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Gladiator (2000) Poster

(2000)

Trivia

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Joaquin Phoenix ad-libbed his scream of "Am I not merciful?" Connie Nielsen wasn't expecting it, and her frightened reaction was genuine.
Maximus' description of his home--specifically, how the kitchen is arranged and smells in the morning and at night--was ad-libbed. It's a description of Russell Crowe's own home in Australia.
Five tigers were used in the scene where Maximus fights Tigris the Gaul in the arena. A veterinarian armed with tranquilizer darts was present the entire time of this scene's shooting. For safety's sake, Russell Crowe was kept at least 15 feet away from the tigers.
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Connie Nielsen found the 2,000-year-old signet ring she wears in the movie in an antique store.
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Hans Zimmer's score is one of the bestselling movie soundtracks of all time.
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Oliver Reed died three weeks before principal photography ended. Because Proximo was considered a key character, a clause in the movie's insurance contract would have allowed the filmmakers to re-shoot all of Reed's scenes with another actor at the insurer's expense, about $25 million. However, most of the actors and crew were exhausted from the punishing schedule, and Ridley Scott did not want to cut Reed from the movie. The script was rewritten, and a body double and CGI were used to give Reed's character a plausible resolution.
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The wounds on Russell Crowe's face after the opening battle scene are real, caused when his horse startled and backed him into tree branches. The stitches in his cheek are clearly visible when he is telling Commodus he intends to return home.
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Originally, Maximus was supposed to fight Proximo in the Colosseum after being captured, probably as a penultimate blow from Commodus. Oliver Reed's death forced a re-write.
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It is a common misconception that a Roman emperor put his thumb upwards to signify that a gladiator was to be spared, whereas thumb down meant that there would be no mercy for a downed gladiator. In reality, this gesturing was the other way around: thumb up symbolized a sword action (and thus death), and thumb down a sheathed sword (mercy). The crew was aware of this while making the movie, but since "thumbs up" is considered to be a good sign nowadays, they decided not to unnecessarily confuse the audience.
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This is Russell Crowe's favorite of any American movie that he has done. He also cites Maximus as his favorite role.
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Russell Crowe became good friends with Richard Harris during filming, a friendship that unfortunately lasted only a few years until Harris' death in 2002. Oliver Reed, on the other hand, took an instant dislike to Crowe, despite Reed's being good friends with Harris. At one point, Reed even challenged Crowe to a fight.
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Although Commodus was initially favored by the Roman people, he lost that status through dramatic acts of megalomania. He is often considered the initiator of the fall of Rome. During his reign, he incorporated his name into many common terms, such as the terms for money and the people. Eventually, the citizens and the Senate had enough of his rule: he was poisoned and, when he vomited out the poison, he was strangled. Afterward, the Senate returned the language to what it had been before Commodus, and the many statues of himself he'd put up were taken down.
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The opening battle scene was filmed in Bourne Woods, Surrey, England. The Royal Forestry Commission had originally slated the area for deforestation, so Ridley Scott eagerly offered them his facilities to burn the woods to the ground. The Commission happily accepted.
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Mel Gibson was offered the lead role, and turned it down. At 43, he felt he was too old to play Maximus.
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From the outset, Ridley Scott made it quite clear that this "sword and sandals" movie would not feature any of the genre's clichés of people lounging around eating grapes and drinking from goblets. He intended to create a more realistic vision of ancient Rome.
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Many of the animals were loaned to the production from the zoo in Rabat, Morocco, as a way of getting around the country's strict animal importation rules.
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Over the course of the gladiatorial scenes, Russell Crowe lost all feeling in his right forefinger for two years after a sword fight, aggravated an Achilles tendon injury, broke a foot bone, cracked a hip bone, and popped a few bicep tendons out of their sockets.
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Maximus's tattoo "SPQR" stands for "Senatus Populusque Romanus," which translates to "The Senate and the Roman People". This was one of the main slogans of Rome throughout its history, and can still be seen in modern times on manhole covers.
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A surprising fount of information in terms of Roman history was Connie Nielsen, who has always been fascinated by the period. She would be frequently consulted over accurate historical details.
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The Germania battle sequence took 20 days to complete.
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Crowd scenes in the Colosseum used real-life extras, digital extras, and 400 cardboard cut-outs of spectators.
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Russell Crowe explained why he said yes to the movie: "They said, 'It's a $100 million film. You're being directed by Ridley Scott. You play a Roman General.' I've always been a big fan of Ridley's."
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Jack Gleeson modelled his character Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones (2011) after Emperor Commodus.
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Joaquin Phoenix was always Ridley Scott's first choice to play Commodus.
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Costume designer Janty Yates and her team created more than 10,000 costumes for the cast and extras.
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The blur effect that appears halfway through the war scene between Maximus' Army and the Germanic tribes was not originally intended. The scene was shot in the early evening, but continued too long, and the light was drastically diminished. In order to keep the continuity of the scene's lighting, and avoid shooting another day on the location, director of photography John Mathieson chose instead to shoot the scenes with a very low frame rate. To compensate for the loss of frames, the frames that were shot were duplicated several times in post-production, and edited into the film in a way that made the switch look natural.
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Giannina Facio (the wife of Maximus) married Ridley Scott, in 2015.
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In the iconic shot of Maximus' hand brushing the stalks of wheat, the hand actually belongs to Russell Crowe's stunt double, Stuart Clark (credited as Stuart Clarke).
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Editor Pietro Scalia added the shot of Maximus moving through a wheat field to the beginning of the movie. It had been filmed for the ending.
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William Nicholson had thought that his time on the movie was over when he returned home to England, only to receive a phone call almost immediately, telling him that Oliver Reed had just died, and that he needed to return to Malta to re-work the script. Nicholson jumped on the first plane out.
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Like modern day athletes, ancient Roman gladiators did product endorsements. The producers considered including this in the script, but discarded the idea as unbelievable.
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On visiting the real Colosseum, Ridley Scott remarked to production designer Arthur Max that it was "too small", so they designed an outsized "Rome of the imagination", which was inspired by English and French romantic painters, as well as Nazi architect Albert Speer.
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Russell Crowe began shooting this movie a few months after The Insider (1999) wrapped. He'd gained more than 40 pounds for his previous movie, and lost it all before this one. He claims he did nothing special, besides normal work on his Australian farm.
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Oliver Reed's main motivation for taking the part of Proximo was because he fancied a "free trip to London to see a couple of shows."
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Joaquin Phoenix was incredibly nervous on-set, and would ask Russell Crowe to rough him up before their big scene together, so he could psyche himself up. Crowe was at a loss, and went to Richard Harris for advice. "Mate, what are we going to do with this kid, he's asking me to abuse him before takes", he said. Harris thought for a while and then replied, "Let's get him pissed". Over the course of several hours, and several pints of Guinness later, Crowe and Harris relaxed their co-star.
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A central part of this movie's main battle theme was re-used nearly identically in the famous score of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).
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Maximus' pet wolf is played by Kyte, a female Tervuren Belgian Shepherd. The production couldn't use real wolves because England's strict anti-rabies laws prevented them from importing wolves. Kyte also appeared in the British soap opera EastEnders (1985) for seven years, as a male Tervuren named Wellard.
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Due to Academy regulations at the time, co-composer Lisa Gerrard was denied an Oscar nomination while Hans Zimmer received one, which created a huge controversy over the Academy's snubbing of Gerrard from the nomination. The two, however, did win the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score - Motion Picture as co-composers.
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When Commodus goes with Lucius to meet Maximus at the Colosseum, he tells Maximus that Lucius insists Maximus is Hector reborn. Then Commodus asks Lucius, "Or was it Hercules?" The real emperor Commodus believed *he* was Hercules reborn.
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Oliver Reed insisted to Ridley Scott that his life was his own after five o'clock. Scott readily agreed to that.
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Oliver Reed was asked to read for the part of Proximo, something he always refused to do. However, as he sensed that this was a great opportunity, Reed relented his usual rule, and read for Ridley Scott.
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The tigers enter the arena via trap doors in the wooden floor. In at least one shot, the gladiators rise up to the floor via a kind of elevator. Both elevators (operated by winch and pulley) and trapdoors were actually used at the Colosseum in Rome.
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Luciano Pavarotti was asked to perform on the soundtrack and turned down the opportunity, something he later regretted.
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Hans Zimmer originally wanted Israeli vocalist Ofra Haza to provide the background vocals to his score, having worked successfully with her on The Prince of Egypt (1998). However, she died unexpectedly in 2000, of A.I.D.S.-related pneumonia, so Lisa Gerrard was drafted instead.
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Russell Crowe was continually unhappy with the screenplay, re-writing much of it to suit his own ends. He would frequently walk off the set if he didn't get his way. The famous line "And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next." he initially refused to say, telling screenwriter William Nicholson, "Your lines are garbage, but I'm the greatest actor in the world, and I can make even garbage sound good". He said the speech anyway, because he was unable to ad-lib anything better. Nicholson said, "In his defense, my lines probably were garbage."
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David Hemmings' pointed eyebrows were his own.
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While looking at the dailies, Ridley Scott noticed that Joaquin Phoenix was gaining weight. Scott spoke to the line producer about it, who then went to Phoenix and told him, "Ridley says you're fat." The next day, Phoenix, in full armor, came to Scott and said, "I hear I look like a little fat hamster. I thought it was the right thing to do. I'm the Emperor of Rome, why would I not look a little more debauched?" Phoenix then didn't eat for weeks.
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The real-life Commodus was born to a mother who was rumored to have either slept with a Gladiator or had bathed in the blood of one. Many took the myth as legend, believing that such led to the resulting "Gladiator Emperor".
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Sir Richard Harris would frequently ignore any newly re-written scenes, as he couldn't be bothered to relearn his lines.
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Over 27,000 pieces of armor were made specially for this movie.
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In the original drafts of the script, the name of the main character was not Maximus, but Narcissus, the name of the man who killed Commodus in real life.
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It was Michael Winner who persuaded Oliver Reed to audition for this movie. While working on their last collaboration, Parting Shots (1998), Reed complained, "I can't believe it, Ridley Scott wants me to go and read for him. But I'm a star." Winner replied, "Oliver, don't fuck with me. You're not a fucking star. You're out of work, and you're not old enough to retire, so you need a third act to your career. Obviously, they think if you're working with me, you can't be as drunk as people think you are. So go to Ridley and read. End of story, Oliver, and if he wants you to read twice, read twice."
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Screenwriter David Franzoni started developing the story in the 1970s, when he read "Those Who Are About To Die", a history of the Roman games by Daniel P. Mannix. Franzoni later discussed the idea with Steven Spielberg during their work on Amistad (1997), saying that he envisioned Commodus as being something like Ted Turner, in the way he combined politics and entertainment to establish a base of influence.
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During the opening battle, we see Roman soldiers marching to meet the barbarians in open combat with their pilas (javelins) in hand as if they were spears. In reality, they were thrown at the enemy before the two sides would meet. Pila (plural for pilum) were too fragile to be used as spears, because the main tip was designed to break and bend after contact, to disallow the enemy to throw them back at the legionnaires.
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According to Ridley Scott, scenes where Maximus picks up a piece of dirt and smells it before a battle, signifies mortality and the possibility that he could die there and return to the soil/earth he occupies at that moment. Scott further mentions that it could also denote a kind of good luck charm or talisman that Maximus uses to evade death. It also relates to the fact that Maximus, who is a farmer, tries to remember his farming life and wife and child every time he picks up a piece of the earth.
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The short sword used by the Roman army, the Gladius Hispaniensis, is seen being used by many gladiators in the movie. The version used in the arena in the movie is accurate as depicted. It was often shorter than the military version. The use of the gladius is actually the source of the word "gladiator". In Latin, Gladius was also a common word for penis. Equally, the word vagina originally meant "sheath".
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This movie started shooting without a locked screenplay in place. According to Russell Crowe, the initial draft was so bad that when he was approached for the lead role, not even the producer wanted to send him a copy, afraid that he "[wouldn't] respond to it". Crowe was instead urged to meet with director Ridley Scott first. Unbeknowst to the producer, Crowe had already obtained a copy of the script and disliked it, but was won over by Scott's take on the project, as well as countless re-writes.
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Over 20,000 arrows were created for the opening battle in Germania.
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The character of Maximus is fictional, but in some respects he resembles the historical figures Narcissus (Commodus' real-life murderer, and the character's name in the first draft of the screenplay), Spartacus (who led a significant slave revolt), Cincinnatus (a farmer who became dictator, saved Rome from invasion, then resigned his six-month appointment after 15 days), and Marcus Nonius Macrinus (a trusted General, Consul in 154 C.E., and friend of Marcus Aurelius).
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Various historians have tried to find proof that the awning in the Colosseum really was used as a cooling system. Coins and other images of the amphitheater have been found showing a canopy system. In May 1998, a few scientists on PBS's NOVA series constructed two different canopy systems on an ancient amphitheater. One of those designs appears to be the inspiration for the canopy system seen in this movie.
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Though dozens of versions of the script were written, the original 130-page draft, dated October 1997 by David Franzoni, is "different in almost every detail from the finished movie," as quoted by David S. Cohen in his book "Screen Plays".
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This movie had surpassed its $103 million budget within two weeks of release.
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Ridley Scott was persuaded to do this movie when DreamWorks head Walter F. Parkes and producer Douglas Wick presented him with a reproduction of the 1872 painting "Pollice Verso" ("Thumbs Down") by Jean-Léon Gérôme, in which a gladiator stands over the opponent he has beaten.
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This movie was shot in chronological order.
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Lou Ferrigno was originally cast as Tigris of Gaul, but was replaced during production by Sven-Ole Thorsen, who had been lobbying hard for the part.
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In an example of "translation convention", all characters in the movie speak modern languages: English for the most part, but also Italian (Maximus' son), German (the Barbarian chief before the battle) and even Zulu (the ancient Germanic war chant). Russell Crowe even wanted to go one step further, and speak his lines imitating Antonio Banderas' accent, in order to show Maximus' non-Italic origins, but Ridley Scott disapproved the idea.
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When the gladiators, including Maximus, arrive in Rome, they are seen entering a sort of "holding area" with the words "LUDUS MAGNUS" written above the gate. This remains their prison while in Rome. This Ludus (meaning gladiator school or training facility) was a real place, and its ruins can be seen today, just east of the Colosseum in Rome. It was connected to the underground warrens beneath the arena of the Colosseum by a tunnel.
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Ridley Scott and cinematographer John Mathieson used multiple cameras filming at various frame rates and a forty-five-degree shutter, creating stop-motion effects in the action sequences, similar to techniques used for the battle sequences of Saving Private Ryan (1998).
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This movie was intended as a comeback role for Oliver Reed in character roles. However, the actor died during filming. Some critics felt it was his only notable movie since The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).
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The real Lucius Verus, who is portrayed as a young kid in the movie, was the son of Marcus Aurelius' adopted brother, and died eight years into his reign. Commodus' selection as Caesar was made when he was five-years-old, and coins were made with his likeness on it.
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Ridley Scott claimed that the opening moments of Maximus pondering a bird before the battle was simply improvised between he and Russell Crowe on a day in which they needed to film a moment introducing Maximus before the battle, but they had no scripted dialogue.
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Sven-Ole Thorsen not only played Tigris the Gaul, but doubled as one of the spectators during that same battle.
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David Franzoni modelled Proximo (Oliver Reed) very consciously on a Hollywood film agent.
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Russell Crowe later admitted that he initially felt unworthy of all the praise and the Oscar for Best Actor that he got for this movie. After seeing the completed movie, he felt it was a "director's film", and that the Oscar should have gone to director Ridley Scott instead.
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In the director's commentary, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe explain that the names of the horses on Maximus' breastplate, "Argento" and "Scatto" (not Scarto, the movie's subtitles are wrong), mean silver and trigger (Argento=silver, Scatto=mechanical latch, or trigger). Silver was the name of the horse ridden by the Lone Ranger, and Trigger was the name of the horse ridden by Roy Rogers.
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Russell Crowe's depiction of Maximus has been commemorated in Australia on an official stamp.
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The production used up all the plaster on the island of Malta, where they were filming, so more supplies had to be shipped in.
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Temperatures in the gladiator arena would frequently top 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).
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Screenwriter William Nicholson added the aspects of the movie in which Maximus discusses the afterlife, seeking to make the character more accessible to audiences.
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Initially, Russell Crowe had no interest in reading the script, as he was in the midst of working on The Insider (1999), and was completely focused on his portrayal of Jeffrey Wigand. He was eventually persuaded otherwise by Insider (1999) director Michael Mann, who passed him the script, and told him he ought "to take this Ridley Scott thing a bit more seriously."
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After finishing his college education, David Franzoni spent a year travelling around the world. During his adventures, he would run into networks of international travellers, who would get together and trade books that they had read on the road. This is how he came across the book "Those Who Are About to Die" by Daniel P. Mannix.
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Hugh Jackman was considered for the role of Maximus.
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While Cicero (Tommy Flanagan) is waiting to talk to Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) outside the Colosseum, he can be seen standing next to the giant foot of a statue. The foot also appears in a deleted scene with Proximo (Oliver Reed). Although the rest of the statue isn't seen, given the size of the foot, the statue itself is most likely the Colossus of Nero, a ninety-eight-foot (thirty meter) bronze statue that Emperor Nero had erected in his own likeness. It is interesting to know that the statue did not always stand next to the Colosseum. It had been moved there years after its creation, and was probably the reason for the stadium to be nicknamed "Colosseum" (which was officially known as the Flavian Amphitheater). Years later, the real emperor Commodus had the statue changed to himself as Hercules by replacing the head, but it was restored after his death. The statue itself was most likely destroyed and pillaged during earthquakes or Barbarian invasions, with only the pedestal remaining. The rest of the statue isn't seen in the movie, probably because no accurate visual depictions of the statue have survived.
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Jude Law was considered for the role of Commodus.
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Twenty-four chariots were built for the movie, although only six appear on-screen.
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Shot over a period of eighteen weeks.
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The Holst Foundation sued Hans Zimmer for similarities in his score to Gustav Holst's "Mars: The Bringer of War". The suit was dismissed.
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During filming, Ridley Scott wore the red cap worn by Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide (1995), which was directed by Ridley's brother, Tony.
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Maximus' Spanish heritage meshes interestingly with his choice of arms. As a General riding with the cavalry of the Felix Legion, (in the opening battle) he wields a sword known as a "Spatha", popular among the continental tribes, especially in Spain and southern Gaul. As a Gladiator, he uses a sword similar to the spatha in appearance, but shorter and broader. This weapon is known as the "Gladius Hispaniensis", and was adopted by the Roman infantry after Scipio's invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in the second century B.C., after the end of the second Punic War. Roman infantry wore the gladius on the right side. This, facilitated by the short blade length, allowed the legionary to draw his weapon on the same side as his sword arm. Cross-drawing would be hindered by the scutum (the large rectangular shield) while in formation.
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Contrary to rumor, Enya didn't record any music for the soundtrack of this movie. The song simply sounds like something she would have recorded. The song, and in fact much of the soundtrack, was composed and sung by Lisa Gerrard.
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For the main protagonist Maximus, Ridley Scott wanted a fresh face for the role, and Russell Crowe was cast.
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This movie is credited with sparking a revival in big historical epics. In the the years after its release, we have been given movies like Troy (2004), King Arthur (2004), Alexander (2004), 300 (2006), Noah (2014), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Robin Hood (2010), and Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), the last three having been directed by Ridley Scott. Two of these additionally starred Russell Crowe, including Noah (2014) and Robin Hood (2010).
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This movie influenced the Geonosis arena battle in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002).
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With two weeks to go before filming, the actors and actresses were still complaining of problems with the script. William Nicholson was brought to Shepperton Studios to make Maximus a more sensitive character, re-working his friendship with Juba, and developing the afterlife thread. Nicholson went back to David Franzoni's original script, and reinstated a lot of the scenes that John Logan had taken out.
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Antonio Banderas was also considered for the role of Maximus.
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At least some of the Roman cavalry in the opening battle were real soldiers: this movie employed twenty members of the British Army's King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. King's Troop's horse-drawn ceremonial guns sometimes have to travel at high speed despite each weighing over a tonne and having no brakes, so the soldiers are required to be very skilled horse-riders.
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Right before filming their scene together, Oliver Reed asked Omid Djalili, "Are you a method actor?" before squeezing his testicles throughout the take. "Not that many people can say Ollie Reed has fondled their nuts", Djalili recalled.
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David Franzoni was given a three-picture deal with DreamWorks, as writer and co-producer, on the strength of his work on Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997). One of his initial pitches was for this movie.
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Commodus tells Lucius the tale of Emperor Claudius who was betrayed by his own family, as an analogy to his own situation. Emperor Claudius was portrayed by Sir Derek Jacobi in the acclaimed series I, Claudius (1976). Jacobi played Senator Gracchus in this movie.
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The first Best Picture Oscar winner to not also win for either writing or directing in fifty-one years. This last occurred with All the King's Men (1949). It would occur again just two years later with Chicago (2002).
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Sir Richard Harris (Marcus Aurelius) was originally set to play Commodus in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) (but left the movie due to artistic differences with director Anthony Mann, and was replaced by Christopher Plummer).
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Ridley Scott claimed that Commodus watching Lucius sleep was not pedophilia, but rather meant to show Lucilia's fear of Commodus.
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British post-production house "The Mill" was responsible for most of the CGI effects in this movie. Amongst their responsibilities, were to composite real tigers filmed on bluescreen into the fight sequences, and adding smoke trails and extending the flight paths of the opening battle's flaming arrows. They also used two thousand live actors and actresses to create a CGI crowd of about thirty-five thousand people. One of their major hurdles was to create a digital body double for the recently deceased Oliver Reed.
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A small section of the background noise (about five seconds), just before the battle in Germania, was taken from Zulu (1964). Heard was part of the Zulu warrior's taunting chant also used just before battle.
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The opening battle scenes in the forests of Germania were shot in three weeks in the Bourne Woods, near Farnham, Surrey, England. When Ridley Scott learned that the Forestry Commission planned to remove the forest, he convinced them to allow the battle scene to be shot there, and burn it down.
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Russell Crowe claimed that the shooting script was highly incomplete and many scenes and lines of dialogue were improvised between he and Ridley Scott during filming. For example, Crowe suggested that Maximus share a motto "Strength and Honor" with his fellow soldiers. In Crowe's pitch the line was in Latin, Scott determined that it sounded better in English.
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On the Special Edition DVD, the making-of documentary, Strength and Honor: Creating the World of 'Gladiator' (2005), at nearly three and a half hours, is an hour longer than the movie.
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Although many costumes in the film were made of leather, Joaquin Phoenix was only given synthetic leather in order to accommodate his strict vegan lifestyle.
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The young actor who plays Maximus' son, Giorgio Cantarini, also played Guido's son Joshua in Life Is Beautiful (1997). Both men playing his father (Russell Crowe and Roberto Benigni) ended up winning the Oscar for Best Actor for the role.
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In Malta, a replica of about one-third of Rome's Colosseum was built, to a height of fifty-two feet (sixteen meters), mostly from plaster and plywood (the other two-thirds and remaining height were added digitally). The replica took several months to build, and cost an estimated $1 million. The reverse side of the complex supplied a rich assortment of Ancient Roman street furniture, colonnades, gates, statuary, and marketplaces for other filming requirements. The complex was serviced by tented "costume villages" that had changing rooms, storage, armorers, and other facilities. The remainder of the building was added in digitally by using computer graphics imagery, using set-design blueprints and textures referenced from live-action, and rendered in three layers, to provide lighting flexibility for compositing in Flame and Inferno software. In the Colosseum scenes, only the bottom two decks are actually filled with people. The other thousands of people are computer animated or are cardboard cut-outs.
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Jennifer Lopez auditioned for the role of Lucilla.
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This was DreamWorks' first double-disc DVD.
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The prop snow in the opening battle scene and aftermath was created by using little pieces of rolled up paper.
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The Mill used 2,000 actors and actresses to create a computer generated crowd of 35,000 virtual actors and actresses that had to look believable and react to fight scenes. They accomplished this by shooting actors and actresses at different angles, giving various performances, and then mapping them onto cards, with motion-capture tools used to track their movements for three-dimensional compositing.
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In a 2018 interview while promoting All the Money in the World (2017), Christopher Plummer was asked if he had ever been approached by Ridley Scott before. Plummer said that following their collaboration on The Insider (1999), Russell Crowe kept asking Ridley to cast Plummer as Marcus Aurelius. In the end, Scott cast Richard Harris, who would develop a fond friendship with Russell Crowe, with Crowe even turning up unannounced for the unveiling of a statue of Harris in Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland. Coincidentally, Plummer had played Commodus to Alec Guinness's Marcus Aurelius in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).
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In the Battle of Carthage battle scene in the Colliseum, Juba (Dimon Hounsou) hands a sword to Maximus who's on horseback. He called out to him "Maximus"! instead of "Spaniard"! It wasn't until the end of that scene when Maximus reveals his identity to Commodus. Until that moment, no one knew his name was "Maximus".
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In the Spanish dubbed version, Maximus says he is from Emerita Augusta (now called Mérida). The Spanish dubbers claimed that "Trujillo doesn't combine the 'qualities' to be cradle of the gladiator."
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Russell Crowe's Best Actor Oscar winning performance was the only nominee in the category in a Best Picture nominee that year.
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One hundred suits of steel armor and five hundred fifty suits in polyurethane were made by Rod Vass and his company Armordillo. The unique sprayed-polyurethane system was developed by Armordillo, and pioneered for this production.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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All of the props, sets, and costumes were manufactured by crew members, due to high costs and unavailability of the items.
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To construct the arena where Maximus has his first fights, the crew used basic materials and local building techniques to manufacture the thirty-thousand-seat mud brick arena.
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Oliver Reed was asked by an insurance agent if he still drank. He replied, "Only at parties." The insurers replied, "How many parties do you go to?"
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A study by the Medical University of Vienna and the University of Bern examined gladiator bones, and found out that gladiators were mostly vegetarian. Yet in the movie, they are shown eating meat.
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While reading the script one morning two weeks into production, Joaquin Phoenix thought it made sense that Commodus would grow physically larger as his belief in his own power as Emperor increased. Phoenix also kept a sword in his hotel room.
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Kirk Douglas saw this movie when it was first released and liked it, but said it was nowhere nearly as noble as Spartacus (1960).
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Russel Crowe's character is often refers to as a Spaniard, that would not have been accurate. At that time people who lived in Hispana were light complected and had red hair. The real Maximus Decimus Meridius was a Gaul which a Germanic tribe found in what would be today's north France. The Gauls were considered to be a fierce race and when the Romans conquered them the men were given the option of fighting in the Army or becoming Gladiators.
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Over six weeks, production members scouted various locations within the extent of the Roman Empire before its collapse, including Italy, France, North Africa, and England.
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Despite winning the Oscar for best visual effects, critic Roger Ebert spoke in an interview with Charlie Rose that this movie had "bad special effects."
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The main four cast members have appeared as mentors/motivations to the current DC superheroes. Russell Crowe played Superman's father Jor El. Connie Nielsen played Wonder Woman's mother Queen Hippolyta. Djimon Hounsou played Shazam the wizard. Joaquin Phoenix played Joker, a dark motivation for Batman. Djimon Hounsou also played King Ricou in Aquaman.
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When first announced, Arnold Schwarzenegger was being pursued to play Proximo.
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During a "surprisingly brief" pitch meeting with Steven Spielberg, David Franzoni told the Writers Guild of America that the director "really had three basic questions. My gladiator movie, it was about ancient Roman gladiators-not American, Japanese, whatever else? Yes, I said. Taking place in the ancient Colosseum? Yes. Fighting with swords and animals to the death and such? Yes. Great, let's make the movie."
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Historically speaking, Gladiators were owned and trained by Lanistae and kept at a Ludus. Neither elements were incorporated into the movie, and the character Proximo was never mentioned to be a Lanista by trade.
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The bust of the leader was originally painted, and not the bare carved stone in the tent, and around Rome throughout the movie. The paint just flaked off over time.
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Trujillo, what Maximus describes to the Emperor as the place where his home is in the hills, is in present-day Spain, southwest of Madrid.
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This movie was disliked by critic Roger Ebert. In his review, he described it as looking "muddy, fuzzy, and indistinct", and criticized the writing for its "bitter, morose, and dull characters."
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Over a three-month period, over 27,000 component pieces of armor were made.
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In dealing with the death a succession of Marcus Aurelius, this film covers much the same ground as The Fall of the Roman Empire. In that film, Commodus was played by Christopher Plummer. Russell Crowe worked with Plummer just the previous year in The Insider.
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The first fight in the Colosseum is called the "Battle of Carthage", to commemorate the Roman victory over the barbarian horde of the Punian commander Hannibal. Coincidentally, Ridley Scott's next movie was Hannibal (2001).
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This movie is a fictional account of ancient Roman history. Although historical consultants were hired to ensure some level of historic accuracy, many documented facts were purposely ignored for the sake of storytelling, and the film has received criticism for its anachronistic depiction of period clothing, art, weaponry and warfare tactics. At least one historian quit during the production over the creative license taken by the makers, whereas another declined to be credited.
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Only the second DVD to sport a 6.1 DTS sound mix.
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One of the first DVDs to be released in the U.K. to come with DTS sound.
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Richard Harris was considered for the part of Proximo.
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This is the only movie to feature Oliver Reed and Richard Harris.
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The totem carried by one of the Germanic tribesmen in the opening scene is a Zardoz-mask from the film Zardoz (1974) painted grey.
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Sven-Ole Thorsen was also in Conan the Barbarian (1982) opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose character Conan became a slave and a gladiator after the murder of his parents.
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The costumes of warriors, especially the helmets, were made in Peshawar by handicrafts men from fiberglass instead of any heavy metal.
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The first Best Picture Oscar winner to not also win for either Best Director or Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted), in forty-eight years. This last occurred with The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). It would occur again just two years later with Chicago (2002).
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Filmmaker Atharv Goyal's personal favourite movie.
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During the opening battle sequences, the barbarian chanting is the same as the warrior chanting in Zulu (1964).
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Connie Nielsen and Tommy Flanagan share the same birth date, July 3, 1965.
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Ricardo Cruz, horse stunt specialist, took the white horse Montero that Russell Crowe rode to the Texas Hollywood Studios, Tabernas, Almeria, Spain, to be used as Captain Grisham's horse in the television series Queen of Swords (2000), for which he was the series horse stunt coordinator.
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The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be nominated for Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.
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Tom Sizemore auditioned for the part of Maximus. Sizemore worked with Ridley Scott on Black Hawk Down (2001).
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In preparation for filming, Ridley Scott spent several months developing storyboards to develop the framework of the plot.
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This movie shares its title with Gladiator (1992), but it has no connection to that movie, which takes place in the world of illegal underground boxing.
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The movie has a kind of reverse Lion King plot with the exception that instead of two older brother lions, where one brother seems to win through unethical means, the Emperor's son ends up losing to a general, whom the Emperor thought was also like family to him, even when using unethical means (stabbing him before the final fight). In both cases, a father figure had died, Mufasa vs. the Emperor's father.
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Ralf Moeller appeared in Cyborg (1989) opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme. In that movie, Van Damme played a mercenary out to avenge his family.
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Sir Derek Jacobi (Gracchus) would later play father to and be slain by Tony Curran (Assassin #1) in Underworld: Evolution (2006) as Corvinus. Curran plays Marcus Corvinus.
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In The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Commodus was played by Christopher Plummer. Plummer worked with Russell Crowe in The Insider (1999), and director Ridley Scott in All the Money in the World (2017).
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Throughout fight scenes in the movie, a similar music score was used to that heard in Pirates of the Caribbean.
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Cameo 

Brian Blessed: A Collosseum spectator during the games. Blessed is best known for playing the Roman emperor Augustus in the acclaimed series I, Claudius (1976). Augustus was the grandfather of emperor Claudius, played by Sir Derek Jacobi, who portrayed Senator Gracchus in this movie.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Ridley Scott resisted any suggestion that Maximus and Lucilla should have a sexual relationship, because it would decrease his need to be with his murdered wife and son. Russell Crowe was also against it, feeling that it wasn't in character.
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In real life, Marcus Aurelius died from the plague. In this movie, Commodus strangles him during an embrace. Later in the movie, Gracchus asks Commodus if he'd ever "embraced someone dying of plague."
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Historically speaking, the real Commodus fought in the arena. Unbeknownst to him, the soldiers preparing the gladiator to fight would stab the opponent in the back to weaken him, in the same way that Commodus does to Maximus in this movie.
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The real-life Commodus was the only Roman Emperor in history to fight as a gladiator in the arena. However, he did it several times, not just once. Also, he was not killed in the arena, but was strangled in bath, by an athlete named Narcissus.
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Among the changes necessitated by the death of Oliver Reed was the final scene, as Proximo was to bury the figures in the sand of the Colosseum. Ridley Scott had the scene re-written to have Juba bury them and reference his earlier line about how Maximus would meet his family again.
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Joaquin Phoenix got so involved in the scene in which Commodus murdered his father that he actually fainted afterward.
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In reality, Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) died of the plague, and Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) ascended to the throne. He was a much loved Emperor by the Army and the lower classes, until he fell out of their favor, due to his egocentric behavior.
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Commodus was known as a "Gladiator Emperor", routinely appearing in the arena to take down wild animals. He charged Rome an exorbitant amount of money for each appearance, which eventually devalued Roman coins, and led to the fall of Rome. He would often take people with missing limbs or other disabilities into the arena, tie them together, and club them to death. Initially revered for his hunting and combat prowess, the populace turned against him.
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Ridley Scott initially thought that David Franzoni's dialogue was too "on the nose", so he hired John Logan to re-write the script. Logan re-wrote much of the first act, and made the decision to kill off Maximus' family as motivation for the lead character.
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The scene where Maximus finds his family's corpses originally called for him to do a normal discreet-few-tears-down-each-cheek dignified cry, but Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott agreed that what Maximus was seeing demanded as Crowe put it, a "full blown snot-fest".
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Tigers can be difficult to train, but remarkably, the production found that several days into filming with them, the tigers got used to being in the midst of a movie crew, and weren't unduly bothered by all the activity going on around them. In fact, one of the bigger challenges was goading them into action when it came time for them to perform.
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David Franzoni chose not to use the end of the movie to note that Rome did not, in fact, become a republic again, because he thought most audiences would already know that.
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A prequel was considered, but it was changed into a sequel that would play fifteen years later and focus on Lucilla's son Lucius. When Russell Crowe showed interest in reprising his role as Maximus, a script was written which followed Maximus in the afterlife. However, this sequel was abandoned because it was not felt to be in the spirit of its predecessor.
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Although much of the movie is fictitious, it's interesting to note that Emperor Commodus' historically accurate killer, Narcissus, was born in the same Roman African province as the one in the movie where Maximus becomes a gladiator.
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David Franzoni's original script had Maximus named Narcissus, Commodus being strangled in the baths (as he was by the real Narcissus), the fight at the Colosseum against a rhinoceros instead of tigers, and Lucilla not making it to the end of the movie, but being executed (as she was in reality) along with some Senators inside a Sicilian Bull. The rhinos became tigers because it was impossible to train real ones, and CGI replacements didn't look convincing.
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Ridley Scott insisted on including the scene of Maximus seeing Commodus practicing sword fighting early in the movie, so the audience (and Maximus) would know what Commodus is capable of when he arranges a duel in the Colosseum.
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According to Ridley Scott, the hidden dagger Commodus draws from his sleeve during the final duel that Maximus overpowers and uses to kill him, is the same dagger Commodus used to clandestinely stab Maximus before the fight. Therefore both men were killed by the same weapon.
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A sequel, set fifteen years after the death of Maximus, which would have been centered around Lucius, was considered, but didn't happen.
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While the character Maximus is fictional (or an amalgam of several historical figures, as noted elsewhere in this trivia section), several characters and events in this movie are based in history. Emperor Marcus Aurelius was succeeded by his son Commodus in 180 A.D. Female gladiators, like the charioteers in the re-created Battle of Carthage, were occasionally featured in games in the public arena. The real Commodus had emotional issues (vanity, paranoia, cruelty) that made him unsuited to rule, and like the movie character, he was quite athletic, and appeared in the arena as a gladiator. He had an older sister, Lucilla, who was caught plotting to depose him. Lucilla's son Lucius Verus, like the boy in this movie, was named for his father. Finally, Emperor Commodus died by violence. He was strangled at the end of 192 A.D. by Narcissus, his trainer and sparring partner, who was recruited into a plot by several Senators.
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Gracchus was originally supposed to die.
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Commodus smothers his father Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) in a violent embrace. In the 2019 film Joker, Phoenix's character Arthur Fleck also smothers his parent. In Joker (2019), he smothers his mother with a pillow.
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Maximus' death, and the speech Lucilla gives to the Roman spectators, the Roman Centurions, and the Gladiators, was mirrored in Doctor Who: The Doctor's Daughter (2008), where the Tenth Doctor gives a speech to the humans and the Hath, when Jenny dies.
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Mel Gibson, who turned down the lead role of General Maximus, is famous for playing "Mad" Max Rocktansky in Mad Max (1979). In that movie, Max's wife and son are murdered by Toecutter and his motorcycle gang, and he sets out to avenge them. In this movie, Maximus' wife and son are murdered by Commodus, and Maximus sets out to avenge them. Maximus' son is trampled and killed by Roman horsemen, and Max's wife and son are killed, when the Toecutter and his gang run them over with their motorcycles.
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The death and vision of General Maximus influenced similar scenes in The Assassin Next Door (2009) and Hirokin: The Last Samurai (2012). In the former, a dying Galia (Olga Kurylenko) dies from her gunshot wound and has a vision, which she is standing a field and sees her daughter on the other side waving back at her and in the latter, Hirokin (Wes Bentley) dies, when he fights and defeats The Griffin (Julian Sands) and has a vision in which he is walking through a field.
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In this movie, Lucilla's husband is dead, and Lucilla falls in love with Maximus, a Roman General. In Soldier (1998), her character, "Sandra", falls in love with Todd, who is a soldier, and her husband Mace was killed.
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