Russell Crowe Didn’t Love Gladiator Script At First, Thought Viewers Would Think, “What The F**k Is All This?”

Russell Crowe Didn't Love Gladiator Script At First, Thought Viewers Would Think, "What The F**k Is All This?"

Actor Russell Crowe earned an Oscar for 2000’s Gladiator, but he wasn’t always on board to star as Maximus in the iconic film. Crowe said in an interview with Vanity Fair that he nearly backed out of the movie because he thought the script didn’t make sense.

“I was confident about my abilities as a leading man,” Crowe said (via Variety). “What I wasn’t confident about with Gladiator was the world that was surrounding me. At the core of what we were doing was a great concept but the script, it was rubbish, absolute rubbish. And it had all these sorts of strange sequences.”

As Crowe recalls, the original script had Gladiators riding chariots featuring product placement for olive oil and other items. This was based on real historical truth, but Crowe didn’t think a modern audience would buy into it.

“It’s just not going to ring right to a modern audience. They’re going to go, ‘What the fuck is all this,'” Crowe said. “The energy around what we were doing was very fractured. I did think a couple of times that maybe my best option was to just get on a plane and get out of here.”

But Crowe didn’t leave. He continued to have conversations with director Ridley Scott to find something that would work. Crowe said that Scott told him the director was “not committing anything to camera that you don’t believe in.”

At the start of filming, there were just 21 pages of script–about the fifth of the final movie–that Crowe and Scott agreed on. The pair worked together and hammered out the rest to get the script to a place that both of them believed in, and the rest is history.

Gladiator won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Crowe. It also won Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and Best Visual Effects. It picked up a further seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Director for Scott and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Joaquin Phoenix.

23 years later, Scott–who is now 85–is directing Gladiator 2. The movie stars Paul Mescal, Denzel Washington, and Barry Keoghan. Crowe’s character, Maximus, died in the original Gladiator–the sequel will focus on Mescal’s character, Lucius. The movie hits theaters in November 2024.

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