Russell Crowe has revealed how paranoid he was that he was going to lose his breakout role to Sean Penn.

Crowe's role as Bud White in the 1997 movie LA Confidential made him a star in the US, but as he explained to GQ, he very nearly lost his role in the film.

"I got the call from Curtis Hanson," Crowe said about the film's director. "His idea was to cast relative unknowns … (But) the big overarching studio … making the movie didn't like Curtis' idea."

Crowe was flown to LA and was put up in a hotel by the studio as rehearsals began. But he then started hearing rumours that his role as the police officer was under threat.

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"I've got friends in the business and stuff and people would be telling me that Sean Penn was going to be playing my role," he said to GQ.

Despite the director's assurances that he would play Bud White, Crowe became even more paranoid when the movie studio cut him off financially.

"They stopped paying my hotel bill and rental car bill and stopped providing me with per diem," he recalled. "I really didn't have a lot in my life at the time so I wasn't able to pay for that level of hotel. It got pretty heavy, to the point where there was a few times where I was going down the back stairs so the hotel manager wouldn't stop me in the foyer and ask me what was going on."

Despite all the rumours and the withdrawal of financial aid, Crowe said that he "just kept turning up to work".

"I think if there was ever a day where I got frustrated by it and I hadn't turned up to work, that would have been the chink in the armour that they would have used to shift me out of the role," he said.

Crowe says he heard rumours at the time that Sean Penn was going to replace him. Photo / Getty Images
Crowe says he heard rumours at the time that Sean Penn was going to replace him. Photo / Getty Images

Crowe went on to star in the film alongside Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey and fellow relatively unknown actor at the time, Guy Pearce.

Crowe and Pearce's performances were both praised by critic Roger Ebert who wrote at the time: "Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce are two Australian actors who here move convincingly into star-making roles."

In his interview with GQ, Crowe took some of the credit for landing Pearce a role in the film after he told the director a funny story about the Aussie star.

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"I had a girlfriend (Danielle Spencer) that I eventually ended up marrying many, many years later," Crowe said, adding that he is "a very jealous person".

"We walked into this pub and Guy was there and he greeted her (Danielle) effusively, gave her a cuddle and a kiss and I'm sort of standing there. He hasn't even acknowledged my existence at this point in time."

Crowe said he waited until there was a lull in their conversation and then he "stepped forward and I gave him (Guy) a kiss and I behaved effusively like he was doing to Danielle".

"He didn't do anything," Crowe laughed. "He acknowledged with his eyes, 'Sorry mate, that was a bit dicky of me to cut you out of the conversation,' and later on when I was talking to Curtis (Hanson) and I told him that story and I told him how completely cool under fire Guy Pearce had been, I think that really fell into the part of Guy that Curtis had thought he'd seen in the auditions."