As some recent graduates can tell you, having a degree
Ridley Scott’s epic Roman masterpiece, Gladiator, is one of the highest-grossing Best Picture winners of all time. It won five Academy Awards, including Russell Crowe taking home Best Actor for the first and only time in his career. Here are 15 interesting things to know about the film…
1. Over the course of the gladiatorial scenes, Russell Crowe broke bones in his foot and his hip, and injured both bicep tendons.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Russell Crowe was continually unhappy with the screenplay, rewriting 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 “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.”
6. Five 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 kept at least 15 feet away from the tigers.
7. Maximus’ description of his home (specifically how the kitchen is arranged and smells in the morning and at night) was ad-libbed, and it’s a description of Crowe’s own home in Australia.
8. Joaquin Phoenix ad-libbed his scream of “Am I not merciful?”, and Connie Nielsen’s reaction of frightfully pulling away from him was genuine, since she wasn’t expecting it.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. For the crowd scenes in the Colosseum, in addition to the real life extras and the digital ones, 400 cardboard cut-outs of spectators were also used.
12. While looking at the dailies, Ridley Scott noticed that Joaquin Phoenix was gaining weight. Ridley spoke to the line producer about it, who then went to Joaquin and said ‘Ridley says your fat’. The next day Joaquin in full armour 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’. Joaquin then didn’t eat for weeks.
13. Joaquin Phoenix got so involved in the scene where Commodus murders his father that he actually fainted afterward.
14. 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.
15. During filming, director Ridley Scott wore the red cap worn by Gene Hackman in the movie Crimson Tide, which was directed by Ridley’s late brother, Tony Scott.