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  • Acting for Two: Sven-Ole Thorsen not only played Tigris the Gaul, but doubled as one of the spectators during that same battle.
  • Actor-Inspired Element:
    • Connie Nielsen found the 2000-year-old signet ring which she wears in the movie in an antique store. She was a surprising fount of information in terms of Roman history, as she had always been fascinated by the period. She would be frequently consulted over accurate historical details.
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    • David Hemmings' pointed eyebrows were his own.
  • Actor-Shared Background: When Maximus is talking about his home, it's Russell Crowe talking about his own home in Australia.
  • AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains:
    • #50 Hero, General Maximus Decimus Meridius
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: Russell Crowe explained why he said yes to the film:
    They said, "It's a 100-million-dollar film. You're being directed by Ridley Scott. You play a Roman General". I've always been a big fan of Ridley's.
  • California Doubling: Malta doubled for Rome (well, the Colosseum). Additionally, a forest in England was used for the opening battle in Germania and Maximus' first gladiator battles were fought in Morocco.
  • Career Resurrection:
  • The Character Died with Him: Proximo was supposed to survive the movie, but instead he's killed off due to Oliver Reed's death during production.
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  • Creator Backlash: Somewhat, at least in the Japanese dub: according with Nobutoshi Canna, who voiced Commodus in the dub of the film, dubbing him was really tiring for him, since he couldn't get into the character quite right, mostly because at the time he didn't had much experience into dubbing foreign media, and also because Commodus's Roman mindset was quite alien for him.
  • Dawson Casting: Seventy year old Richard Harris as fifty-eight year old Marcus Aurelius.
  • Deleted Scene: One of them has two guards who screwed up and allowed Maximus to escape about to be executed with arrows, and Commodus walking in front of them while the archers are tensed to fire, and standing directly between the two condemned men as they are killed by arrows. This is supposed to show how self-destructive he's become since becoming emperor. This scene and several others have since been added back in with a recent Director's Cut, as is the increasing norm for a Ridley Scott movie.
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  • Dueling Movies: This came out around the same time as The Patriot. Though they are set in different time period it is a similarly themed fellow historical drama/battle epic. Both being about a would be farmer and family man who is forced to fight for freedom against the monarch and his regime ruling over him when his family is attacked by their forces. Both came out after the success of the similarly-themed film Braveheart. Ironically that film's lead Mel Gibson was offered the role of Maximus in this film but turned it down because he thought he was too old for it and wound up playing Benjamin Martin in the opposing film instead.
  • Dyeing for Your Art:
    • Russell Crowe had just gained 40 pounds for The Insider... which he had to lose for this film. He did so by doing normal farm work at his home in Australia.
    • While looking at the dailies, Ridley Scott noticed that Joaquin Phoenix was gaining weight. Scott spoke to the Line Producer about it, who then went to Phoenix and told him, "Ridley says you're fat." The next day, Phoenix, in full armor, came to Scott and said, "I hear I look like a little fat hamster. I thought it was the right thing to do. I'm the emperor of Rome, why would I not look a little more debauched?" Phoenix then didn't eat for weeks.
  • Fake Nationality: Everyone. But Russell Crowe is most definitely not a Spaniard.
    • And Beninese Djimon Hounsou is most definitely not a Numidian, i.e. a native to northeastern Algeria by the Tunisian border. Averted on the other hand by German Ralf Moeller, who plays the Germanic gladiator Hagen and is even from the Rhine region where such a slave would be likeliest to come from, even though he doesn't look stereotypically German.
  • Follow the Leader: This film came out in a resurgent wave of R-rated historical battle epics about brave heroes fighting against despotic regimes following on the success of Braveheart, and this like that film wound up a resounding success. It even earned the same number of Awards on Oscar Night including Best Picture. It went on to become a trendsetter in its own right, narrowing down public interest back into Greco-Roman themed films in specific.
  • Hostility on the Set:
    • Oliver Reed, for whatever reason, took a dislike to Russell Crowe, even challenging him to a fight. Crowe, for his part, spoke negatively about Reed.
    • This was inverted for Crowe and Richard Harris, who became friends instantly. Both resonate well with the characters and their station.
  • In Memoriam: The film is dedicated to Oliver Reed.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: Working with animals was a continuous headache, starting with the fact that both Morocco and the United Kingdom have strict policies on their importation. This resulted in the Circus scenes using mostly animals from Rabat Zoo, and Maximus's trained wolf being changed to a dog played by a Belgian Shepherd. The tigers were at first nervous about being surrounded by so many people, which worked well for the fight scenes, but got used to it soon. After that, the real challenge became to goad them into fighting.
    • In addition, the DVD contains an Easter egg of a test of an animated rhino fight that was never developed. This was the second chance after it proved impossible to train a rhino for Maximus to fight. Amusingly enough, it also proved impossible to animate the fight as well.
  • The Other Marty: Lou Ferrigno was originally cast as Tigris of Gaul, but was replaced during production by Sven Ole Thorsen who had been lobbying hard for the part.
  • Posthumous Credit: Oliver Reed died in 1999, a year before the film was released.
  • Serendipity Writes the Plot:
    • The big one is obviously Oliver Reed's death. In the script, Proximo was captured by Commodus's goons and brought to the arena, where Commodus wanted to force him and Maximus to fight each other for his own amusement. He would survive the film, however, and bury the figurines in the arena after Maximus's death. When it was Reed who died, Scott phoned his script doctor, who had just returned to England, and told him to come back and rewrite the last act in a way that could allow him to use the scenes already filmed by Reednote 
    • Crowe accidentally scratched his face during the battle scene, forcing the crew the include those injuries in the movie.
    • The script called Commodus to attempt to get rid of Maximus by arranging a fight between him and a rhinoceros, and Maximus to win against all odds. However, the CGI rhinoceros was deemed unconvincing, and the scene was rewritten to have Maximus "merely" face Tigris of Gaul and his trained tigers.
    • Maximus was going to have a tame wolf at the prologue's battle, probably in reference to the Capitoline She-Wolf. It was "recast" as a wolf-like dog due to British laws on the importation of wild animals.
  • Similarly Named Works: There's another film called Gladiator, a boxing film from 1992 starring Cuba Gooding Jr..
  • Star-Making Role: An Academy Award-winning one for Russell Crowe.
  • Stillborn Franchise: Nick Cave was asked to pen a sequel. It featured poor Maximus being reincarnated by the Roman gods, then teleported across time to fight as a soldier in every war ever fought. His "touching the earth" thing became a "ritual" to keep him sane. No, really. According to various reports, Russell Crowe was all for it before the project was abandoned.
  • Throw It In!:
    • Joaquin Phoenix ad-libbed his scream of "Am I not merciful?", and Connie Nielsen's reaction of frightfully pulling away from him was genuine, since she wasn't expecting it.
    • Ridley Scott claimed that the opening moments of Maximus pondering a bird before the battle was simply improvised between he and Russell Crowe on a day in which they needed to film a moment introducing Maximus before the battle, but they had no scripted dialogue.
    • Connie Nielsen surprised the crew with her knowledge of Ancient Rome society and became an unofficial consultant for the film.
  • Translation Correction: The Spanish dub renders all toponyms in Latin or Latinized form (as it is usual for the Sword & Sandal genre in Spanish) and also changes Maximus screaming "Roma Victor!" after the battle of Germania to the grammatically correct "Roma Victrix!" See Woolseyism.
  • Troubled Production: The film went through constant onset rewrites, to the point where Richard Harris stopped paying attention. Russell Crowe allegedly questioned every aspect of the evolving script and strode off the set when he did not get answers. But that was nothing compared to the biggest problem the film faced - Oliver Reed, cast in what was supposed to be his Career Resurrection, died of a heart attack during filming in Malta before all of his scenes had been shot. Not only did this necessitate having the effects company spend $3 million creating a CGI body double, but it also caused story alterations (his character was supposed to make it through the end of the film, as opposed to dying near the climax).
  • Vacation, Dear Boy: Oliver Reed's main motivation for taking the part of Proximo was because he fancied a "free trip to London to see a couple of shows".
  • Wag the Director:
    • Russell Crowe was continually unhappy with the screenplay, rewriting much of it to suit his own ends. He would frequently walk off the set if he didn't get his way. The famous line "And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next." he initially refused to say, telling writer William Nicholson "Your lines are garbage but I'm the greatest actor in the world and I can make even garbage sound good". On a positive note, he objected to a sex scene between Maximus and Lucilla, feeling that it would be out-of-character for a man avenging his family's death. He also pushed for Maximus to have a very obvious emotional breakdown when he found his dead family, rather than the Stiff Upper Lip Manly Tears described in the script.
    • Joaquin Phoenix decided on his own that Commodus would become fatter as he grew in power and debauchery, and started increasing his meals until Scott realized what was going on and called him out.
    • At one point, Crowe wanted to imitate Antonio Banderas's accent in order to show Maximus's Spanish origin. Scott also shut that down immediately.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Originally, Maximus was supposed to fight Proximo in the Colliseum after being captured, probably as a penultimate Kick the Dog from Commodus. Except Oliver Reed's death from a heart attack during production forced them to rewrite.
      • A lot of people thought Reed might finally have gotten an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor if he had been able to complete his role.
    • An early version of the script was to include gladiators endorsing products in the arena, but was not included as the director believed it would not be believable to the audience despite being historically accurate.
    • The role of Maximus was originally written with Antonio Banderas in mind. Mel Gibson turned it down, because he felt he was too old for the part. Hugh Jackman was also considered.
    • Jude Law auditioned for Commodus.
    • Jennifer Lopez auditioned for Lucilla.
    • Dolph Lundgren auditioned for Hagen.
    • Richard Harris was originally considered for Proximo.
    • Luciano Pavarotti was asked to perform on the soundtrack and turned down the opportunity, something he later regretted.
    • David Franzoni's original script had Maximus named Narcissus and surviving along with his family, Commodus being strangled in the baths (as he was by the real Narcissus), the fight at the Colosseum against a rhinoceros instead of tigers and Lucilla not making it to the end of the movie but being executed (as she was in reality) along with some senators inside a Sicilian Bull. The rhinos became tigers because it was impossible to train real rhinos and CGI replacements didn't look convincing. The other things were changed because of Reality Is Unrealistic.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: The script was constantly being rewritten. Then Oliver Reed's death meant further rewrites.
  • Written-In Infirmity: The wounds on Russell Crowe's face after the opening battle scene are real, caused when his horse startled and backed him into tree branches. The stitches in his cheek are clearly visible when he is telling Commodus he intends to return home.

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