Ahoy, mates! Today in theaters, Russell Crowe debuts in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. But did he take his authoritarian role as a British naval captain too seriously? Apparently, Crowe ran a very tight ship on the set, barking orders left and right — even though director Peter Weir was the one in charge!

"The directors that hire me [do so] because they know that I fully understand what the gig is about," the 39-year-old Aussie says. "They know that I'm going to take a certain amount of pressure off of their hands, and that I'm fully willing to take on a certain amount of responsibility. Peter is a very capable and confident director, and he's not threatened by that."

Crowe dubbed himself Master over an enormous cast of extras, cracking his whip to make the period film look as realistic as possible. "I said [to Weir], 'There are certain things I want to do the moment people hit the ground. I don't want them to have three or four days off, or three or four days to relax. From the time that they get here, it should be very obvious to them that they have joined the Navy.'"

So much for the Hollywood treatment. This situation sounds worse than Survivor! "Day one, when they arrived, they got three shirts, they got a vest, a T-shirt and a long-sleeved T-shirt, and three name badges," he recalls. "They were given X amount of time to sew their own name badges on. The wardrobe department was told to not give anybody any assistance. The next day, myself and the other officers checked all the name badges. If they could come off with one finger, then they all had to be taken off and sewn on again."

Sounds like, um, fun. "They also had [several] hours a day of gun training," Crowe enthuses. "And you can see the slickness of the guns on that ship. There was also training to do the rigging, the way the vessel moves in the wind, and understand the time period. Basically, they were labored with a full day, every day, from the time that they arrived."

So did the film's fearless leader allow any leisure time during this strict regimen of military schooling? "We had a rugby competition on the weekend with up to 80 players," he excitedly adds. "That was kind of amusing because I had guys from Poland, Africa, and a lot of American and Canadian guys who had never heard of the sport before. Getting them to pass the ball backwards, rather than forwards, was a little trying.

"It was testing to the Captain's patience," Crowe jokes, "but I managed to get through it and get my point across."