Russell Crowe

10th November 2006 at 00:00
A 'very special performance' of the Michael Jackson song, Ben, sealed the bond between a future Hollywood superstar and his teacher

My parents were publicans and we moved around a lot when I was growing up.

I went to seven schools and there were only two teachers, perhaps three, who I remember in a positive way, which makes me a little fearful about the education system.

Two could flow with my imagination and energy and there was one particular lady - Elizabeth Morgan. We are still in contact. She sends me letters occasionally, and I'll send her a card back. And she still teaches at the same school, Vaucluse public school in Sydney.

I was 10 when I was in her class. But I already knew of her as a teacher because on Friday afternoons she would run a theatre group in the hall.

Because I played a lot of sport - cricket in the summer and rugby league in the winter - there were only a few Fridays when I was able to go along to this, but when I did I absolutely loved it.

I used to script plays mostly about war and pretty much everybody was dead by the end of them. I'd spend the week making medals for people to wear in the plays. I would perform in them as well, and that was fun.

Ms Morgan asked me to sing once, and I sang Ben, the Michael Jackson song.

Her reaction encouraged me for years. She knelt down, looked me in the eye and said: "That was a very special performance." The next year I was in her class and I've never had more fun at school. I never felt, no matter what I did, that she would exclude me. She always had the confidence to re-direct my energy into positive things.

I did some wacky things and pulled off some dumb stunts because I liked her. Maybe I was trying to impress. At one stage my uncle David gave me these fake cigarettes. They were the length of a cigarette, and the whole thing was a filter without any tobacco in it.

As he gave it to me he said: "This will be fun, you can take these to school and fool the teachers into thinking you are smoking."

So like an idiot, I did. I lit one up in class. I had never done that before so I didn't know how long it would burn.

Ms Morgan didn't freak out, she just said: "Put that out. What were you trying to do?"

I said something like: "I was pretending that I was smoking."

And very calmly she said: "Well, you've done that now, do you want to sit down?"

Ms Morgan activated all of the creative things inside me, things that I was already aware of. I had wanted to be a performer from the age of six.

She used to tell me to focus that energy on a Friday afternoon and put on a big show. When I left that school the thing that bothered me most was that I wouldn't get to talk to her. Because even if she wasn't my teacher - and she only taught me for a year - I could still talk to her in the corridor and on a Friday afternoon.

Ms Morgan encouraged me to draw, to write creatively, to sing, to write plays where, perhaps, not everybody dies. She still sends me letters and, in a couple of sentences, points out the positives she got out of a particular performance of mine.

I'll always remember her and value what she did for me. She's a lovely woman, is Ms Morgan

New Zealand-born actor Russell Crowe is best known for his award-winning performance in Gladiator. His latest film, A Good Year, in which he plays a city trader, is on general release. He was talking to Martyn Palmer

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