Russell Crowe almost didn't take on the role of Maximus in the 2000 Ridley Scott-directed film, Gladiator

By Ally Mauch
June 25, 2020 01:38 PM

After its premiere in 2000, Gladiator went on to win five Academy Awards, but the film’s star Russell Crowe recalls that the original script was “so bad.”

The actor, 56, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday evening and reminisced on the iconic film, in which he plays Maximus, a former Roman general seeking revenge against the corrupt emperor, played by Joaquin Phoenix.

Gladiator was a unique experience because the script that they had was so bad,” Crowe said. “The producer didn’t know I’d actually already been able to get a copy, but the thing he said was, ‘I don’t want to send you the document we have because you won’t respond to it.’”

Crowe recalled that the producer continued: “‘But I want to encourage you to have a meeting with Ridley Scott and here’s the thing that I want you to think about: it’s 180 AD, you’re a roman general and you’re being directed by Ridley Scott. Just think about that.'”

Russell Crowe Gladiator - 2000
Russell Crowe in Gladiator
| Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Dreamworks/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

Of the meeting with Scott, Crowe said they immediately “just clicked.”

Though he admits there was “a little bit of risk involved” in joining the cast at the time, Crowe said the legacy of Gladiator is “unbelievable.”

“Twenty years later people still talk about,” he said. “That doesn’t happen with every movie.”

Crowe recently marked the anniversary of the film on Twitter, quoting a famous catchphrase from the movie.

"20 years ago today Gladiator was released in cinemas in the United States ... Strength and Honour ..." he wrote, recalling the line his character repeats throughout the film.

Connie Nielsen - Gladiator
Connie Nielson and Russell Crowe in Gladiator
| Credit: DreamWorks/ Everett

His costar in the film, Connie Nielsen, spoke with Entertainment Weekly about a potential Gladiator sequel in May. Nielsen plays Lucilla in the classic film, sister to the emperor played by Phoenix.

"So, we did hear from the producers,” she said at the time. “I think it's just a question of which film is coming first in Ridley's very tight schedule. And then I think it's a question of COVID and can we get back to work.”

The actress, 54, continued, “But I would be interested in doing [the film], for sure. I mean, it's obviously a wonderful project, so of course, I would be interested."