March 09, 2005 08:00 AM

Reports surfaced this week that New York’s Grand Central Station showed up on an Al Qaeda list of possible targets – and now Russell Crowe says Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network wanted to kidnap him in early 2001 as a means to “culturally destabilize” the United States.

Speaking to GQ magazine, the New Zealand-born, Australia-based Crowe, 40, claims the FBI had to protect him throughout the filming of A Beautiful Mind and during a portion of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Undercover agents at the Golden Globe awards ceremony also flanked him in 2001.

Asked who was possibly aiming at him, Crowe replies in the interview: “Um … well, that was the first conversation in my life that I’d heard the phrase Al Qaeda.” He says that he was informed that a French policewoman in Libya or Algeria had picked up the threat in a recording.

Lending credence to Crowe’s claim, CNN quotes an unnamed federal law official as confirming Crowe’s name on a list of potential kidnap victims.

“I don’t think that I was the only person (on the list)” says Crowe, “but it was about – and here’s another little touch of irony – it was about taking iconographic Americans out of the picture as a sort of cultural-destabilization plan.”

Crowe said that at some point the FBI “thought the threat had probably or had possibly been overstated, and then they started to question their sources.”

Besides, he admits, he wouldn’t make for the most personable of victims. “Mate, if you want to kidnap me, you’d better bring a mouth gag.”

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