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Russell Crowe got Joaquin Phoenix drunk to calm him down for Gladiator

Joaquin Phoenix was feeling nervous during Gladiator, so Russell Crowe and Richard Harris decided to get their co-star drunk on Guinness

Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator

Making the best movies can be tough. During Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Joaquin Phoenix as having a hard time with it, overthinking his performance for the epic drama movie. His co-stars knew they had to calm him down, so they did it the old-fashioned way – with a few pints.

Russell Crowe explained that it wasn’t totally his idea. “It was actually Richard Harris’s idea because Joaquin was very nervous on the set and I went to Richard and said, ;Mate, what are we gonna do with this kid, he’s asking me to abuse him before takes’,” Crowe says in a 2001 interview. “So Richard says, ‘Let’s get him pissed’.”

The beverage of choice? Some Irish plain to settle what ails you. “We talked about how he requires an external force to get him into the moment and through a number of hours and a number of cans of Guinness, I got the point across to him that it’s actually an internal journey and everything he needs to do with the character lives within him,” Crowe explained.

Phoenix played Commodus in the film, the antagonist who wants to be emperor of Rome and tries to have Russell Crowe’s Maximus Decimus Meridius killed. It doesn’t work, and Maximus becomes a champion gladiator who works his way to face Commodus.

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They’re both intense parts in an intense feature, so we can see why Phoenix was feeling daunted. That said, asking people to hurt you in between takes isn’t going to help anyone. Phoenix was hired because of what he could bring to the part, and as Crowe said, everyone’s better off if that journey is introspective.

Anyway, none of it hurt Gladiator’s prospects since it made a killing at the box office and won several Academy Awards. Is there anything Guinness can’t do?