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Russell Crowe was nearly mauled by a tiger as he filmed one of Gladiator’s most iconic battle scenes.

As the Roman epic celebrates its 20th anniversary, director Ridley Scott revealed the actor suffered a few close calls as he filmed a scene when his character Maximus Decimus Meridius faced off with the furry predator.

Gladiator tells the tale of Roman General Maximus determined to avenge his family’s murder by fighting in the arena, and is renowned as one of the greatest historical films in history.

Ridley – who received an Oscar nomination for helming the film – told Variety that Russell went head-to-head with a real tiger during one arena scene.

He said: ‘[The tiger was] a big boy from tail to nose, eleven feet. 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, ”F— me, that was close.”

‘And I said, ”We were there as well, Russell. Hey, you were two feet, I was like four feet.”

Gladiator’s production was also tinged by tragedy, when star Oliver Reed – who played Proximo – died of a heart attack during filming after years of battling alcoholism.

His scenes were completed with the help of CGI, and a last-minute story change meaning his character was killed.

Oliver was posthumously nominated for a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the historical classic.

Gladiator is still renowned as one of the greatest films in history, and won five Academy Awards including Best Picture, and Best Actor for Russell himself.

The film boasted a star-studded cast, including Joaquin Phoenix who played the ruthless Commodus who declares himself Emperor after murdering his father.

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