Some actors show up on the screen and you just know they’re a fucking badass. They don’t need to smoke, they don’t need to fight, they don’t even need to fucking talk. They just ARE awesome incarnate. Robert Mitchum, for instance. Or Robert Shaw. Or Roberts, Eric.
And then, there are actors who show up thinking they’re pretty tough but wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight. They need to work out, they need to be bullies, they need to smoke, and they need screenwriters to copy and paste all the chest hair their mothers forgot to give them. Otherwise, we’d all know about the pumice rock they rub their feet with each night and the vegan diet they follow to keep the love handles in check.
I could spend all day listing names of dudes who belong in this latter category since that’s the only kind of actor we ever seem to get anymore. Or, even better, I could just go directly to the source and say RUSSEL CROW. This guy can punch me in the face all he wants, he will always be the biggest pussy I’ve ever met.
That was my opinion, anyway, after working with him on 3:10 to Yuma (back when he called himself “Fighter Crow”), a film he hijacked with a highjacking machine gassed up with Star-Power and Unicorn tears. And what’d he do once my film was highjacked into his soft, puffy hands? He shoved it down a sentimentality tube along with some pink roses and the five quarts of Haagen Daaz ice cream he keeps around for “you look fat” crying emergencies. When I walked away from that travesty, I thought my days with Fighter Crow were over.
But that’s not how things shook out. This is just proof that no one is safe in Hollywood; sometimes she takes giant shits on even her favorite son…and by that I’m referring to myself, not Jim Carrey or Liza Minelli.
One night while high on a drug called WesternHercules (this is a screenwriting drug derived from Walter Hill’s sweat and only given to his friends. Trust me, if your buddy says he’s got some, it’s from Joe Eszterhas semen and you don’t want that.) I wrote the best screenplay I’d written since The Warriors II: Ajax on Pa(t)rol(e) (still un-produced). It was called Gladiator.
The premise was simple (60% of how awesome happens). You have this guy who is a total badass. The guy’s king kills his family then makes him fight one guy after another, each bigger than the last, until finally he takes on the king himself. After ripping out the king’s heart and eating it, he wills himself into a giant fireball and meets up with his with slain son and wife in Hell, who greet him with a nice frosty mug filled with Oatmeal Stout.
What made Gladiator special was the setting. We know that every advanced culture eventually develops their own WWF. And no culture’s WWF was more badass than the Roman WWF. They had the Colosseum. And when you got bored watching man-on-man action they’d throw a chariot in the mix. Or a cheetah. Or an orangutang. So Gladiator took place in Ancient Rome, and instead of being betrayed by a “king” our hero is betrayed by a “caesar” which I believe is Romaine for “king”.
Sounds great right? Well, stupid bitch Hollywood said I couldn’t make the movie unless it had a bankable movie star in it. And as I said before, we haven’t had too many of those since Kris Kristofferson died. In a fit of desperation I nominated Jason Statham, but they shot me down and stuck me with Crowdog.
Things started falling apart immediately. First, Crowbag hires his good buddy, Hairlip Arizona, to play the Caesar. In my mind the Caesar was supposed to be an opposing force, a fellow badass. That way, when they fought, the awesome would be all built up. Instead, we have this indie-rock fembot with a split face doing mean shit then hiding behind his untouchable crown. He may very well be the most cowardly villain in the whole forty-year history of cinema. This creates a problem for the film because when the hero finally gets his revenge, there’s no way to kill the Caesar hard enough to satisfy anyone. In retrospect, Gladiator is kind of an endorsement for torture. Watch it again. Tell me you wouldn’t torture the shit out of that wet turd of a Caesar. Tell me you wouldn’t call Caligula over for advice.
Next, Crowbar made every female character in the film fall in love with him. He even gives himself a surrogate son to play catch with. And yet there’s no sex scene. Has Crowmagnum ever kissed a girl on screen? Anyway, this is a movie where a badass gets revenge for his slaughtered family. Why in the fuck would we want to dilute that motivation by giving him a whole new family to hang out with? I sometimes wonder if Crowlaws made my movie retarded on purpose just to better his chances at an Oscar.
And finally, while on set Crow killed the only badass left on Earth, Oliver Reed. How did he do it? In between takes, Reed complained about being thirsty. Fucking Crow said, “Here ya go mate!” and handed him a bottle of water. WATER! You do NOT feed Oliver Reed water. It caused all the dormant party bacteria inside him to grow instantly, and he exploded. Fucking Russell Crow, man!
So what works? Well, there’s a cool war scene at the beginning where Romans fight Russians or Germans or somebody. In the script they’re actually just fighting pissed off bears, but that got changed to a bunch of assholes dressed like bears. Why? Russell Escrow is ascared of bears.
The whole middle part of the film is okay because that’s where our hero fights the shit out of stuff. He kills fiery chariots, cheetahs, and orangoutangs galore. The bigger and badder bad guys come in waves, so it’s sort of like 300 except that there are 299 less.
I don’t watch this film. I didn’t even watch it while editing. When it won best picture I went to Vegas and really got nuts because I finally knew for certain that there was no guiding force in this world but stupidity.”If you could beat the house, there wouldn’t be a house. If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. If you can’t join ‘em, kill ‘em with kindness.” This is our morning prayer at the church I started. If you felt lost in your own country when Gladiator won an Academy Award or when G-dub Bush got re-elected or when boy bands resurfaced, come on in.