12 May: Russell Crowe vs. the Romans

Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ opened in the UK on 12th May, 2000 – and was widely credited with resurrecting the ‘swords-and-sandals’ genre, sparking an interest in Roman history, and achieving that rare combination of critical praise and humongous box office success.

But the epic production was problematic – not least because supporting star Ollie Reed died during filming, leading to SFX house The Mill filling in the remainder of his scenes with CGI, at a cost of $3 million.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Russell Crowe came to be cast as Maximus; consider the alternative screenplays, featuring fighting hippopotamuses and man-on-man bath wrestling; and uncover songwriter Nick Cave’s bizarre attempts at penning the sequel… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Ridley Scott says Oliver Reed ‘dropped down dead’ after challenging sailors to drinking match while filming Gladiator’ (The Independent, 2020): https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/oliver-reed-gladiator-death-drinking-ridley-scott-20th-anniversary-russell-crowe-joaquin-phoenix-a9499331.html

• ‘Gladiator 2: The strangest sequel never made?’ (BBC Culture, 2018): https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180810-gladiator-2-was-written-and-its-mad

• ‘Strength and Honor: Creating the World of ‘Gladiator’’ (DreamWorks / Universal, 2005):