GLADIATOR star Russell Crowe has been asked to become a patron of the York Roman Festival.

Organisers of the annual celebration have approached the Antipodean actor, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Roman general Maximus, to see if he will lend the event his support.

A case of the festival's official beer - Centurion's Ghost from York Brewery - has even been dispatched Down Under to lure his backing, but there is no word yet from Russell or his publicist.

The film star has strong links with the city. In 2003, he married Danielle Spencer, who has close family living in Nether Poppleton.

He also donated signed posters and a programme to Manor School to help raise cash for a new performing arts centre.

Festival secretary Nick Eggleton said: "He played one of the most famous Roman characters of the last 30 years and he has a natural connection with York. We haven't asked him for money, just for his support.

"We thought we'd send him some beer to remind him of the invitation. We gather he likes a couple of beers now and again, and he might sometimes get bored with the stuff they brew in Australia."

York Roman Festival is a celebration of the cultural and military customs the Romans brought to the city and the history of Britain.

Coun Charles Hall, festival patron and former Lord Mayor of York, said: "I think sometime people forget that if it wasn't for the Romans, York wouldn't exist and we should remember this. The modern citizens and organisations of York should support this festival."

The event is now in its third year and will take place in August. It is run by a not-for-profit organisation and relies heavily on sponsorship and private donations.

York Brewery's involvement in this year's event was announced at a festival launch party on Thursday night. The festival is also being supported by York@Large, the Coppergate Centre, York Tourism Bureau and the Evening Press.

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Updated: 09:36 Saturday, February 26, 2005