On Wednesday’s episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Russell Crowe recalled reading a script that was “just so bad” he hesitated to agree to the project. That project was Ridley Scott’s historical epic Gladiator, which would go on to win Best Picture and Best Actor for Crowe at the Academy Awards.

As it turns out, Gladiator on paper had nothing to do with Crowe’s acceptance of the role. Rather, Crowe chalked it up to the experience he had meeting with Scott about the film:

‘Gladiator' was a unique experience because the script that they had was so bad — it was just so bad ... The producer didn’t know I was able to get a copy, but the thing he said was, ‘I don't want to send you the document we have because you won't respond to it. But I want to encourage you to have a meeting with (director) Ridley Scott. And here's the thing I want you to think about: It’s 180 A.D. You’re a Roman general. And you're being directed by Ridley Scott.’

Crowe went on to explain that although he was “afraid of” the initial script, he and Scott clicked so much during their meeting that he had to be a part of it. Watch the entire segment below:

What a lesson to never judge a script based on first appearances. Gladiator was the second-highest grossing film of 2000 (Mission: Impossible 2 was the first). In addition to its five Oscar wins, Gladiator received four BAFTA Awards in the United Kingdom. Not bad for a movie whose original screenplay was a total mess.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

Gallery — Best Picture Winners Everyone Should See: