Films

15 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Gladiator

Honestly, this list could have easily been 50 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Gladiator, but we've all got jobs to do and lives to lead so we thought we should whittle it down to the best 15. What we've learned in researching this, though, was that the production of the movie was no picnic. On-set fall outs, storm outs and outright offers of fisticuffs were rife. And for some reason that makes us love this film that little be more. A battle to put to celluloid? Yes. A bloody good film? Absolutely. Unleash Hell...

(Images: Rex/YouTube)

  • 15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Gladiator

    1.

    Five tigers were brought in for the sequence in the arena where Maximus fights Tigris the Gaul. A vet armed with tranquiliser darts (some vet, huh?) 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. Oh and the script had called for a battle scene between Maximus and a rhino. Since it was too difficult to train and CGI could not make it realistic enough, the rhino was scrapped. 

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    2.

    Mel Gibson (43 at the time) was first offered the role, but declined as he, probably rightly, felt he was too old to play the character. Antonio Banderas and Hugh Jackman were also considered.

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    3.

    Ridley Scott was approached by producers Walter F. Parkes and Douglas Wick. They showed him a copy of Jean-Léon Gérôme's 1872 painting entitled Pollice Verso, which translates as Thumbs Down. It inspired Ridley to make the movie and contributed to Commodus's famous thumbs up or down scenes. 

    (Image: Wikimedia) 

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    4.

    In the first script, before a rewrite by John Logan, Maximus's family weren't killed off at all. The macabre subplot was added on a rewrite to add far more impetus to the big man's motives. 

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    5.

    All of the film's props, sets, and costumes were manufactured by crew members due to high costs or total unavailability of the items they needed. One hundred suits of steel armour and 550 suits in polyurethane were made and, over a three-month period, 27,500 component pieces of armour were produced specifically for the movie.

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    6.

    The opening battle scenes in the forests of Germania were actually shot in Bourne Wood in Farnham, Surrey, in the UK. The woods have played host to a number of films and TV shows including Band Of Brothers, Warhorse, Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America, Wolfman and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Royal Forestry Commission had originally slated the area for deforestation so Ridley offered them his facilities to burn the woods to the ground. The Commission happily accepted.

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    7.

    Lou Ferrigno - The Incredible Hulk himself - was originally cast as Tigris of Gaul, but was replaced during production by Sven-Ole Thorsen. We are disappointed. 

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    8.

    The scenes of slavery, desert travel, and gladiatorial training school were shot in Ouarzazate, Morocco just south of the Atlas Mountains. There's props still there that you can pose with, like these guys have done. Ouarzazate has been used for scenes in Lawrence of Arabia, The Living Daylights, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Mummy, LegionnaireSalmon Fishing in the Yemen and Game of Thrones.

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    9.

    In Fort Ricasoli, Malta, a replica of about one-third of Rome's Colosseum was built, to a height of 52 feet, mostly from plaster and plywood. The replica took several months to build and cost an estimated $1 million. The other two-thirds were added digitally

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    10.

    Oliver Reed died of a heart attack during the filming in Malta, before all his scenes had been shot. A British post-production company created a digital body double for the remaining scenes involving his character by photographing a live action body-double in the shadows and by mapping a three-dimensional computer-generated imagery mask of Reed's face to the remaining scenes at a cost of $3.2 million for two minutes of footage. Visual effects supervisor John Nelson said: "What we did was small compared to our other tasks on the film. What Oliver did was much greater... All we did was help him finish it."

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    11.

    Pernickety folks have done their best to sully the movie by pointing out anachronisms. We're not into all that miserableness, but we did chuckle a little when we were told that the movie includes a padlock. Padlocks, apparently, weren't perfected until the 1920s, some 1750 years after the movie is set.  

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    12.

    Maximus' description of his home (specifically how the kitchen is arranged and smells in the morning and at night) was ad-libbed - it's a description of Crowe's own home in Australia (not pictured). Joaquin Phoenix scream of "Am I not merciful?" was also not in the script. Which must have scared the holy bejeezus out of poor Connie Nielsen. See that moment here.

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    13.

    Oliver Reed has gone on record to say his main motivation for taking the part of Proximo was because he fancied a "free trip to London to see a couple of shows". During filming Reed took an instant dislike to Crowe and at one point offered him out. Yep, that's our Oli. 

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    14.

    That's not Russell Crowe's hand you see in the iconic shot of Maximus brushing the stalks of wheat. It's Crowe's stunt double, Stuart Clark's hand. 

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    15.

    This fact will be slightly lost on non-Brits, but it'll bring so much joy to British readers that we're including it. Maximus's pet wolf is the same dog that played Wellard for seven years in Eastenders. The dog is actually a bitch called Kyte. 

    For those left underwhelmed by this fact, trust us, minds are being blown across the UK. 

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