(File image) Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer. Photo: Eric Gaillard

RUSSELL CROWE has separated from his wife of nine years, Danielle Spencer, according to reports.

The news came as a shock in showbusiness circles as the couple were regarded as having a strong marriage, despite the demands of their respective careers.

Spencer is seen as the quiet, unassuming woman who tamed Crowe, 48, with her calm and steady nature.

The 43-year-old singer once said of her husband’s fame and fortune: ‘All that stuff has nothing to do with me as a person.’

The couple, who have two children – Charles and Tennyson, aged eight and six – parted on friendly terms, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, which reported the split on Sunday.

The children have remained with Spencer while Crowe continues filming the biblical epic Noah in the US, it is said.

The couple, who met 22 years ago on the set of the movie The Crossing, were married in a chapel on Crowe’s farm in the hamlet of Nana Glen, in northern New South Wales, in 2003.

After the wedding Crowe said the thought of marrying Spencer had crossed his mind the first time he met her.

They lived in a penthouse on the shores of Sydney Harbour before moving into a £6million mansion in the suburb of Rose Bay.

Despite the perception that Crowe and his wife shared a strong bond, critics were surprised after Miss Spencer was photographed on a night out a few months ago with Damian Whitewood, her dance partner in the Australian TV show Dancing With The Stars.

Crowe later made a point of dismissing rumours about their relationship when he gave his wife a lingering kiss in front of the cameras at Sydney Airport.

But the demands of his acting career have kept him away from Spencer for much of this year. He has also missed most of the season of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the rugby league club in which he has a financial interest.

Crowe has six films coming out in the next 12 months – The Man with the Iron Fists, Les Miserables, Broken City, Man of Steel, Noah and Winter’s Tale.

Before his relationship with Spencer, Crowe had a much-publicised romance with Meg Ryan after the pair starred opposite one another in the Hollywood crime thriller, Proof of Life.

At the timeRyan was still married to the American actor Dennis Quaid, but they divorced in 2001 after more than 20 years of marriage.

Miss Spencer is often credited with being a calming influence on her New Zealand-born husband.

And she was careful with her words when Crowe was involved in a phone-throwing incident at a New York hotel seven years ago, after he was unable to get through to her.

‘I’m not condoning his behaviour,’ she said at the time. ‘I don’t want to make excuses for him because I’m certainly not.

‘But I do understand when you’re apart that the loneliness kicks in.’

Crowe got his acting break on the Australian soap Neighbours.

His most famous role was that of the Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator, for which he won a best actor Oscar in 2000.

Other notable performances include his role as the Irish heavyweight boxing champion James L Braddick in Cinderella Man and a star turn in Master and Commander. - Bang Showbiz