Russell Crowe has admitted that one of the ‘major story moments’ in Gladiator was made up on the night of filming.

Russell Crowe, 59, played gladiator Maximus Decimus Meridius in the 2000 blockbuster, for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. The scene can be seen here:

Ridley Scott’s critically praised historical drama also won Best Picture and a raft of other prizes, and it is largely recognized as one of the best films of the 2000s.

So you might be startled to find that, according to Russell Crowe, much of the film was made up on the fly.

During an interview with Vanity Fair, Russell Crowe revealed that before they began filming, they only had 21 pages of material agreed upon – for comparison, a typical script is between 103 and 110 pages long.

Russell Crowe explained that they were catching up by the time the actors and crew arrived at the film’s second location.

Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe

As a result, one of the film’s most famous moments was made up “on the night.”

Russell Crowe’s Maximus is fresh from battle and praying in the scene, his mind flashing back to his beloved wife and child.

Maximus is repeating his prayers with several candles and figures in front of him, one of which he picks up and kisses.

But these ‘trinkets’ were actually a late addition to the script, with Russell Crowe explaining: “Ridley wanted to shoot me doing this after battle prayer and amongst the trinkets on the shelf that the art department had left there, they had these little figurines.

“So I picked up these figurines and directed a prayer towards them as if they are my wife and child. That ends up becoming this huge story point, but that was created on the night.

“And there was an actor in the room there – playing Cicero – guy called Tommy Flanagan.

“He was booked as a day player for one day’s work and we shot that scene and Ridley was, like, ‘there’s something about those figurines we have to figure out… there’s something about that – so we had to hang onto that actor’.

“That led to Tommy Flanagan being flown to Malta for months… he was there for months.

“We still didn’t know what we were going to do but we knew we were going to come back to his character.

“And then as it turned out, we came up with the idea of him not only coming to see Maximus but bringing the figurines.”