How Russell Crowe Made Sure His Dying Uncle Got to See ‘Gladiator’

Gladiator celebrated its 20th anniversary on May 5, 2020. To commemorate the Oscar winning movie, Paramount released a new 4K/Blu-ray steelbook anniversary edition. Russell Crowe played Maximus, a Roman General forced into arena combat by Caesar Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Commodus’s plan backfires when Maximum wins hearts and minds in the arena, and of his sister Luclla (Connie Nielsen). 

Russell Crowe vs. tiger | Universal/Getty Images

The latest edition of Gladiator comes with hours and hours of bonus features collected from all the past editions. There are some real gems to discover in the set, including this touching story Crowe tells at a Q&A with an audience. 

Russell Crowe lost his uncle right when ‘Gladiator’ came out

Crowe’s uncle was the New Zealand cricket player Dave Crowe. When the audience asked Crowe who his heroes were, Crowe chose his uncle.

Russell Crowe | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

“My uncle Dave actually,” Crowe said at the Q&A some time in 2001. “He died last year, 66 years old. He was a great man.”

‘Gladiator’ was the last Russell Crowe movie Dave Crowe saw

By the end of Dave’s life, it was clear he was not going to make it to see Gladiator. If it opened May 5, 2000 in the U.S., it would take months more to travel the world. Russell used his clout to make sure Uncle Dave got to see it. 

Russell Crowe | Universal/Getty Images

“We got the opportunity, and Dreamworks did this actually, because we were doing press stuff,” Crowe said. “His daughter, Debbie, rang. She said, ‘He’s really, really sick.’ New Zealand didn’t release Gladiator ‘til months later. I said if they would give me a print that I could screen for my uncle in New Zealand, then I would fly to Australia and do press in Australia. So we did the deal and Dreamworks and Universal got together and that’s what we did.”

The ‘Gladiator’ screening really perked up Dave Crowe

Crowe goes on to describe how the day he showed Gladiator to his uncle really perked up his final days. 

“So I got to go to Auckland and he hadn’t spent more than like an hour and a half or two hours awake for about 10 days by then,” Crowe said. “So I got to go to Auckland and screen the film and he’d come to Malta while we were shooting so he had a real personal connection to it. I got to screen the movie for him and he stayed awake like 14 hours that day. Everybody in the family was just amazed.”

What uncle Dave thought of nephew Russell Crowe’s movie

If you watch more of the Russell Crowe Q&A you’ll see him sarcastically interact with the audience. Apparently, he got that from his uncle.

Connie Nielsen abd Russell Crowe | Universal/Getty Images

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“To prove what a cheeky bastard he is… I’m sitting next to him, I’m telling him I love him and stuff,” Crowe said. “My grandmother’s name is Lois. She died a long, long time ago. I’m sitting next to him and he goes, ‘That was a good movie. I’m going to tell Lois. Do you know where she lives?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh.’ I went to talk and he goes, ‘No, I’ll see her before you do.’ He was a cracker, an absolute cracker.”