Absent Russell Crowe uses Golden Globes win to highlight Australia bushfire crisis

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Reuters) - Antipodean actor Russell Crowe almost stole the show with his absence from the Golden Globe awards on Sunday - using his best actor win to send a message on climate change’s role in devastating Australian bushfires.

FILE PHOTO: Actor Russell Crowe arrives at the premiere for the Showtime TV series "The Loudest Voice" in New York, U.S., June 24, 2019. REUTERS/Gabriela Bhaskar

Several actresses at the ceremony also drew attention to the crisis Down Under, where wildfires have killed 24 people and left thousands more homeless.

When New Zealand-born Crowe was announced the winner of a best actor award, presenter Jennifer Aniston told the audience he was at home in Australia “protecting his family from the devastating bushfires.”

Aniston then read directly from a statement provided by Crowe in case he won: “Make no mistake, the tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change based. We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy, and respect our planet. That way we all have a future.”Crowe, 55, who won best actor in a limited series or TV movie for playing former Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes in the TV series “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” later posted his thanks via Twitter.

The Oscar winner’s post included a self-narrated video of a firefighting truck in bushland. The footage begins with a close up of a firefighter’s helmet, then shows an emergency water tank, hoses, fire blankets and respirators: “All the stuff you need for fighting fires.”

Crowe’s property at Nana Glen, about 550 km (340 miles) north of Sydney, was not believed to be in any immediate danger on Monday. In November, bushfire destroyed two buildings and scorched a chapel on the actor’s property.

Crowe’s decision to skip the glitzy ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, in favour of fire-ravaged Australia, along with his firm statement on climate change, quickly drew comparisons back home with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The Australian leader has been criticized for flying to Hawaii last month on a family holiday as the crisis deepened, and for downplaying links between the fires and climate change.

Another Golden Globes presenter, actress Cate Blanchett, noted the bushfires in her native country, praising the firefighters who have been at the center of the battle against what she called a “climate disaster.”

Patricia Arquette, who won best actress in a limited series for “The Act”, mentioned “the burning continent of Australia” as part of a litany of potential global threats that included U.S.-Iran political tensions.

Ellen DeGeneres, a wildlife advocate, expressed her sympathy as she accepted a lifetime achievement award for her accomplishments in television.

“My heart goes out to everyone, all the animals we have lost,” she said.

Closing the show, the host, British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais encouraged viewers at home to “please donate to Australia.”

Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Jonathan Oatis; Writing By Jane Wardell; Editing by Gerry Doyle