Here are some facts about Gladiator that you may not know
There’s no doubt that Gladiator is one of the most successful and well-known movies of all time. Its gripping story, amazing stunts, and epic fight scenes have made it a favorite for audiences around the world. But even the biggest fans of Gladiator may not know everything about the movie. Check out these 15 little-known facts about Gladiator below!
1. Crowe was not a fan of the script
One of the facts about Gladiator you may not know is that Crowe was so unhappy with the script during production that he would frequently walk off set and initially refused to say the famous line “I will have my vengeance, in this life or next.” After some counseling from screenwriter William Nicholson (who won an Academy Award for his work), Crowe ACTED!
2. Russell Crowe improvised one of the film’s most famous lines
The most iconic line in this film is one that wasn’t even written into the script. After Maximus briefs his troops, he says “strength and honor” to them- a phrase which became so popular it has now been used by many other movies! This scene was all improvised by actor Russell Crowe when he came up with an Australian term for describing your home country (which we can only imagine must have felt quite relieving).
3. Ridley Scott set fire to a forest for the opening sequence
The film starts in northern Europe with the Roman Empire going into battle against Germanian tribes. It’s a huge sequence that was filmed near Bourne Woods, Surrey England where the Royal Forestry Commission had scheduled for deforestation and it’s also due to Ridley Scott who offered them these studios’ services if they could burn everything down as long he could film his movie there too, and that’s another one of the facts about Gladiator you probably didn’t know!
4. The real-life Commodus may have been even more ruthless than the movie version
Unlike Maximus, Commodus is based on a real-life person, the former Emperor of Rome. And, it seems, the real Commodus was just as merciless.
He was born to a mother who had slept with an ancient gladiator and then bathed in his blood, which gave Commodus the title “the Gladiator Emperor.” He would fight at The Colosseum where he always won by being stabbed from behind before their match began.
Commodus was a megalomaniac and took people with disabilities into the Colosseum arena to be clubbed to death. He renamed Rome “Colonia Commodiana” after himself, which lowered its value enough for him (and other emperors) that directly caused the decline of the Roman Empire.
5. Oliver Reed was eccentric on the set
Another fact about Gladiator you may not know is that the key supporting character in the movie is Proximo – a slave trader and former gladiator who becomes Maximus’ mentor-of sorts. He was played by Oliver Reed, but he caused some issues on set because of his reputation as an “uncontrollable” actor.
6. Playing Maximus was not easy
Crowe really threw himself into the role. Over two years, he lost all feeling in his right forefinger and broke a foot bone while filming action scenes that required him to bounce off walls or punch strangers with full force countless times. Find out where you can watch Gladiator, here you have the best streaming services for movies!
7. The director was convinced to take the gig by a painting
One of the facts about Gladiator is that when Dreamworks wanted to convince Ridley Scott that he was right for the job of directing Gladiator, they brought in some outside help. They showed him an 1872 painting by the French painter Jean-Léon Gerome and told how it visualize what their vision was with this film about Roman soldiers fighting against each other years ago.
8. Phoenix needed to lose weight
Ridley Scott was reviewing the dailies and noticed that Phoenix had become visibly bigger than he was at first. He asked about it, to which Phoenix replied “Yes I am a fat little hamster; why wouldn’t you be?” Ridley then told him straight-up: lose weight immediately or else there will be consequences, and he did.
9. A key part of the Colosseum fights was (incorrectly) based on reality
Another one of the facts about Gladiator is the famous thumbs up or down gesture that the Emperor gives when deciding whether a gladiator should live or die is actually flipped. Instead of meaning mercy, it now means death for those with an upward motion and life imprisonment with downward gestures in ancient Rome.
10. The tigers were real
The dramatic scene where Maximus faces off against Tigris the Gaul is brought to life with this one-of-a-kind addition. The Tigers were actually present at many Roman battles, and would often be thrown into the arena unannounced for any gladiator.
11. There were other names up for the lead role
The character of Maximus Decimus Meridius is played by Russell Crowe. After seeing him in Romper Stomper, a 1992 Australian drama film, Scott said that he was, “someone worth watching.” But as often happens with actors these days there were other names up for this part before they finally settle on one person. That’s one of the facts about Gladiator.
12. Oliver Reed died midway through production
Oliver Reed famously passed away during filming, three weeks before production ended. A legendary hellraiser, he died in a pub during a break in shooting after drinking eight pints of German lager, a dozen shots of rum, half a bottle of whiskey, a few shots of cognac, and after beating five Royal Navy sailors at arm-wrestling.
13. The ending was originally very different
Another one of the facts about Gladiator is that in the movie Juba buried the figurines of Maximus’ family in his native Colosseum before heading back to Africa. Originally though, when Oliver Reed died during filming it was supposed to be Proximo who tossed those figures into the sand.
Also, Maximus didn’t die in the original versions of this script. But Scott and Crowe changed it on set. Crowe said:
“I remember Ridley coming up to me on set saying, ‘Look, the way this is shaping up, I don’t see how you live. This character is about one act of pure vengeance for his wife and child, and, once he’s accomplished that, what does he do? Does he end up running a fucking pizzeria by the Colosseum?’”
14. The film had an impact on the popularity of ancient Rome
Roman history became a popular topic after Gladiator was released. The New York Times called it “The Gladiator Effect” and books about ancient Roman leadership, like Cicero’s biography or Marcus Aurelius’ meditations received massive spikes in sales thanks to this movie which increased interest even more than before.
15. Some tragedy struck the composer team
The famous score for the film was composed by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, who also sang several of its songs. The original singer planned to use was an Israeli called Ofra Haza after working with her on ‘The Prince Of Egypt’ (1998). Tragically though she died before recording could be done so that left room for another talented vocalist.
Gladiator is one of the most successful films of all time. It has a powerful story that speaks to something primal in humans. While there are many facts about Gladiator you may not know, we’ve highlighted some of the most interesting ones. We hope you enjoy them!