Ridley Scott’s Gladiator might be 20 years old, but that hasn’t stopped people from talking about the epic flick. The film earned Russell Crowe his first and only Academy Award, and for two decades it had been rumored that he had a heavy hand in writing the script. It turns out that’s just not the case, according to Gladiator producer Douglas Wick. Despite the script for Gladiator being choppy and not complete when Crowe signed on, he didn’t necessarily come to the rescue.
Wick recently caught up with Cinema Blend and set the record straight about these rumors. When the film was being promoted in 2000, a Dreamworks executive told Time Magazine that Crowe had been stubborn with the script, saying he tried to rewrite the entire thing on the spot. The Nice Guys actor had noted in the past that the script wasn’t great when he signed on and made a couple of improvements and improvisations along the way. But did he basically re-write the script? No, says Wick.
“First of all, I would say that’s greatly exaggerated. 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.”
While appearing on Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton back in 2004, Crowe mentioned which lines were improvisations, some of which are some of the film’s most iconic moments. Over the years, the story morphed into him changing so much of the dialogue, despite himself never saying so. The Cinderella Man actor did improvise “strength and honor” as well as “At my signal, unleash hell.”
Any Gladiator fanatic can finish those lines the moment the first few words are uttered, and while they are the work of Crowe, most of the script came purely from writers David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson.
Crowe allegedly also wrote the speech where he compares the color of his wife’s hair to the soil on his farm. Apparently, at that time in 2000, Crowe was missing his wife and home, and the speech came to him easily as he was feeling the same things as his character.
Wick has also spoken out in the past about the Gladiator sequel and why it was risky to attempt something of that nature. Luckily, it’s been scrapped and fans can hold tight to the original.