Russell Crowe in Gladiator.
Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

Reason Gladiator movie almost flopped

"Are you not entertained?" screams Russell Crowe's character in Gladiator.

And the answer from moviegoers in 2000 was a resounding yes.

The historical drama, which streams on Foxtel Now, was a hit when it was released 20 years ago, winning five Academy Awards and making Russell Crowe a household name.

But there are some things about the movie that might surprise you.

WHO WAS RIDLEY SCOTT'S FIRST PICK FOR MAXIMUS?

There's a persistent rumour that Mel Gibson was actually the director's first choice to play the lead role but he passed on the film because he thought he was too old.

Not so, says Ridley Scott.

"Russell was really always my first choice," the director said to CNN.

"I noticed (Crowe) maybe five years (before) in Romper Stomper and I thought he was somebody worth watching."

The director insisted that Crowe was always first choice to play the lead.
The director insisted that Crowe was always first choice to play the lead.

 

THE SCRIPT WAS A MESS

When they first started making the movie, the script was nowhere near finished.

"We had 21 pages when we started shooting," Crowe said to BBC Radio 1, "Your average script is about 110."

Scott, Crowe and the writers would spend part of each day working on the script so that they actually had something to shoot the next day.

"It's the dumbest possible way to make a film," Crowe said.

"At one point in time, Ridley gave the crew a day off because we simply didn't know what we were going to shoot the next day.

"We occasionally get together and have a drink and laugh about what sort of a bullet was that we dodged. Not only did we get it done … it won the Oscar for Best Film."

THE SPEECH THAT COULDN'T BE CHANGED

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Crowe wasn't a fan of his character's epic speech in the movie.

If you can't quite remember it: "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

He wasn’t a fan of the iconic speech.
He wasn’t a fan of the iconic speech.


But director Scott was adamant that the speech remain in the film, despite Crowe's disapproval.

After the scene was filmed, Crowe reportedly joked to Scott: "It was sh*t, but I'm the greatest actor in the world and I can make even sh*t sound good."

DIFFICULT STAR

Joaquin Phoenix happily admits that he was a handful on the set of the movie.

The actor, who played Commodus, refused to act during a long night shoot because he "wasn't feeling it".

Scott was not impressed and ran at the actor screaming, "You'd better get on with your f***ing job!"

And it worked.

"That was the fire I needed," Phoenix said to The Guardian.

"I can't fake it and just say, 'I'm yelling now!' I know if I'm lost in the moment or not."

Phoenix (pictured with Crowe) has admitted to being difficult to work with.
Phoenix (pictured with Crowe) has admitted to being difficult to work with.

 

Another fun fact about Phoenix. The actor is a vegan and refused to wear leather sandals in the film.

ON SET ACCIDENT

According to Scott, there was only one accident on the whole movie and it occurred when a couple of extras were mucking around in their spare time.

"There were two brothers, I think they were Romans actually who on one lunch time, decided on the quiet to have a race around the arena," Scott said.

"And one ended up being taken by helicopter and having brain surgery. So that was a big warning. The chariot flipped or hit the wall and I think he damaged his cranium and we had to fly him out."

WHOOPS

Eagle-eyed fans have spotted a glaring error in the movie.

During a battle in the Colosseum, a horse drawn chariot flips over onto its side and if you look closely, you can see a gas cylinder in the back of the chariot.

That’s an advanced chariot.
That’s an advanced chariot.

 

FYI - The movie is set in 180AD and stainless steel gas cylinders weren't invented until the 1800s.

GLADIATOR 2

Aussie singer, songwriter and screenwriter Nick Cave was asked by Crowe to write the script for a potential Gladiator sequel.

As Cave explained to podcaster Marc Maron, the script wasn't easy to write seeing as Crowe's character dies at the end of the original movie.

"So, he (Maximus) goes down to purgatory and is sent down by the gods, who are dying in heaven because there's this one god, there's this Christ character, down on Earth who is gaining popularity and so the many gods are dying so they send Gladiator back to kill Christ and all his followers," Cave said, explaining his idea for the script.

"I wanted to call it Christ Killer, and in the end you find out that the main guy was his son, so he has to kill his son and he's tricked by the gods and all of this sort of stuff. So it ends with, he becomes this eternal warrior and it ends with this 20-minute war scene which follows all the wars in history, right up to Vietnam and all that sort of stuff and it was wild."

Crowe (left) and Cave.
Crowe (left) and Cave.


Crowe was not a fan.

"I enjoyed writing it because I knew on every level that it was never going to get made," Cave said to Maron.

 

Originally published as Reason Gladiator movie almost flopped


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