Russell Crowe: Marlboro Man?

A battle over an interview in which actor Russell Crowe lit up a cigarette on air is being played out in Federal Court in Sydney, Australia, The Associated Press reports.

In October 2000, the Nine Network aired an interview on the program 60 Minutes that showed Crowe brandishing a pack of Marlboro cigarettes as he lit up. Part of the interview was replayed the following week after viewers criticized the Oscar-winning actor for his smoking habit.

The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) found the network breached the Tobacco Advertisement Prohibition Act, which bans cigarette advertising of cigarettes, by airing the interview.

Although the original footage was an “incidental accompaniment”–allowed under the

act–the ABA said the network’s repeat broadcast of the interview “recklessly” constituted a tobacco advertisement.

The ABA did not fine the network, but Nine is still appealing the decision in the Federal Court this week.

John Griffiths, a lawyer for the network, told Federal Court Judge Arthur Emmett that the finding was “perverse and irrational” and asked him to order the ABA to reconsider its ruling.

Griffiths also told the court the broadcaster’s reference to Crowe‘s “weakness to the demon weed,” coupled with viewers’ criticism, discouraged rather than encouraged smoking.

Ironically, Crowe played Jeffrey Wigand in the 1999 film The Insider, the true story of the tobacco industry whistle-blower and former head of development at the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. who went public on CBS’ 60 Minutes as an industry informant.

Justice Emmett is expected to hand down his ruling Thursday.