12/14/2001 AT 10:40 AM EST
Best known for his role as the egomaniacal guitar player in "Almost Famous" -- and infamous for turning down the lead role in "Titanic" -- Billy Crudup gives a gritty performance as a French resistance fighter in "Charlotte Gray," a World War II spy drama that costars Cate Blanchett. "The character I play has a level of conviction to put himself in jeopardy that I doubt would manifest in me," told PEOPLE on Thursday. "We do have a whole pop culture that supports the idea that spying is really sexy. But when Charlotte becomes a spy, it's initially because she loves somebody. Only once she is in the midst of people who are struggling for their lives, for a political ideology, is she inspired by that. I hope that were I put in similar circumstances I would be inspired by the same thing, but I can't imagine I would be the first one to start the local militia."