Joaquin Phoenix Really Bonded With Gladiator's Russell Crowe After River Phoenix's Death

Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe in Gladiator

Hollywood lost a rising talent in 1993 when River Phoenix passed away at the age of 23. His brother, Joaquin Phoenix, has gone on to become a prominent actor, with one of his early major roles being the main antagonist in Gladiator, Commodus, the embittered son of Marcus Aurelius who clashes with Russell Crowe’s Maximus Decimus Meridius.

It goes without saying that Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe spent a lot of time together during the making of Gladiator. However, besides just being colleagues, the two struck up a close friendship. This also happened at a time when people were still asking Phoenix about River, particularly in comparison to the relationship between Commodus and Maximus, with Crowe recently recalling:

There were a lot of people in that strange journalistic habit who wanted to just poke that fire and kept asking Joaquin about his brother and then about his relationship with me because we have that in the film. At one point, we were doing some press conference and he just said something along the lines of, ‘Look, Russell treated me like a brother’ and it just hit me in a really heavy way.

One can certainly understand why Russell Crowe was touched by Joaquin Phoenix’s statement, as well as why Joaquin Phoenix got tired about being asked about his late brother, who had passed away seven years before Gladiator hit theaters. River Phoenix was arguably best known for playing Chris Chambers in Stand By Me and young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as earning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as Mike Waters in My Own Private Idaho.

Following their time together on Gladiator, Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe departed down different professional paths, but evidently their tight dynamic is still intact whenever they reunite. Continuing in his conversation with Variety, Crowe said:

The last time we got together we had just bumped into each other in a corridor and it was then followed by six or seven hours of just throwing away whatever it was we were supposed to do that day and just being in each other’s company.

Besides being the site where Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe’s friendship was born, Gladiator also ended up being one of 2000’s most successful movies. Commercially, it walked away with over $460 million worldwide off a $103 million budget, and it shined even brighter with regard to critical reception. The Ridley Scott-directed picture walked away with numerous accolades, such as winning five Academy Awards (with Crowe taking home the Best Actor trophy) and being nominated in seven other categories (including Phoenix for Best Supporting Actor).

Gladiator 2 is in the works, with the plan being to jump forward 25-30 years later. However, the plan is for the sequel to focus on Lucius Verus, the son of Connie Nielsen’s Lucilla and nephew of Commodus who was just a boy during the events of the first movie. As for Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe, the former most recently earned an Academy Award for Best Actor for his turn as Arthur Fleck in Joker, while Russell Crowe can currently be seen playing Harry Power in True History of the Kelly Gang.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Gladiator is available for purchase on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, and it'll be released on Limited Edition 4K Blu-ray Steelbook on June 16. Keep checking back with CinemaBlend for all the latest and greatest in movie news, and be sure to look through our 2020 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.