Making movies is a lot more complex than putting actors in front of a camera and making them spout monologues. The environment around the set needs to be carefully controlled to service the film, and that is even more difficult while shooting outdoors. In a recent interview, actor Russell Crowe revealed his iconic speech in the Ridley Scott-directed 2000 blockbuster Gladiator was almost ruined because of his hair.
"That helmet was full of static electricity and every time I took it off the hairs on the top of my head stood up. I tried doing it slowly, I tried doing it fast, but every time two hairs stand up like I'm a f**king Teletubby. So, [director Ridley Scott] solves it by going into a massive close-up, when I turn to face Commodus - it's just forehead and chin and out of frame you can't see the Teletubby hair wiggling in the wind."
The scene in question takes place near the middle of the movie. Russell Crowe, playing a loyal army general turned slave-gladiator, stands in the middle of the battle arena, and in front of the cheering crowds, takes off his helmet. He then stares up at the new king, played by Joaquin Pheonix, and identifies himself, swearing that he will get vengeance for the murder of his family.
It is a chill-inducing moment, made all the more epic by Crowe's acting, which nabbed him a best actor Oscar for the movie. And to think the awesome gravitas of that scene could all have gone to waste if the camera had panned slightly up to show Crowe's hair waving merrily in the wind.
Crowe and the rest of the cast describe their entire time on the sets of Gladiator as essentially one long fight to solve one logistical problem after another. Nowadays, the entire movie could probably be made by sticking the actors in front of a green screen, like the Hobbit trilogy. But Ridley Scott don't play that way.
The scale and complexity of the production was also a stress-inducer for Joaquin Phoenix, and Crowe recalls sitting him down for multiple pints of beer in order to calm him down and get him ready for the shoot. And it worked. That was the film that put Phoenix on the map. Despite playing an irredeemable madman who murdered his father and tried to get freaky with his sister, the actor managed to add great nuance to the character that made him an audience favorite.
Almost exactly two decades later, Phoenix would pull off the same trick with Joker, this time nabbing the best actor Oscar for playing the clown psychopath. Meanwhile, Russell Crowe's own brush with the comic book world was limited to turning down an offer to play Wolverine in the first X-Men movie, and playing Jor-El in Man of Steel. It's fun to look back on Gladiator now, and see the clear signs of greatness in both the lead actor's performances which have served them so well throughout their careers. This news comes from DigitalSpy.