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Movie Legends: Was There Nearly a Sequel to Russell Crowe's Gladiator?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: There was almost a sequel made to Gladiator, written by Nick Cave!

Released in 2000, Gladiator was the rare film that managed to be a blockbuster action film AND a critically acclaimed drama at the same time. You really have to hand it to Ridley Scott and his ability to toe that line between art film and blockbuster.

The film ended up winning Best Picture and its star, Russell Crowe, won the Oscar for Best Actor.

The movie is about a Roman general, Maximus, whose family is killed and he become a slave when the son of the Emperor kills his father and takes over the Roman Empire and eliminates those generals who are loyal to his father, like Maximus. Maximus becomes a prized fighter as a slave and becomes a renowned gladiator, fighting for the amusement of the emperor. Ultimately, though, he leads a revolt of the other slaves and he revenges himself on the new Emperor for the death of his family and the previous Emperor.

However, while Maximus succeeds in killing the emperor, he, too, dies in the process.

So how the heck do you do a sequel to a film like that?

Quickly, as an aside, this is almost ironic because the original Gladiator actually had an actor appear in it AFTER he died, as I explain in an old Movie Legends Revealed here.

Anyhow, the initial idea of the film's producers was to set the sequel 15 years in the future and have it star the nephew of the Emperor, who the original film heavily implied was actually Maximus' son with the sister of the Emperor. The problem was that Russell Crowe really liked playing Maximus and he wanted to continue to play the role. Ridley Scott wanted to continue to work with Crowe, as well.

So in 2006, they hired the famous singer/songwriter, Nick Cave, to come up with a sequel in which Crowe could star in.

The concept of the film was that Maximus would be brought back to life by the Roman gods and he would be tasked with helping to save the early Christians from being killed by the Romans.

Scott recalled the situation, "We tried [to go with Cave's script]. Russell didn't want to let it go, obviously, because it worked very well. When I say 'worked very well', I don't refer to success. I mean, as a piece it works very well. Storytelling, [it] works brilliantly. I think [Cave] enjoyed doing it, and I think it was one of those things that he thought, 'Well, maybe there's a sequel where we can adjust the fantasy and bring [Maximus] back from the dead.'"

Crowe himself added, “At first I was very cynical about that notion [of a Gladiator sequel], but I’ve come around on it. We’ve had other ideas too, where we step off into the metaphysical and you actually acknowledge the fact that Maximus is dead [laughs], but that is a hard script to write. Nick Cave actually wrote a draft for me and Ridley [Scott] at one point. He’s an excellent writer, man. Nick did this draft and Ridley and I considered it for a while.”

Ultimately, the fact that the film starring Lucius was liked by others and just the sheer wackiness of this idea ended up causing this sequel never to occur.

Interestingly, Scott just noted in 2017, "I know how to bring him back. I was having this talk with the studio — ‘but he’s dead.’ But there is a way of bringing him back. Whether it will happen I don’t know. Gladiator was 2000, so Russell’s changed a little bit. He’s doing something right now but I’m trying to get him back down here.”

One of the coolest aspects of Cave's script is that Maximus essentially becomes immortal and just continues to fight for the rest of his life, as we follow him from the Middle Ages to World War II until we end the film with him now at the Pentagon. That sounds really pretty damn cool, right?

The legend is...

STATUS: True

Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of film.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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