Russell Crowe responds to backlash over joke about sodomising co-star

Russell Crowe has come under fire for joking about "sodomising" his Romper Stomper co-star Jacqueline McKenzie.

The 53-year-old Gladiator star made the comments at the 2017 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (Aacta) awards on Wednesday (local time).

Crowe has since stated he was "only intending to make people laugh" and McKenzie has spoken out in his defence.

"I was sodomising Jacqui McKenzie on the set of Romper Stomper," he said on stage.

"I didn't actually intend to do that - I was trying to keep my bits away from her bits... It wasn't until the opening night of the film that it was pointed out by none other than Jackie McKenzie's beautiful late mother that we were in fact, in her mind, engaged in sodomy.

"Anyway that was just a story about sensitivity!"

The joke was slammed as being "tone deaf" as it came from the same ceremony that spoke of the need of more sensitivity in the entertainment industry, which this year has been rocked by several sexual misconduct allegations.

Russell Crowe and Jacqueline McKenzie in Romper Stomper.
Russell Crowe and Jacqueline McKenzie in Romper Stomper Photo credit: Seon Film Productions

"The very important conversation of sexual harassment in the workplace bares no relevance to [Crowe's joke]," McKenzie responded on Facebook.

"Yes, it was uncomfortable. For everyone. Scenes like that always are... he and I have often laughed at the awkwardness we felt shooting that scene."

Crowe gave a statement to Australian radio station 2GB following an outcry.

"Jacqui and I survived that moment in our young careers because we looked after each other. Our friendship has only strengthened over the years and it's a story we both cringe and laugh over," says Crowe.

"The way I delivered the story was to elicit that half cringe/half laugh reaction... Obviously I was only intending to make people laugh. Especially Jacquie, and she did. I didn't mean any offence to anyone and it wasn't a comment on other issues."

Romper Stomper, released in 1992, was a controversial but critically acclaimed film following a group of vicious neo-Nazi skinheads in Melbourne.