Russell Crowe's contribution to 'Gladiator' script 'greatly exaggerated', says producer

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
·3-min read
Gladiator (Credit: DreamWorks)
Gladiator (Credit: DreamWorks)

In the annals of movie legend, Russell Crowe has been talked up not as merely the man who brought Maximus Meridus to life on screen in Gladiator, but the man who gave him his voice.

As recently as last month, Crowe has said that the script was initially 'so bad' that he almost turned down the role.

It was the mention of Ridley Scott as director which drew him back in, but during the making of the movie, the script was described as 'evolving', sometimes leading the Australian firebrand to walk off set.

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In a profile of Crowe in Time magazine from 2000, the year of the film's release, it was even proffered from one DreamWorks executive that Crowe 'tried to rewrite the entire script', and that he also initially refused to say the famous line 'In this life or the next, I will have my vengeance'.

Crowe also implied to James Lipton in an episode of Inside The Actor's Studio that it was he who came up with the 'at my signal unleash hell' line.

BEVERLY HILLS, UNITED STATES:  US filmmakers of "The Gladiator" pose at the film's premiere (From L-R): executive Producer Walter Parkes, actor Joaquin Phoenix, actress Connie Nielsen, actor Djimon Hounsou, actor Russell Crowe, executive producer Laurie MacDonald, and producer Douglas Wick, in Beverly Hills, CA 01 May 2000.    (ELECTRONIC IMAGE)   AFP PHOTO/Lucy NICHOLSON/ln (Photo credit should read LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Producer Walter Parkes, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Crowe, executive producer Laurie MacDonald, and producer Douglas Wick in May 2000. (Credit: AFP Photo/Lucy Nicholson via Getty Images)

However, in a new interview with the film's producer Douglas Wick, via Cinemablend, Crowe's command of the script has been somewhat played down.

“First of all, I would say that’s greatly exaggerated,” said Wick.

“Russell created a brilliant Maximus. In retrospect, there’s no actor in the world that could have done that performance.

“Part of why the movie works is that Russell existed, he had done great work, he wasn’t a movie star. And the movie rode a rocket ship into space. So he was brilliant.

“There were great writers working on the script, certainly Russell constantly had a strong point of view of what Maximus would do and not do, but there wasn’t much improvisation.”

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A sequel to the multiple Oscar-winner (Best Picture and Best Actor for Crowe among them) has long been on the cards, despite the fate of Maximus, including a script by Nick Cave.

The plans are still afoot, with Wick saying in a separate interview last month: “Ridley would love to do it. It's really all about getting something on paper. Everyone [involved with the original] loves the movie too much to ever consider cheaply exploiting it and making something that's a shadow of it.

“It's just really a clear creative problem, working on a script, and if we can ever get it to a place. Ridley's working on it, it's really just a question of whether we can get it to a place where it feels worthy to make it. It's a real challenge.”

Plans for the sequel would pick up the story of Lucilla's son Lucius 25 to 30 years after the events of the first movie.