It’s been thirteen years since Ridley Scott’s Gladiator was released, grossing $456 million worldwide and winning an impressive five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Russel Crowe and the much coveted Best Picture. God knows Hollywood have made sequels from less, so why was there never another Gladiator film?
A big part of the problem as far as fans are concerned is that the main characters Maximus and Commodus both died at the end of the film. Logically there couldn’t be a sequel with Crowe reprising his role…but lack of logic never stopped anyone. For a long time, Crowe did heavy amounts of research into Roman religions and their concept of the afterlife to try and work out if his character could be reincarnated somehow. A prequel was also a possibility, in the vein of many historically related films, but in 2003 Ridley Scott had changed his mind and decided he was after a sequel set fifteen years later. It would revolve around Lucilla’s son Lucius, who was a small boy in Gladiator, trying to find out who his father was and resisting the Praetorian Guards rule over Rome. There was speculation that Russel Crowe could appear again as a memory or a phantom to the boy who would in this case be his son and that this sequel would be more about politics and power in the Roman Empire than just fighting – so probably couldn’t be named Gladiator 2.
But here’s where things get really weird.
It seems as though Russell Crowe approached the Murder Ballads writer Nick Cave (of the Bad Seeds) to solve the problem of his character’s pesky death. Rumours abounded (aided by Cave of course) that Maximus would be reincarnated by the Roman Gods to protect Christians from persecution. Years later the story changed however; instead of saving the Christians, Maximus was commanded by the Gods to get rid of the new god Jesus Christ and his followers, for taking away their popularity. He would have been granted immortality and the closing scenes would have shown him at important war events throughout history such as World War II and the Vietnam War before seeing Maximus in present day at the Pentagon. Now that’s a scary thought.
Despite its historical inaccuracies, there are still loyal fans to the film, and the theme of Gladiatorial combat is still seen today in many different forms such as video games, the imminent 300 prequel release and online games like Gladiator slots. The popularity of Gladiator and its success perhaps should have lead on to something else by now, but perhaps Cave’s “Christ Killer” was not the way to go about it (although it sounds like he had great fun writing a film that would never be made). We sit with baited breath and wait to see what crazy direction this will go in next.