In the 2000 film Gladiator, as he stood defiantly in the Coliseum of Rome, a general turned slave named Maximus, portrayed by Russell Crowe, declared, “I will have my vengeance in this life or the next.”
At the end of the film, Maximus lay dead in the dirt, but nonetheless that doesn’t prevent a next life for Gladiator, with Deadline Hollywood reporting that director Ridley Scott is developing a sequel to the film. It seems fairly certain Maximus will not return, but with Hollywood one can never be sure.
According to Deadline, “While he has been eyeing other projects that include a coming of age Merlin movie at Disney, Ridley Scott has begun forward progress on a sequel to Gladiator, the 2000 film which garnered 11 Oscar nominations and five wins including Best Picture and Best Actor for Russell Crowe.”
The Hunger Games screenwriter Peter Craig will develop the script, reported several media outlets.
Reportedly the sequel will follow the story of Lucius, who was a child in the original film, the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), the sister of Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) and lover of Maximus. Lucius idolized Maximus in the first film.
Maximus is a fictional character, but Lucilla and Commodus are real people who lived in the 2nd century AD.
She conspired against her despised brother, which was also a plot development in Gladiator, but in reality her coup attempt failed and she was executed. Lucius, her son, died young.
Developing a sequel to Gladiator has been discussed for years. The problem is, Russell Crowe was considered central to the original’s success.
In an interview several years ago quoted in The Sun, Ridley Scott said of Maximus, “I know how to bring him back. I was having this talk with the studio — ‘but he’s dead.’ There is a way of bringing him back. Whether it will happen, I don’t know.”
Crowe, in a different interview, said, “On the set of Gladiator I built up a relationship with [Scott] that would last forever. Ridley did a job that was both epic and magical.”
The actor has also said that Maximus was one of his favorite characters.
Before Scott and Crowe worked together on Gladiator, the director was best known for Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma and Louise. He has said in interviews he wanted to make an epic that rose above the “Swords and Sandals” cliches.
The part was offered to Mel Gibson, but he turned it down because he thought he was too old to do it justice.
Crowe, born in New Zealand and later a resident of Australia, had already appeared in several successful films, but Gladiator was a high point to date, with his Oscar win.
Afterward, he starred in A Beautiful Mind, The Insider, Master and Commander, Robin Hood, Noah, and Les Miserables.
Despite all the praise Crowe has showered on Scott, reports agree that the two fought on the set of Gladiator, with Crowe repeatedly complaining about the dialogue and pressuring for changes.
In a scene early in the film, when Maximus is asked about his home, he describes it movingly. That dialogue was written by Crowe.
The acting of Joaquin Phoenix as the evil young Emperor Commodus also won praise, as did that of two veterans of film: Oliver Reed as Proximo and Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius. Reed, an alcoholic, died before the film was finished and a body double and CGI were employed to complete his key part. Richard Harris died in 2002.
Gladiator was a box office smash, earning $460 million. It also kicked off more interest in films and books on the ancient world. The films Troy, 300, and Alexander were believed to have gotten the green light because of “the Gladiator effect,” as did the TV series Spartacus.
Another important factor in the success of Gladiator was the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. It is one of the best-selling scores of all time.