Russell Crowe Thought the Original ‘Gladiator’ Script Was ‘So Bad’

Russell Crowe has delivered a number of unforgettable performances over the course of his career, but few compare to Gladiator.

The film was extremely successful and earned numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor for Crowe’s performance. 

Yet, despite all the accolades the film received after the fact, Crowe himself wasn’t too impressed by the Gladiator script when he first read it.

Russell Crowe wasn’t impressed by the ‘Gladiator’ script

Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe on ‘The Late Show’ | CBS via Getty Images

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Crowe revealed his initial reaction to the script during a 2020 chat with Jimmy Fallon.

“See, Gladiator kind of is a unique experience, because the script that they had was so bad,” Crowe admitted. “It was just so bad, you know? It was like, ‘Ok, umm…’”

He took a meeting with Ridley Scott after a bit of coaxing

Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the script, Crowe decided to meet with director Ridley Scott at the request of the film’s producer. 

“But, the producer didn’t know I’d actually been able to get a copy,” Crowe said. “But the thing he said is, ‘I don’t want to send you the document we have, because you won’t respond to it.’ He said, ‘But I want to encourage you to have a meeting with Ridley Scott. And here’s the thing that 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.’”

Ridley Scott made a big impression on Russell Crowe

Crowe’s opinion of the film changed shortly after meeting with Scott, who had a very specific vision for how he was going to create the film. 

“So I went to see Ridley, and he was so prepared,” Crowe continued. “And he was so prepared on the things that he could show me and the visual images and the mathematics of how he was going to not have to build an entire coliseum, yet still shoot the coliseum. And we just clicked on that first meeting. So, you know, there was a little—it was definitely a bit of risk involved in it at the time, you know?”

Russell Crowe had a good feeling about ‘Gladiator’ after filming

After working on the film up-close, Crowe had a feeling the film was going to be a success, although he didn’t at first.

“Not on day one, man,” Crowe said. “But you know, by the time I was leaving the set, I definitely felt—the collective energy of that cast was fantastic, you know? And you sit back and you think about who was actually in that movie.”

Crowe himself believes that a big reason Gladiator was so successful is that every actor in the movie delivers powerful, believable performances. 

“It was like one of those things … Nobody was going around winking at the camera … Nobody was going around doing that sort of performance where you give the audience the knowledge that you’re in a funny costume … Everybody just lived in that world that Ridley created,” Crowe said.