Russell Crowe Says Original ‘Gladiator’ Script Was ‘So Bad’ (Video)

“It’s 180 A.D. You’re a Roman general. And you’re being directed by Ridley Scott,” actor says about when he finally came around

Russell Crowe was not entertained by the first script for “Gladiator,” telling Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday that he almost didn’t do the Best Picture-film because the original draft was “so bad.”

“‘Gladiator’ was a unique experience because the script that they had was so bad — it was just so bad,” Crowe said on “The Tonight Show.” He didn’t elaborate on just what was missing from it, but he did explain how he eventually came around.

“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,” Crowe recalled. “‘And here’s the thing I want you to think about: It’s 180 A.D. You’re a Roman general. And you’re being directed by Ridley Scott.’ Just think about that!”

Crowe described that Scott, who had already directed “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “Thelma & Louise” up to that point to name a few, had demonstrated to him the “mathematics” of how to shoot the entire Colosseum without building the whole replica and filling in the rest with CGI. And though he didn’t know the hit it would be at the time, he left the “Gladiator” set knowing it could be something great.

“Not on Day One man, but by the time I was leaving the set, I definitely felt, the collective energy of that cast was fantastic,” “Everybody bought into it…Nobody was going around winking at the camera, doing that sort of performance where you give the audience the knowledge that you understand you’re in a funny costume.”

Crowe praised the entire “Gladiator” cast and said Connie Nielsen gave a “career best” performance and that Joaquin Phoenix’s strength was in “smashing open anyone’s assumptions of what a character like that can be.”

20 years removed from the film, Crowe says whenever he sits with Scott to discuss “Gladiator,” he says the two laugh at how much they managed to get away with.

“Ridley’s attitude is, ‘How many bullets did we dodge in one movie? Not only that it came out and was successful, but that it came out, it was the best film! It won the Oscar,” he said.

Crowe alluded that he was similarly hesitant about his latest film “Unhinged,” in which he plays a man hellbent on getting revenge after a woman honks at him in a common act of road rage.

“It’s one of those films that on the surface seems to be a particular type of genre movie or whatever, but it also has extreme resonance for the time we find ourselves in. We seem to have gotten to a point in history for people who have differing views to have a polite conversation,” Crowe said.

“Unhinged” opens in theaters from Solstice Studios July 10. Check out Crowe’s interview with Fallon above.

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