He and Ridley Scott may regret their high minded stance come Oscar night, says Justine Elias

By Justine Elias
Updated March 19, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Gladiator: Jaap Buitendijk

Gladiator (2000 movie)

  • Movie

Why wasn’t Russell Crowe naked in ”Gladiator”?

If ”Gladiator” doesn’t end up winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Ridley Scott doesn’t pick up the prize for Best Director, I know why. Yes, the movie is a triumph of ”they don’t make ’em like that anymore” technical filmmaking, a thrilling, emotionally stirring, and bloodthirsty spectacle about a peaceful farmer’s ”Billy Jack” like struggle against the righteous urge to Just Go Berserk. (And it doesn’t hurt that ”Gladiator” grossed $186 million domestically, either.)

But if ”Gladiator” and Scott don’t win, it’ll be for one simple reason: Russell Crowe doesn’t get naked in a hot sex scene.

Crowe claims ”certain people involved in the production” of ”Gladiator” (meaning studio execs) tried to turn Maximus into a Maximum Love God and — well, let’s let him tell it: ”They wanted a love scene between Maximus and Lucilla [Connie Nielsen]. I mean, they were absolutely dead set certain that was the best thing to do, that Lucilla comes into the prison, and I’m all chained up. You know, she whips my gear off, and Bob’s your uncle. The thing is, you’re dealing with the emphasized honor of this man, and his need to avenge the death of his wife and son, so he’s not going to stop and have some f—–‘ nookie, halfway along the line, is he? You know, you’re completely undermining the character.”

Crowe, who said this to reporters while publicizing ”Proof of Life,” didn’t name names, but he implied that it was mainly he and director Ridley Scott who stood firm in keeping a proposed sex scene out of the movie. I suppose there are those who will applaud Crowe and Scott for standing up to the Hollywood Philistines who would have liked to see ”Gladiator” turned into some kind of cheap, prurient, sexualized spectacle. But I’m not one of them.

”Gladiator” is set in Ancient Rome, and from the first ”Cleopatra” to ”Spartacus” to ”Ben-Hur” to the cheesiest sword and sandal flick, the words ”When in Rome” have been Hollywood’s invitation to provide ornate, violent, scantily clad entertainments. Though ”Gladiator”’s more in line with ”The Fall of the Roman Empire” than Steve Reeves, once you’ve taken Maximus beyond Thunderdome, as Ridley Scott does, with an array of bloody battles, vivid decapitations, and honest to God spectacles of death, you might as well throw in a sex scene to pacify the roiling, paying audiences — who, by the way, include me. Twice. Or at the very least, include this rumored scene on the DVD. In fact, I wonder if Oscar voters (who probably cast their ballot based on the ”Gladiator” DVD rather than on an Academy screening) are wondering about what might have been. Might they feel as cheated as I do?

Fortunately, though, some of Crowe’s early, nakeder performances in Australian films are now getting proper distribution on home video and DVD. There’s ”Hammers Over the Anvil,” a 1991 romance about a horsebreaker and breeder (Crowe) and a hot to trot older married woman (Charlotte Rampling) who’d like to get her, ahem, mare knocked up. (”Anvil”s told through the eyes of a young boy, an aspiring novelist, and the symbolism is often painfully obvious.) In the movie’s opening scene — now notorious, thanks to fan sites — a stark naked Crowe rides bareback across a river. All I can say is, that’s the kind of acting that takes more than confidence. If Crowe doesn’t bring home an Oscar, my guess is, Academy voters haven’t yet seen ”Hammers Over the Anvil.” Or if they have, they’re extremely jealous.

Read All About Oscar 2001 for EW.com’s comprehensive Academy Awards coverage.

Or see photos from the nominated movies at People.com

Gladiator (2000 movie)

  • Movie
  • R
  • 154 minutes
  • Ridley Scott