Cast & Crew
In a bleak winter forest in the year 180 A.D., Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridias reviews his battle-weary troops before they launch their final campaign to conquer Germania. Maximus is greatly admired by his men, alongside whom he fights during the battle and leads them to victory. Commodus and his sister Lucilla, the scions of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, travel to Maximus' army camp, having been summoned by their father. On their arrival they learn that the soldiers have been gone for nineteen days. Commodus rides to the front to honor his father but is affronted when Marcus Aurelius pays homage to Maximus. The emperor, who loves Maximus as a son, believes that he is slowly dying and sends for Maximus that night to ask him to succeed him after his death and give the control of Rome to the Senate. Maximus, longing only to return to his native Spain and his family, rejects the idea, but Marcus Aurelius is adamant as he believes that Commodus is morally corrupt. While Maximus prays alone to devotional figures of his family for guidance, Marcus Aurelius tells Commodus his decision. Commodus feels betrayed and, sobbing, murders his father. The murder is covered up and Commodus immediately seizes power. When Maximus refuses to vow his loyalty, Commodus orders his immediate execution. In a remote forest location, Maximus overwhelms his would-be assassins and, injured, rides for home, but arrives to find that his wife and son have been hanged and burned to death by Commodus' Praetorian guards. Maximus collapses and while unconscious is taken prisoner by a slave trader. A fellow captive named Juba befriends Maximus and treats his wound, after which they are both sold to fight promoter Proximo to be trained as gladiators. Proximo assumes that Maximus is a deserter from the Roman army and he is dubbed "Spaniard." While a reluctant Maximus is being trained as a gladiator, Commodus returns to Rome as emperor but is uninterested in the actual work of ruling. Lucilla acts as a mediator between Commodus and the hostile Senate, while Commodus focuses on his plans to hold 150 days of games to honor his father. In time, Maximus gains the respect of his fellow gladiators as well as the crowds who cheer him on as he repeatedly defeats his foes, but Maximus remains disgusted by the blood sport. Proximo meets privately with Maximus and admits that he was once a gladiator who was granted his freedom by Marcus Aurelius. Proximo informs him that they will be fighting in Commodus' games at the Roman coliseum and advises him that if he wins that crowd, he, too, might win his own freedom. Meanwhile, Lucilla, a widow who was once in love with Maximus, tries to keep her brother from dissolving the Senate, resorting even to sleeping tonics to keep him at bay. Proximo and his gladiators arrive in Rome and are assigned to fight a re-creation of the Battle of Carthage. The gladiators are awed by the size of the coliseum but once inside the arena, they battle for their lives. Maximus uses his skills as a general and urges his fellow gladiators to work together, and they succeed in killing the opposition. The audience cheers them on and, when Commodus goes down to meet the gladiators, he demands that Maximus remove the helmet that hides his face. Maximus then reveals his true identity and vows vengeance, but when the frightened Commodus calls forth his Praetorian guards, the crowds boo him until he gives Maximus the thumbs-up symbol of approval. Commodus later confides to Lucilla that his guards lied to him that Maximus was dead and that this must mean he does not have their respect. Lucilla advises him to force them to respect him, but later secretly meets with Maximus to seek his help against Commodus, whom she fears. Maximus is too embittered to offer his support. In an attempt to kill Maximus, Commodus next pits him against several vicious tigers and a top gladiator; although Maximus again survives, he refuses to kill the gladiator. Maximus' former assistant, Cicero, makes contact with him and Maximus sends him to Lucilla to tell her he has changed his mind and will help her. When Lucilla arranges for Maximus to meet with Gracchus, a Roman senator who opposes Commodus, Maximus relates to Gracchus that it was Marcus Aurelius' final wish that power be returned to the Senate. Maximus then asks for his freedom, in return for which he will gather his troops and kill Commodus and his guards. When Gracchus is arrested soon after, Lucilla arranges with Proximo to free Maximus that night. At the palace, Commodus is stunned when Lucilla's son Lucius innocently reveals that his mother believes that Maximus is the savior of Rome. Lucilla returns as Commodus is telling Lucius a story about ancestral betrayal, and she realizes that her disloyalty has been discovered. As a result, Commodus' spies slip a poisonous snake into the bed of senator Gaius, who is sympathetic to Lucilla's cause. Before Maximus can be freed, Commodus' Praetorian guards arrive at Proximo's encampment. After giving Maximus the keys to free all the slaves, Proximo fights the Praetorians to his death. The slaves rally to combat the guards while Maximus escapes to meet Cicero. Maximus finds Cicero at the appointed place seated on his horse, but Cicero cries out a warning and is hanged by a noose around his neck, while Maximus is captured Commodus' forces. Commodus now demands that Lucilla live estranged from her son, and implies that he hopes that he and she will produce their own heir. He then decides to fight Maximus himself as part of the games, but to ensure his own victory, stabs the former general in the back, and then has his man, Quintus, cover the wound with armor. Commodus and Maximus face off in the arena, but when Commodus loses his sword, Quintus refuses to give him another. Commodus then pulls a knife from his sleeve and they fight hand-to-hand, but Maximus overpowers him and finally gains his revenge, killing Commodus. As Maximus slowly dies from the knife wound, he tells Quintus to free his men, reinstate Gracchus and restore the dream of Rome as Marcus Aurelius had wished. After Lucilla runs to his side and assures him that Lucius is safe, Maximus dies with visions of his family walking through fields to greet him. Lucilla weeps over his body, then demands that the people of Rome honor him. Gracchus and the slaves carry Maximus' body from the arena, leaving Commodus in the dirt. Later, Juba buries the carved devotional figures of Maximus' family, and having earned his own freedom, pledges to see his friend again in time.
Spencer Treat Clark
Al Hunter Ashton
Ait Hamid Abdellam
El Mokhtar Aboukal
Karen M. Baker
Brahim Ait Belkas
Tariq Ait Ben Ali
Jinane Ben Zaida
Zoran Mikincic Budin
David A. Cohen
Yvonne Zarb Cousin
Hayat Ouled Dahhou
Nicola De Fresnes
Bruno De Santa
Jose Luis Del Barco
Dino R. Dimuro
Abdellatif El Ansary
Said Ahmed El Groune
Abderarrahim El Hajli
Mustapha El Idrissi
Najma El Mahjoub
Aicha El Meziane
Ismail El Moulloua
Ali Bakkioui El Otmani
Steven Kent Foster
Bruce L. Fowler
Best Costume Design
Best Motion Picture
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction
Best Art Direction
Best Original Screenplay
Best Original Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
The plot of Gladiator centers on the most trusted and valiant of Emperor Marcus Aurelius' commanders, the fictional Maximus Decimus Meridias, for whom the end of a successful 12-year campaign against the barbarian tribes of Germania should have meant a return to his beloved family and farm. Upon the emperor's death, however, power is transferred to his son, Commodus, a real historical figure pictured here with a consuming jealousy over the esteem his father held for the young general. Maximus narrowly escapes being killed by Commodus' guard, but his wife and son are murdered. Falling into the hands of a slave trader, he trains as a gladiator, becoming one of the most popular and successful, all the while plotting his revenge on the evil Commodus.
In addition to elaborate action scenes on the battlefield and gladiatorial arenas and special effects that helped simulate the power and majesty of ancient Rome, Scott's venture was also greatly aided by the casting of Russell Crowe as Maximus. The role was reportedly first offered to and rejected by Mel Gibson; fellow Australian Crowe was cast after considerable acclaim for his work in L.A. Confidential (1997) and The Insider (1999). Crowe earned an Academy Award for his performance here and rose to major stardom. He and Scott have recently teamed again for another period action tale with some factual basis, Robin Hood (2010), which incorporates true historical figures and events much as Gladiator does.
Joaquin Phoenix, who gained weight to play Commodus (a role Jude Law tested for), also saw his career stakes rise considerably after Gladiator, which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar® nomination. The film garnered Academy Awards for Best Picture, Sound, Visual Effects, and Costume Design, as well as six other nominations, including Best Director for Scott. The blockbuster brought in around four dozen additional awards worldwide and numerous nominations for every aspect of the production.
Gladiator was the last film role for veteran British actor (and legendary hell raiser) Oliver Reed, who died of an off-set heart attack before completing his part as gladiator trainer Proximo. In the original screenplay the character survives an assault by Commodus' Praetorian Guards, but upon Reed's death, the story was rewritten to have him die in the attack. The character's final moments on screen were created with body doubles and some very deft CGI using Reed's own face.
When Dreamworks executives first pitched the project to Scott, they didn't even show him a script, so the potential director was understandably wary of taking on a genre that had become a joke. Then they showed him the famous 1872 Gérôme painting "Pollice Verso" (translated as "Thumbs Down") depicting a gladiator receiving the sign to kill his opponent. "They really had me," Scott told Entertainment Weekly at the time of the film's May 2000 release. "I hadn't even read the script and I was sitting there begging." Crowe later said the same painting was one of the things that reversed his initial reluctance to accept the lead.
David Franzoni's early script, inspired by Daniel Mannix's history of the Roman games, Those About to Die, focused primarily on how sports heroes are slavishly worshipped by fans, and he developed an idea about commercialized gladiators making endorsements on frescoes, chariots, even jars of olive oil. Crowe found this to be a rather cynical take on life in ancient times and thought the hero was not sufficiently fleshed out. But Michael Mann, director of The Insider, urged him to jump at the chance to work with Scott, and after important script changes, including the hiring of writers who would bring more shading to Maximus and his life as a slave, Crowe was eager to play the part. One obstacle, however, needed to be surmounted; Crowe had packed on 38 pounds to play the anti-Tobacco whistle-blower in The Insider, so he began working out to get into fighting shape, a process that took much longer than he anticipated. He also trained with a sword master in Australia for nearly six months. Luckily Crowe, who owns a 560-acre ranch hours from Sydney, was already an expert horseman.
All his training notwithstanding, the actor took considerable lumps on the set. He cracked a bone in his foot, fractured a hip, had to get stitches in his cheek, seriously wrenched two bicep tendons, and cut one of his fingers so badly that by the time of the film's premier, he had still not regained the feeling in his fingertip. The physical strains were matched by those provided by the lack of a completed screenplay when production began. At some point, it was decided another act was needed, necessitating new writers being brought on board and a move to locations in Morocco, in addition to the original locations in England and Malta.
Besides using a still-intact 17th century fort in Malta, a replica of the Colosseum was built there, costing more than a million dollars and taking two and a half months to build. The final set was a reportedly breathtaking 40 percent of the full scale of the original, two tiers high as opposed to the real Colosseum's four. The rest was added digitally.
Richard Harris, who plays the aged Emperor Marcus Aurelius, had been cast many years earlier as Commodus in one of the last of the great "sword-and-sandal" epics of the time, The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), but quit after artistic differences with director Anthony Mann.
Director: Ridley Scott
Producers: Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, et al
Screenplay: David Franzoni, John Logan, William Nicholson
Cinematography: John Mathieson
Editing: Pietro Scalia
Production Design: Arthur Max
Original Music: Lisa Gerrard, Hans Zimmer
Cast: Russell Crowe (Maximus), Joaquin Phoenix (Commodus), Connie Nielsen (Lucilla), Oliver Reed (Proximo), Richard Harris (Marcus Aurelius), Derek Jacobi (Gracchus), Djimoun Hounsou (Juba).
by Rob Nixon
With the exception of the production company names, the film opens with only the title and the following prologue: "At the height of its power the Roman empire was vast, stretching from the deserts of Africa to the borders of Northern England. Over one quarter of the world's population lived and died under the rule of the caesars. In the winter of 180 A.D., Emperor Marcus Aurelius' twelve-year campaign against the barbarian tribes in Germania was drawing to an end. Just one final stronghold stands in the way of Roman victory and the promise of peace throughout the empire." All other credits appear at the end of the film. Russell Crowe's character is named Maximus in the film's end credits, however the full name is spoken as "Maximus Decimus Meridias" within the film. The correct spelling of this full name is unconfirmed as the Final Shooting Script dated May 5, 1999 lists the name as "Caius Fabius Maximus" (p. 74).
The character of Maximus is fictional, however, the characters of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus and Lucilla are based on actual persons. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.) was adopted by the emperor Antoninus Pius and succeeded him. He initially shared power with his adoptive brother, Lucius Verus, but was the sole emperor after 169 A.D. Although he was also known as a philosopher and humanitarian, there is no historical evidence that he enjoined his successor to return ruling power to the Senate. His death is documented as having been caused by illness. In 164 A.D., then seventeen-year-old Lucilla, the daughter of Marcus Aurelius, was married to Lucius Verus. After his death, she became the wife of Claudius Pompeianus Quintianus of Antioch. Historical sources note that Commodus (161-192 A.D.) served as joint emperor with his father for three years before the death of Marcus Aurelius. After Commodus' succession, he founded peace with Germania and returned to Rome. History records that Commodus was indeed out of favor with the Senate but popular with the people. He fought in gladiatorial games, always the victor, and his reign was marked by his frequently staged tributes to himself. Commodus was eventually murdered at the order of his own advisers.
A Time magazine article dated May 8, 2000 noted that actor Jude Law was tested for the role of "Commodus." According to a May 2000 article in Talk, writer David Franzoni first conceived the story in May 1996, and director Ridley Scott indicated that his first choice for the role of "Maximus" was Mel Gibson. Gibson, who had just finished the film The Patriot, turned down the role. According to an article dated May 25, 2001 in Los Angeles Times's "Calendar" section, producer Douglas Wick first offered the project to his own studio, Sony Pictures, but they passed on it.
Numerous news items note that the nineteenth-century painting "Pollice Verso (Thumbs Down)" by Jean-Léon Gérôme inspired Ridley Scott's vision of the film. According to a April 27, 2000 article in The Times (London), Scott first considered a forest in Bratislava for the opening battle scene, however, he later arranged with the British Forestry Commission to use a British forest that was already scheduled for de-forestation. The area was known as the Bourne Woods, near Farnham, England. The film's presskit notes the following about the production: Ouarzazate, Morocco was the location for scenes including the marketplace, "Proximo's" school and the small arena. The Moroccan army aided the production by constructing a bridge across a river that afforded transport to another location. Malta was the site for the reconstruction of Rome and the Coliseum. The production crew built a model of one-third of the Coliseum and used special effects to complete the rest of the structure as seen in the film. Numerous news items add that additional sets were built around Fort Ricasoli, an eighteenth-century fort in Malta.
Gladiator marked the final feature appearance of British actor Oliver Reed, who died of a heart attack while off the set on May 2, 1999. The end credits for Gladiator include the following dedication: "To our friend Oliver Reed." According to the presskit, in the original screenplay the character "Proximo" survives the Praetorian assault. After Reed's death, the script was revised to include "Proximo's" release of the slaves and his death at the hands of the Praetorian guards. A body double and special effects were employed to make it appear that Reed performed the entirety of this scene.
The production cost of the film was estimated at $105 million by various news sources. DreamWorks handled the domestic distribution, and Universal handled the foreign distribution. The May 10, 2000 issue of Hollywood Reporter reported that the film grossed $34.8 million domestic box-office on its opening weekend. According to Variety, the film grossed $415 million box-office worldwide by July 27, 2000. The film was re-released on November 22, 2000 in IMAX theatres around the U.S. as promotional support for the release of the DVD version, according to a November 24, 2000 article in Screen International. Hollywood Reporter noted on August 11, 2000 that the film received the Gold Australian Box Office Achievement Award for "the highest grossing film in the market over the [previous] twelve months." The award was sponsored by Hoyt Cinemas.
In addition to being selected as one of AFI's top ten films of 2000, Gladiator was nominated for Golden Globe Awards for Actor in a Leading Role, Drama (Russell Crowe), Actor in a Supporting Role (Joaquin Phoenix) and Director (Ridley Scott), and won Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture, Drama and Original Score (Lisa Gerrard, Hans Zimmer). The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Performance by an actor in a supporting role (Joaquin Phoenix), Achievement in art direction (Art direction Arthur Max, Set decoration Crispian Sallis), Achievement in cinematography (John Mathieson), Achievement in directing (Ridley Scott), Achievement in film editing (Pietro Scalia), Achievement in music (original score) (Hans Zimmer), Screenplay written directly for the screen (David Franzoni and John Logan and William Nicholson). The film won Academy Awards in the following categories: Performance by an actor in a leading role (Russell Crowe), Achievement in costume design (Janty Yates), Achievement in sound (Scott Millan, Bob Beemer and Ken Weston), Achievement in visual effects (John Nelson, Neil Corbould, Tim Burke and Rob Harvey) and Best Picture (A Douglas Wick in association with Scott Free Production, Douglas Wick, David Franzoni and Branko Lustig, Producers).
On May 16, 2006, a musical version of Gladiator, with book and lyrics by Roger Hyams and music by Gavin Greenaway, based on themes from the film written by Hans Zimmer, opened in North Hollywood, CA. The Workshop presentation was produced by Brian Eastman and directed by James Robinson.
Masked Opponent and Tiger
Nominated for the 2000 Award for Best Cinematography from the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).
Nominated for the 2000 award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film from the Directors Guild of America (DGA).
Nominated for three 2000 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, including Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Supporting Actor (Joaquin Phoenix) and Best Ensemble Cast.
Voted one of the 10 best films of 2000 by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Winner of six 2000 awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Supporting Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Composer (together with "Mission: Impossible II" and "The Road to El Dorado") from the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
Winner of the 2000 award for Best Actor (Russell Crowe) by the London Film Critics Circle.
Winner of the 2000 Award for Best Production Design in a Feature Film - Period/Fantasy from the Society of Motion Picture & Television Art Directors/ Art Directors Guild (ADG).
Winner of the 2000 Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature - Drama, from the American Cinema Editors (ACE).
Winner of the 2000 Golden Laurel Award for Best Motion Picture from the Producers Guild of America (PGA).
Winner of the 2000 Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing - Sound Effects & Foley, Domestic Feature Film by the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE).
Winner of the two 2000 awards, including Best Supporting Actor (Joaquin Phoenix) and Best Production Design/Art Direction from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.
Winner of three 2000 Golden Satellite Awards, including Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects, from the International Press Academy.
Released in United States Spring May 5, 2000
Limited re-release in United States March 3, 2001
Released in United States on Video November 21, 2000
Released in United States March 2001
Shown at Santa Barbara International Film Festival March 1-11, 2001.
Completed shooting June 4, 1999.
Began shooting February 1, 1999.
Oliver Reed died in Malta, May 2, 1999 at the age of 61.
Mel Gibson was originally sought for the role of Maximus.
Wide re-release in USA March 30, 2001.
Released in United States Spring May 5, 2000
Limited re-release in United States March 3, 2001 (Los Angeles)
Released in United States on Video November 21, 2000
Released in United States March 2001 (Shown at Santa Barbara International Film Festival March 1-11, 2001.)