Ridley Scott’s Gladiator has been immortalised within the pantheon of legendary-tier films. But you may be surprised to discover there was a time when that didn’t remotely seem like a possibility, due to the piss-poor quality of its script.
It was such a mess, in fact, that it was actively kept away from Russell Crowe himself prior to signing on for the film – despite being in the leading role as Maximus Decimus Meridius.
“Gladiator was a unique experience because the script that they had was so bad — it was just so bad,” Crowe recounted to Jimmy Fallon during a recent appearance on The Tonight Show.
“The producer did not know I was able to already 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. But I want to encourage you to have a meeting with Ridley Scott. And here’s the thing I want you to think about: It’s 180 AD, you’re a Roman general, and you’re being directed by Ridley Scott.'”
Of course, Crowe would take that fateful meeting where he was sold on Scott’s vision; later enduring what has since been universally acknowledged as a “disaster” of a production process, wherein a shocking amount of improvisation occurred, eventually generating overwhelming buzz during award season, and even earning Crowe himself an Academy Award for Best Actor.
I think we should all be thankful it worked out.
Watch the full-length interview below.