Gladiator Trivia

(Total Trivia Entries: 63)


“Are you not entertained?!”

Did you know that Maximus was partly inspired by real historical figures? To find out more trivia keep on reading.



Casting                        Screenplay & Production


Maximus is a fictional character partly inspired by real historical figures, Marcus Nonius Macrinus, Narcissus, Spartacus, Cincinnatus, and Maximus of Hispania.


Mel Gibson was apparently offered the role of Maximus, but he turned down the part.


Antonio Banderas was also considered for the role of Maximus.


Apparently Jennifer Lopez auditioned for the role of Lucilla.


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”. He also insisted to Director Ridley Scott, that his life was his own after 5 o’clock and Scott readily agreed to that.


Writer David Franzoni modeled Proximo very consciously on a Hollywood film agent.


Oliver Reed suffered a fatal heart attack during principal photography. Some of his sequences had to be re-edited and a double, photographed in the shadows and with a 3D CGI mask of Reed’s face, was used as a stand-in. The film is dedicated to his memory.


Apparently Richard Harris would frequently ignore any newly rewritten scenes as he couldn’t be bothered to relearn his lines.


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. Sven-Ole Thorsen also doubled as one of the spectators during the Gladiators battle scene with Tigris and Maximus.


David Hemmings (Cassius) pointed eyebrows shown in the movie were in fact his own.


In the opening scene that’s not Russell Crowe’s hand you see in the iconic shot of Maximus’ hand brushing the stalks of wheat, but that of Crowe’s double, Stuart Clark (credited as Stuart Clarke).


During filming Russell Crowe became friends with Richard Harris. However, it was the opposite with Oliver Reed who took an instant dislike to Crowe and at one point challenged him to a fight.


Apparently Joaquin Phoenix got so involved in the scene where Commodus murders his father, Marcus Aurelius, that he actually fainted afterward.



Screenplay & Production                        Casting


Gladiator was based on an original pitch by David Franzoni, who went on to write all of the early drafts.


Writer David Franzoni started developing the story of Gladiator 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.


Director, Ridley Scott initially thought that writer David Franzoni’s dialog was too “on the nose”, so he hired John Logan to rewrite the script. Logan rewrote much of the first act and made the decision to kill off Maximus’ family as motivation for the lead character.


With two weeks to go before filming, the actors complained of problems with the script. William Nicholson was brought to Shepperton Studios to make Maximus a more sensitive character, reworking his friendship with Juba and developed the afterlife thread in the film, saying “he did not want to see a film about a man who wanted to kill somebody.” Nicholson went back to David Franzoni’s original script and reinstated a lot of the scenes that John Logan had taken out. David Franzoni was later brought back to revise the rewrites of Logan and Nicholson, and in the process gained a producer’s credit.


Writer William Nicholson added the aspects of the film in which Maximus discusses the afterlife, seeking to make the character more accessible to audiences.


Writer David Franzoni chose not to use the end of the film to note that Rome did not, in fact, become a republic again, because he thought most audiences would already know that.


It’s been said that Russell Crowe was continually unhappy with the Gladiator screenplay. He questioned every aspect of the evolving script and strode off the set when he did not get answers. According to Dreamsworks he tried to rewrite the entire script to suit his own ends. The famous line “In this life or the next, I will have my vengeance” he initially refused to say, telling writer William Nicholson “Your lines are garbage but I’m the greatest actor in the world and I can make even garbage sound good”. Nicholson has said that “Probably my lines were garbage, so he was just talking straight.”


In the original drafts of the Gladiator script, the name of the main character was not Maximus, but Narcissus, the name of the man who killed Commodus in real life.


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.)


The real-life Commodus was in fact 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 his dressing room by an athlete named Narcissus.


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.


In reality, Aurelius died of the plague and Commodus ascended to the throne. He was a much loved emperor by the army and the lower classes.


The film’s plot was influenced by two 1960s Hollywood films of the ‘sword and sandal’ genre, The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) and Spartacus (1960).


Director, Ridley Scott attributed Spartacus (1960) and Ben-Hur (1959)as influences on the film. He’s quoted as saying “These movies were part of my cinema-going youth. But at the dawn of the new millennium, I thought this might be the ideal time to revisit what may have been the most important period of the last two thousand years – if not all recorded history – the apex and beginning of the decline of the greatest military and political power the world has ever known.”


All of the senators have names from other Hollywood epics, not actual historical figures.


(1960) provides the film’s gladiatorial motif, as well as the character of Senator Gracchus, a fictitious senator (bearing the name of a pair of revolutionary Tribunes from the 2nd century BC) who in both films is an elder statesman of ancient Rome attempting to preserve the ancient rights of the Roman senate in the face of an ambitious autocrat – Marcus Licinius Crassus in Spartacus and Commodus in Gladiator.


Ridley Scott was persuaded to do the film 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.


Editor Pietro Scalia added the shot of Maximus’ hand moving through a wheat field to the beginning of the film; it was originally intended to be added for the ending.


When the first battle in Germania is about to take place their war cry are samples of the Zulu war chant from the film Zulu (1964) where the Zulus are advancing in their first attack against the British outpost.


Maximus’s companion is his pet wolf, but in the film a German Shepherd was used instead. The production was unable to use real wolves because England’s strict anti-rabies laws prevented them from importing any of the animals.


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, the DP 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, and edited into the film in a way that made the switch look natural.


The opening battle scene was filmed in Bourne Woods, in the English county of Surrey. 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.


The Germania battle sequence took 20 days to complete.


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.


Over the course of the gladiatorial scenes, Russell Crowe broke bones in his foot and his hip, and injured both bicep tendons.


When Maximus describes his home to Marcus Aurelius, the description (specifically how the kitchen is arranged and smells in the morning and at night) is actually that of Russell Crow’s own home in Australia and was ad-libbed.


The yak helmet worn by the gladiator who was slain by Hagen, is the same one worn by the warrior slain by Sean Connery, in Time Bandits (1981).


On visiting the real Colosseum, Ridley Scott remarked to production designer ‘Arthur Max’ that it was “too small,” so they designed an out sized “Rome of the imagination” which was inspired by English and French romantic painters, as well as Nazi architect Albert Speer.


A replica of about one third of Rome’s Colosseum was built in Malta to a height of 52 feet, mostly from plaster and plywood. The remainder of the building was added in digitally. It took several months to build at a reputed cost of $1 million.


In the Colosseum scenes, only the bottom two decks are actually filled with people. The other thousands of people are computer-animated.


The script had called for a battle scene between Maximus and a rhinoceros. Since it was too difficult to train and CGI could not make it realistic enough, the rhinoceros was omitted.


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.


Maximus refers to the two horses on his breastplate when talking to Lucius as being called “Scarto” and “Argento” – translated from the Latin they are “Trigger” and “Silver” (Scarto directly translates as “lever” – but we get the idea!).


5 tigers were brought in for the sequence in the arena where Maximus fights Tigris the Gaul. A veterinarian armed with tranquilizer darts was in attendance for the entire length of shooting. For safety’s sake, Russell Crowe was never allowed to be any less than 15 feet away from the tigers.


Temperatures in the gladiator arena would frequently top 100 degrees Fahrenheit.


As Oliver Reed died with three weeks of principal photography remaining and as he was considered a key character, a clause in the insurance coverage on the movie would have allowed the film-makers to shoot all of Reed’s scenes with another actor, with the insurers footing the cost (estimated at $25million). However, most of the actors and crew were exhausted from the punishing schedule and Ridley Scott did not want to lose Reed from the movie, so the script was rewritten and CGI used to give Reed’s character a plausible resolution at an estimated cost of $3 million.


Among the changes necessitated by the death of Oliver Reed was the final scene, as it was supposed to have been Proximo who buried the figures in the sand of the Coliseum.


British post-production house “The Mill” was responsible for most of the CGI effects in the film. Among their responsibilities were to composite real tigers filmed on blue screen into the fight sequences, and adding smoke trails and extending the flight paths of the opening battle’s flaming arrows. They also used 2000 live actors to create a CGI crowd of about 35,000 people. One of their major hurdles was to create a digital body double for the deceased Oliver Reed.


Joaquin Phoenix ad-libbed his line “Am I not merciful?!”, and Connie Nielsen’s reaction of frightfully pulling away from him was genuine, since she wasn’t expecting it.


Connie Nielsen found the 2000-year-old signet ring which she wears in the movie, in an antique store.


During filming, director Ridley Scott wore the red cap worn by Gene Hackman in the movie Crimson Tide (1995), which was directed by Ridley’s brother, Tony Scott.


Contrary to rumor, Enya didn’t record any music for the soundtrack of this film. 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.


Due to Academy regulations, co-composer Lisa Gerrard was denied an Oscar nomination while Hans Zimmer received one.


Apparently this is Russell Crowe’s favorite films that he has done. He also cites Maximus as his favorite character that he’s played so far.


On the Special Edition DVD, the making-of documentary, Strength and Honor: Creating the World of ‘Gladiator’ (2005), at nearly 3 and a half hours, is an hour longer than the film itself.


The film had surpassed its $103,000,000 budget within 2 weeks of release.


In June 2001, Douglas Wick said a Gladiator prequel was in development. The following year, Wick, Walter Parkes, David Franzoni, and John Logan switched direction to a sequel set fifteen years later; the Praetorian Guards rule Rome and an older Lucius is trying to learn who his real father was.


An Easter egg contained on disc 2 of the extended edition / special edition DVD releases includes a discussion of possible scenarios for a follow-up. This includes a suggestion by Walter F. Parkes that, in order to enable Russell Crowe to return to play Maximus, who dies at the end of the original movie, a sequel could involve a “multi-generational drama about Maximus and the Aureleans and this chapter of Rome”, similar in concept to The Godfather Part II (1974).


In 2006, Scott stated he and Crowe approached Nick Cave to rewrite the film, but they had conflicted with DreamWorks’s idea of a Lucius spin-off, who Scott revealed would turn out to be Maximus’ son with Lucilla. He noted this tale of corruption in Rome was too complex, whereas Gladiator worked due to its simple drive.


Behind the scenes featurettes:




Total Trivia Entries: 63


Movie Trivia

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