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Russell Crowe’s real tiger encounter in Gladiator nearly ended badly

In order to make one of his best movies, Russell Crowe had to test his nerves against some real tigers. Gladiator was hardcore in front of the camera too.

Russell Crowe in Gladiator

Gladiator is undoubtedly one of the best 2000s movies and one of the best historical epics ever committed to the big screen. And for Russell Crowe, it also meant that he came face to face with one of the natural world’s apex predators.

The best movies often push for realism, and that was certainly the case in the scene pitting Maximus against the warrior Tigris of Gaul, and a load of actual tigers, in the Colosseum.

While a production like The Life of Pi mostly used CGI to bring its big cat character to life, director Ridley Scott opted for live critters on the set of Gladiator. And they came pretty close to one of the best actors of his generation.

Speaking to Variety, Scott said that the tiger Crowe had to interact with was “a big boy” and was around 11 feet from nose to tail.

“You’ve got two guys on a chain with a ring in the floor to control it. Russell said ‘OK, release them’ and when Russell would fall back, the tiger would come out of the hole and Russell would roll out of the way and he said: ‘Fuck me, that was close’. And I said: ‘We were there as well, Russell. Hey, you were two feet, I was like four feet’.”

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Crowe doesn’t seem to be scarred by his brush with dangerous animals though. He said: “It’s so beautiful, it’s so regal, and you’d love to be able to just pet them and cuddle them, but obviously that comes with inherent risk.”

There’s “inherent risk”, and then there’s the jaws of a 500-pound predator. Talk about underplaying.

The world of Ancient Rome is set to return to screens in the near future, with Ridley Scott directing a new movie as a follow-up to Gladiator. The Gladiator 2 release date is a while off, but Denzel Washington and Paul Mescal have already joined the cast. Crowe has confirmed that he won’t return as Maximus.

For some of the 2023 movies coming much sooner, we’ve got guides to the Oppenheimer release date and the Indiana Jones 5 release date. As for Crowe, check out our The Pope’s Exorcist review to see what he’s been up to recently and read about how he nearly played Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.