RUSSELL BUYS ENGAGEMENT RING

Published on: December 12, 2002

"Gladiator" star Russell Crowe has just raced home to Australia to persuade his long-suffering girlfriend Danielle Spencer to marry him -- and he's armed with a dazzling $100,000 diamond engagement ring!

"Russell has decided that one of his biggest priorities in life is having a wife and kids," a friend of the Oscar-winning actor told The ENQUIRER.

"And marrying Dani is the first step in making that dream come true.

"She came down hard on him after his recent blowup in a London restaurant with New Zealand rugby league owner Eric Watson.

"Dani told Russell to get serious about his life. She said she refused to wait for him while he caroused with other women and acted like a schoolyard bully."

Actress/singer Danielle also reminded him that at 32, she wanted children soon -- and that at 38, he wasn't getting any younger either, said the friend.

"Her words really hit home with Russell.

"Just before heading back to Australia after finishing his latest film 'Master and Commander,' he went on a shopping spree for Dani in New York. He purchased a $10,000 Cartier watch at Wempe Jewelers -- then went down the street to Cartier and picked out a $100,000 diamond ring. He also bought another $80,000 worth of jewelry and apparel for Dani."

Russell met Danielle when they made the movie "The Crossing" in 1990. They dated for five years but drifted apart when he moved to Los Angeles to pursue stardom --and other women, including Sharon Stone and Meg Ryan. Russell was also recently linked to fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman.

"Dani gave Russell her blessing and a long leash to follow his dreams," an insider disclosed.

"They always remained close friends, even when Russell was dating Meg Ryan."

After Russell's romance with Meg ended in December 2000, he called Danielle. And by the following October, she had moved into his $9 million home in Sydney.

"Now Russell realizes that after all the years, Dani has always been there for him. And he couldn't stand the thought that he could lose her to another man."

Russell canceled a planned tour with his band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts and posted a message on the band's Web site: "I am in love with Danielle Spencer . . . I feel a great need to wake up with her as many days of my life as I can."