Make no mistake, it never needed one. In fact, the ending alone pretty much took care of the notion of a sequel. Russell Crowe’s 2000 epic, Gladiator, was not made to have a follow-up. Director Ridley Scott made sure of that.
Not one thing was left unsaid in the two-hour and thirty-five-minute film. All questions were answered, no stone was left unturned, all plotlines were neatly resolved, and the biggest clue that there would be no sequel was the simple SPOILER FACT that Russell Crowe’s Maximus did not survive.
But a film that was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, taking home five to include a Best Actor for Russell Crowe and Best Picture, has a way of changing minds. That and the fact that Scott’s $103 million epic brought back nearly $461 at the box office. These things matter.
The problem, though, just can’t be overlooked. Maximus was dead, there was no denying that, so how could there be a sequel?
First off, Scott went to scribe John Logan, who was part of the trio of writers that penned Gladiator. The other two were David Franzoni and William Nicholson. Scott wanted Logan to write a script that would be set in ancient Rome, but it wouldn’t feature Russell Crowe as Maximus or any gladiator at all. So, could that even be considered a sequel?
For Russell Crowe’s part, he saw the success of the film and thought there was a way to tackle a sequel script to somehow bring back his Maximus character. So, Crowe went to a pal, Nick Cave, whose main body of work was as a theatrical singer-songwriter. “He, eventually, rang me up and asked if I wanted to write Gladiator 2 (laughs) and for someone who had only written one film script, it was quite an ask”, Cave recalled via Den of Geek.
To Cave’s credit, he did have that one produced script, Ghosts…of the Civil Dead, but that was it. Also, to Cave’s credit, he felt he had what it took to tackle the sequel. Of course, there was still that one big issue.
“Didn’t you die in Gladiator 1?” he asked Crowe when Crowe offered him the job. “Yeah, you sort that out,” Crowe told him. Here, folks are where things jump off the rails.
Nick Cave then proceeds to take Russell Crowe on a different kind of adventure. “So he goes to purgatory,” Cave reveals through Little White Lies. “There’s this Christ character down on Earth who is gaining popularity and many of the Gods are dying so they send Gladiator back to Earth to kill Christ and all of his followers. I wanted to call it ‘Christ Killer’.”
Nick Cave wasn’t done. His wild ideas to bring Russell Crowe back to the land of the living became even wilder. Cave was setting up Maximus in Gladiator 2: Christ Killer for a climax that was both epic and time-spanning. Yes, as in time travel. Ugh.
“In the end, you find out that the main guy was his son. So, he has to kill his son and he’s tricked by the Gods and all this sort of stuff,” teases Cave. “He becomes this eternal warrior, and it ends with this twenty-minute war sequence that follows all the wars of history, right up to the Vietnam war. It was wild.”
Not crazy enough for you? How about an immortal Russell Crowe arriving in World War II to take command of tanks and finally making an appearance in the modern-day Pentagon? Wow.
Cave had a feeling that his flights of fantasy as they concerned Crowe’s Maximus might not be to everyone’s liking. He first went to Crowe to get his take on the script.
“What do you think?” Cave asked Crowe, to which the actor politely responded, “Don’t like it, mate.” “What about the end?” Cave probed. Again, politely, “Don’t like it, mate.” So, Cave didn’t need to take the script to anyone else, his answer was staring him in the face.
Eventually, Ridley Scott gave his input during an interview for his 2017 feature, Alien: Covenant. “It was a good idea,’ Scott said about how Cave initially brought Maximus back. Then Scott continued, “I knew how to bring him back. [Cave] used a portal of a dying warrior as a portal that could bring somebody back.”
All in all, Cave says his experience writing the script, which he now thinks can be found somewhere on a shelf at DreamWorks, was an enjoyable one, even though it will never see the light of day. Perhaps we should say that the film will never see the big screen as the script has leaked and can be read here.
It is all is well and good for the unproduced sequel to Gladiator. While it’s understandable that Russell Crowe and company would have loved to piggyback off the success of Gladiator, some films, especially ones where the main character gets offed, just need to be left alone.
Gladiator was a near-perfect film that obviously many enjoyed. Sometimes that is enough. Give that Nick Cave script a read and let us know your thoughts on Russell Crowe’s take on the project. Chances are you may find Crowe was dead on with his assessment.