping when it comes to this sort of thing."

Can this really be Russell Crowe, the notorious wild man whose barroom scrapes from Australia to Mexico have made him a regular fixture in gossip columns?

At an after-party for the BAFTA Awards (search) last year, also called the British Oscars, Crowe shoved and berated British TV producer Malcolm Gerrie. Crowe, who had won Best Actor for "A Beautiful Mind," was enraged a poem he read was cut from the awards broadcast and blamed Gerrie.

Crowe later apologized, but that volatile reputation initially worried "Master and Commander" director Peter Weir (search), who made a point of airing his concerns early on.

"We talked about it," Weir said at a press conference in Los Angeles over the weekend.

"I said, 'Tell me, how do you work?' I didn't care to know too much about any past experiences. But the only real time I saw the potential for extreme violence from him was toward his violin."

Crowe had to play a fiddle in "Master and Commander," but strumming guitar in a rock band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, didn't prepare Crowe for his new strings.

"I'd hear this cursing," Weir recalls, "and he'd say, 'I want to smash it! I want to smash it so bad!' "

In "Master and Commander," which opens Nov. 14 and is based on popular best sellers by Patrick O'Brian (search), Crowe stars as "Lucky Jack" Aubrey, the 19th-century captain of a British Navy ship charged with defeating a bigger, faster and stronger French pirate ship.

The $135 million film was shot in the same Mexican tank and soundstages as "Titanic," requiring the seasickness-prone Crowe to get his sea legs by spending three months prior to the shoot on boats - while his pregnant wife suffered from her own tummy turmoil.

So maybe it should come as no surprise that Crowe has discovered the appeal of quiet family life in Sydney - where Crowe and his wife Danielle Spencer (search) share a $9 million apartment and await the birth of their son in January.

"I'm looking forward to bringing him up, being there, diapers - all of it," he says.

"I'm really enjoying watching my wife flower with the idea of motherhood, and I'm very much enjoying being a married man and having conversations at 3 o'clock in the morning, because she can't sleep, because the baby's kicking."

Crowe says he'll even arrange his work schedule to be around his son.

"The next five years are very important," Crowe says, "so when my boy's at school, I can be there after the school day. So I'm gonna work as hard as I can in the next five years, and have him with me as much as possible."

Crowe has even given up the hooch to train for his next role, as a boxer in "Cinderella Man," which will re-team Crowe with "A Beautiful Mind" director Ron Howard (search).

"This is my 63rd day without a drink," he admits.

His "Master and Commander" co-star Paul Bettany (search) - who also acted alongside the Oscar winner in "A Beautiful Mind" - claims Crowe never really deserved his bad-boy rep.

"There's so much sort of myth that goes with Russell," he says. "When you think I've spent 11 months with him - if you put both films together - and not once have I seen him thrown out of a bar.

"Not once have I seen him get into a fight with anybody."