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EST. SEPTEMBER 8th, 1997
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Hollywood Spotlight [Reviews] - Gladiator [Production Notes]

 

The general who became a slave

The slave who became a gladiator

The gladiator who defied an empire

It has been four decades since chariots raced and swords flashed across movie screens in epic dramas of a time long past. Now, director Ridley Scott brings the glorious battles of the ancient Roman arena back to the big screen in a sweeping story of courage and revenge.

The great Roman General Maximus (Russell Crowe) has once again led the legions to victory on the battlefield. The war won, Maximus dreams of home, wanting only to return to his wife and son; however, the dying Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) has one more duty for the general—to assume the mantle of his power.

Jealous of Maximus’ favor with the emperor, the heir to the throne, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), orders his execution—and that of his family. Barely escaping death, Maximus is forced into slavery and trained as a gladiator in the arena where his fame grows. Now he has come to Rome, intent on avenging the murder of his wife and son by killing the new emperor…Commodus.

Maximus has learned that the one power stronger than that of the emperor is the will of the people, and he knows he can only attain his revenge by becoming the greatest hero in all the empire.

DreamWorks Pictures and Universal Pictures present "Gladiator." Oscarâ nominee Russell Crowe ("The Insider") heads up an international cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou and Oscarâ nominee Richard Harris ("The Field").

Academy Awardâ -nominated director Ridley Scott ("Thelma & Louise") directed "Gladiator" from a screenplay by David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson, from a story by Franzoni. The film is produced by Douglas Wick, David Franzoni and Branko Lustig, with Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald serving as executive producers.

 

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

 

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

A Roman gladiator stands at the center of the great Colosseum looking up at the emperor, awaiting his decision. With the power of life or death, the emperor’s thumb is outstretched, and the monarch’s expression unforgiving. He appears poised to signal the gladiator to kill his defeated opponent.

This was the scene, captured in the painting Pollice Verso (translation: Thumbs Down) by the 19th-century artist Jean-Leon Gerome, that fired the imagination of director Ridley Scott and put him at the helm of the epic action drama "Gladiator."

Executive producer and co-head of DreamWorks Pictures Walter Parkes, along with producer Douglas Wick, showed Scott the painting even before giving him the script. Scott recalls, "Walter and Doug came by my office and laid a reproduction of the painting on my desk. That image spoke to me of the Roman Empire in all its glory and wickedness. I knew right then and there I was hooked."

Fortunately for the director, Parkes also had a screenplay entitled "Gladiator," written by David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson. Wick offers, "About two years ago, David Franzoni came to me wanting to do a movie set in ancient Rome. We started doing the research and discovered that almost every aspect of the culture revolved around the arena. It was at the epicenter of all levels of society, and, in support of it, huge breakthroughs were made in architecture, in metalwork, in drainage…almost everything imaginable. The more we learned, the more convinced we were that the arena would be an amazing place to set a story."

"Starting from that very rough idea, we set out to create a hero who could take the audience on an emotional journey through this amazing milieu," Parkes adds. "As the script came together, we realized the real challenge would be to find a filmmaker who could deal with the sheer physical size and spectacle of the movie with such mastery that the essential elements of character and story would not be overpowered by the setting. From the start, Ridley Scott was at the top of our list."

Scott notes, "Entertainment has frequently been used by leaders as a means to distract an abused citizenry. The most tyrannical ruler must still beguile his people even as he brutalizes them. The gladiatorial games were such a distraction. Our story suggests that, should a hero arise out of the carnage of the arena, his popularity would give him tremendous power…and were he to be a genuine champion of the people, he might threaten even the most absolute tyrant."

Despite his enthusiasm for the project, Scott was aware that he was venturing into a genre whose popularity had not been tested in this generation. "‘Spartacus’ was 40 years ago," the director observes, "and ‘Ben Hur’ was even before that. These movies were part of my cinema-going youth. But at the dawn of a new millennium, I thought this might be the ideal time to revisit what may have been the most important period of the last two thousand years, if not in all of recorded history: the apex and the beginning of the decline of the greatest military and political power the world has ever known."

SOLDIERS, SOVEREIGNS AND SENATORS

The filmmakers knew that the actor chosen to portray Maximus—the general-turned-gladiator whose popularity threatens the power of the emperor—was key to the success of the project. "Maximus is the very soul of the movie," Wick affirms. "It was crucial to find an actor who you could believe possessed the ferocity of this great warrior, but in whom you could also see a man of strong principle and character. Russell Crowe’s name came up pretty fast. His intensity, his dignity and his utter conviction in every role he undertakes made him everyone’s first choice."

Starring as Maximus, Russell Crowe takes on a decidedly different role from his Oscarâ -nominated turn in "The Insider." "He went from being a paunchy, middle-aged man to a gladiator—not bad," Scott jokes, adding, "In other words, he’s a real actor. Russell has an uncanny way of internalizing a role, and he’s naturally very physical, which was a perfect combination for the part."

For Crowe, "Gladiator" presented the prospect of helping to re-establish a film genre, while collaborating with a director he had long admired. "It’s been a long time since a film has been made on this subject matter. It’s an incredible period. The achievements of the Roman Empire were remarkable, but they were underscored by absolute brutality, which fascinates people to this day. The film was also an extraordinary opportunity to work with Ridley Scott, one of the great visual artists of our time, and to play a character who undergoes such a remarkable journey," the actor says.

"He’s a general in the army, who, when we meet him, has been away from his family for three years, but he’s done his duty and he’s had enough. He wants nothing more than to go home, but the story changes for him when the emperor he loves and serves dies. Maximus goes from being a great general to being shackled and sold into slavery as a gladiator—a slight change in lifestyle," he smiles. "He was a military man who fought for honor and the glory of Rome, but now he has to bring himself to kill on a much more base level. For a while, he lives only to stand in front of the new emperor and exact his revenge, but he is again caught up in the political turmoil of the day, and can’t help but become involved. For want of a better expression, he’s a good man."

The man upon whom Maximus seeks his revenge is Commodus, who becomes the emperor of Rome upon the death of Marcus Aurelius. It was important to the drama that Maximus’ strength be counterbalanced by an equal measure of power on the part of his adversary—albeit another kind of power. The filmmakers found what they were looking for embodied in the quiet intensity of Joaquin Phoenix.

Ridley Scott had previously worked with Phoenix when he executive produced the film "Clay Pigeons," in which the actor had starred. "When we offered him the part, I think the most surprised person was Joaquin himself," the director says. "He is not the physically imposing type one might have envisioned in the role, but he conveys the complexities of this corrupt ruler in a very courageous way. He exposes the vulnerability that is juxtaposed with the ruthlessness of Commodus."

The mercurial quality of the part was only one of the incentives for Phoenix. "Between the script and the cast that was being put together, I felt the film had a great deal to offer. Talking to Ridley, I could see that this was going to be a movie of great spectacle and scope, but also one that allowed for a character-driven story," he notes.

"Commodus is a character I really enjoyed exploring as an actor," Phoenix reflects. "I think the best way to describe him is as a spoiled child. He’s 19 years old, but wields an incredible amount of power, so he has all the emotions that go with being that age without having had the guidance he needed to handle that power. He’s vulnerable and sad one moment and throwing a tantrum the next. He desperately wants the love of the people, but the irony of the story is that the gladiatorial games he decrees to get the masses to love him are ultimately what bring his nemesis to Rome."

The person closest to Commodus is his sister Lucilla, played by Connie Nielsen. "We spent a long time looking for the right actress to play Lucilla," producer Branko Lustig recalls. "When we saw Connie, we knew we had found her. I had the feeling I was watching a young Sophia Loren in ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire.’ She is a wonderful actress, and had the presence we needed in Lucilla."

"The script completely gripped me," Nielsen offers. "There are colossal elements, like the setting and the battles, and yet the story is very intimate in how it brings you into the personal relationships between people, especially in the case of Lucilla. She is caught between the ambitions of her brother and the will of Maximus, with whom she has a past."

"It’s interesting that we generate a lot of history between Maximus and Lucilla without ever really going into it," Scott expounds. "We gather it was a romance that had gone wrong, but I like that exactly what happened between them remains obscure."

Nielsen was also fascinated by Lucilla’s ability to operate within the mores of the day. "Lucilla lives in a time when women did not have a voice, at least officially," she says. "But she is her father’s daughter, and has been raised in the center of much political intrigue, so she is definitely capable of using whatever is at her disposal to survive. She would like to be the moral compass for Commodus, but he won’t allow that, so she has to resort to the subtleties she learned growing up. In many ways she loves her brother, but she is also fearful of him and even more afraid of the power he holds over her son Lucius."

The international cast of "Gladiator" also includes several respected veterans of the stage and screen, including Richard Harris as Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who understands the depths of his failings as a father too late to save his empire from tragedy; Derek Jacobi as Senator Gracchus, who sees the corruption of Commodus’ reign; and the late Oliver Reed as the gladiator trainer Proximo.

"These actors are of a generation that experienced some of those earlier epics firsthand, particularly Richard," Scott says. "It was a thrill for me to have an opportunity to work with them, and all the more interesting to revisit the genre with them."

The admiration was mutual. "It’s a great gift for an actor to work with a director like Ridley Scott, who is so in command of his craft," Harris says. "It was also a smashing part for me, because I love playing introspective characters. Marcus is a man in crisis, wrestling with demons. He was a scholar and a philosopher, but he spent 16 of his 20 years as emperor fighting battles and spilling blood to expand the empire. Now nearing the end, he has come to the realization that his life was a fraud."

In his last screen role, Oliver Reed plays Proximo, the man who teaches Maximus the advantages of a being a gladiator who wins the hearts of the crowd. It is at Proximo’s training camp that Maximus also learns important lessons about life and death from another enslaved gladiator, Juba, with whom he develops a strong bond.

Djimon Hounsou, who plays Juba, says of his character, "Juba knows that being a gladiator means killing or being killed. He is a very skillful fighter, which enables him to stay alive physically, but he knows a way to stay alive mentally and spiritually as well. In his mind, he is with his people; his loved ones are there, waiting for him. That ability to find freedom in your mind is something he tries to share with Maximus."

Completing the film’s main cast are David Schofield and John Shrapnel as Senators Falco and Gaius respectively, who choose different sides in the political machinations of the empire; Tomas Arana as Quintus, who betrays Maximus in order to serve the new emperor; young Spencer Treat Clark as Lucilla’s son Lucius; and former bodybuilding champion Ralf Moeller, who appears as the imposing gladiator Hagen.

SWORDPLAY AND HORSEPLAY

Like their characters, Crowe, Hounsou and Moeller shared the tremendous physical demands of being gladiators. Together with a group of highly skilled stuntmen, led by stunt coordinator Phil Neilson, the actors executed fight scenes that would have rivaled the training at Proximo’s gladiator school.

"I’ve done some pretty physical stuff before, but this was unrelenting," Crowe attests. "You know, I never really consider the physical hardships I’m going to put myself through when I take a role, so in the middle of this, I started thinking, ‘Maybe I should have taken the one where I was a bus conductor…,’" he adds, laughing.

Scott concurs, "I would try to give Russell a few days in a row of just walking and talking, so to speak, but it didn’t always work out that way. There were some days with battle scenes end on end, so he was aching in every muscle and bone."

That being said, Crowe got a laugh from a directive he received during filming. "They sent me a memo asking me not to play soccer because I might get hurt. At that point, I’d been doing one massive fight scene after another, so I sent a memo back saying, ‘I can wrestle with four tigers, but I can’t play a game of soccer? Get over it. Love, Russell.’"

In contrast to modern war epics, the battle sequences in "Gladiator" involved close sword fighting, requiring intricate staging and long rehearsals to ensure everyone’s safety. Fight master Nicholas Powell, who had previously worked on "Braveheart," was responsible for choreographing the film’s myriad sword fights. He also had to train all the actors and stuntmen, as well as the 1,000 extras who took part in the opening battle. His first priority was Russell Crowe, so weeks ahead of principal photography, Powell went to Australia to work one-on-one with the actor.

"All the actors had a lot to learn in terms of this kind of fighting. There was a tremendous amount of swordplay, which necessitated everyone to remember exact movement and placement to avoid anyone getting something broken…or their head taken off," Scott says, only half kidding.

Powell explains, "Ridley wanted close fighting, which looks better on screen, but has slightly more intrinsic risk, especially since we were primarily using metal weapons. It’s really a matter of getting the choreography down perfectly and keeping the guys on the ball all the time. They could never think, ‘Well, we’ve done it ten times, so we’re okay.’ All you need is someone in the wrong place, someone to hit your arm and your hand moves… They had to concentrate every single time they did it, or there was a potential for someone to get hurt."

One group of fighters proved particularly unpredictable in the arena: the tigers, who were handled by chief animal trainer Paul "Sled" Reynolds and animal trainer Thierry Le Portier. Producer Branko Lustig notes, "Tigers are just big cats; you can tell them what to do, but they don’t always listen."

Reynolds affirms, "These tigers were raised in captivity and are as tame as tigers can be, but guys running around in front of them are like toys to them, so we had to be careful."

Similarly, the actors had to respect the strength and power of the stunt horses used in the opening battle, as well as in the arena. Crowe expounds, "A horse can sense when you’re not totally in control of what you’re doing. If he senses fear, he’s likely to respond, ‘Well, if you’re scared, get off my back, ’cause I can do this stunt just fine and dandy without you.’"

ROME WASN’T REBUILT IN A DAY

Spanning three seasons and four countries, production on "Gladiator" presented the filmmakers with any number of logistical hurdles to overcome. Branko Lustig remarks, "In many ways, it was like making four different movies because we had to coordinate the efforts of four separate crews: one in London, one in Malta, one in Morocco and one central crew that moved from location to location."

Verisimilitude became the hallmark of the entire production, though Scott was determined that "Gladiator" never be seen as a page out of a history book. "There is a great deal written about the Roman Empire, but there are also questions about what is accurate and what is merely conjecture. Therefore, I felt the priority was to stay true to the spirit of the period, but not necessarily to adhere to facts. We were, after all, creating fiction, not practicing archeology."

The director adds, "The most important thing when you assume a challenge like this is choosing the right people to work with, because you have no choice but to delegate on a production this size. I had the best department heads—people who had been there, seen it, done it or researched it. I knew I could rely on their artistry to craft the world in which our story unfolds, and they did an extraordinary job. You can almost smell the arena and feel the atmosphere of the city. The costumes are authentic. Watching the film, you should believe you’re experiencing a contemporary situation…you’re living in Roman times."

Principal photography on "Gladiator" got underway in a forest near Farnham, England, which doubled for Germania, near the northernmost border of the Roman Empire. There, the Roman Legions, commanded by General Maximus, wage a fierce battle against the heavily outmatched Germanic fighters. The timing of the shoot turned out to be serendipitous, as the British Forestry Commission had slated the area, known as the Bourne Woods, to be deforested. Ridley Scott and his production team were only too happy to comply. "I said, ‘I’ll do it for you. I’ll burn it down,’" the director recalls.

Sixteen thousand flaming arrows were sent aloft by a team overseen by special effects supervisor Neil Corbould. Adding to the conflagration, fiery clay pots were launched from fully functional catapults modeled after those of the era. Over a period of four days, another 10,000 non-flaming arrows were shot by archers, as well as by special machines that could fire hundreds of arrows in quick succession.

With Russell Crowe as Maximus leading the charge, Roman soldiers rode into the fray on horseback. No camera person or vehicular camera mount was agile or fast enough to follow the galloping horses over the steeply graded landscape and through the trees. To capture the shot, cinematographer John Mathieson utilized a tracking system, in which the camera was mounted on a steel tube, similar to a monorail, that was laid down along the contours of the ground.

At the height of the battle, the cast, stuntmen, and thousands of extras engaged in close combat with broadswords, axes, spears, crossbows and other weaponry. More than 2,500 weapons were designed and manufactured for the film by supervising armorer Simon Atherton and his team. Many of the armaments were original concepts, resulting from a combination of research and innovation.

Atherton explains, "I started by looking in books for references to weaponry and armor from this period, but there was not much to be found. So, taking ideas from what we know about subsequent periods and trying to imagine the evolution of certain weapons and armor—with the understanding that they did mainly close-quarter fighting—we were able to come up with some designs and ideas that would have been feasible at that time. I especially enjoyed Ridley’s directive to come up with the Roman equivalent of an automatic weapon—the multi-firing crossbow." Atherton also served as a consultant to costume designer Janty Yates in the function of the helmets and some armor.

Yates did an extensive amount of research in creating the widely varied wardrobe for the film, ranging from the resplendent armor worn by Maximus and Commodus, to Lucilla’s exquisite gowns, to the relatively plain tunics of the gladiators. "We must have looked through thousands of books, and visited dozens of museums and galleries," she offers. "We were greatly inspired by the works of artists like Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, who really captured the style of the period, and George de La Tour, from whom we got ideas for textures and the finer details."

"We leaned very heavily on these artists, not only for costumes, but interior designs as well," Scott agrees. "Painters are often the best reference you can have. When you think about it, they are the photographers of their time."

The costumes of the emperor’s family were naturally the most elaborate. Connie Nielsen’s gowns were multi-layered in luxurious fabrics like silks, satins, organzas and chiffons. The line of her dresses was achieved by wrapping a simple shift in bindings of contrasting color and texture. Over each dress, Nielsen also wore a stole draped around her arms, while another length of rich fabric formed a hooded cape. Gold thread was woven into the fabrics to give them a shimmer, and almost every garment was also hand-embroidered with gold thread, as well as semi-precious jewels. Nielsen’s winter cape was made of cashmere, lined with silk and trimmed with faux fur.

All of the footwear was handmade in Rome, including the decorative sandals of Commodus and Lucilla, which were also hand-embroidered. The intricate designs of the royal jewelry were faithful to the fashion of the time. They were all handcrafted by England’s noted jeweler Martin Adams, with the exception of one piece, which Nielsen herself contributed.

"In an antique store, I found a 2,000-year old signet ring," Nielsen relates. "Wearing it made me feel more connected to the part. It was incredible to think that the ring was once worn by someone who actually lived in the time we were recreating."

The wardrobe had a similar effect on Joaquin Phoenix, who comments, "The minute I put the costumes on, I felt like I was in a completely different world. It was fantastic. After a while, they didn’t seem like costumes; they felt natural, which really helped me become my character."

Like Nielsen, Phoenix was clothed in tunics and cloaks of silk, though his armor was decidedly less comfortable. "His armor had to be malleable to allow for movement, so it was made of rubber and then covered in leather," Yates reveals. "You can imagine how he felt in the hot sun of Malta."

Yates created Commodus’ stunning white armor ensemble to look like marble, based on Ridley Scott’s thought that Commodus was trying to echo the statuary of his predecessors.

The physical demands of Russell Crowe’s role required that his armor be much lighter, so they were all made of foam covered in leather. In addition, every piece—including breast plates, helmets, wrist, arm and leg armor, and more—had to be duplicated 12 times over in various stages of wear for Crowe, as well as his stunt doubles. "There were different versions of each costume as scenes progressed: clean…dirty… torn…bloody… You get the picture," Yates laughs.

The costume department also fashioned 500 gladiator tunics in rough linen, which each had to be distressed. In all, Yates, along with wardrobe supervisor Rosemary Burrows, assistant designer Samantha Howarth and their crew, had to fashion more than 10,000 costumes for the speaking cast and the thousands of extras.

Burrows was also responsible for setting up wardrobe facilities—what Yates called "costume villages"—which were used for warehousing, and for giving up to 2,000 extras per day the space in which to dress and have their hair and makeup done. In England, this included mud baths for the soldiers, in order to provide the proper amount of battle grit.

From England, the company moved to Ouarzazate, Morocco, which became the site of the marketplace where Maximus is sold, Proximo’s gladiator school, and the small arena in which Maximus and Juba get their first taste of gladiatorial combat. Following in the tradition of the famous road builders of ancient Rome, the "Gladiator" crew cut, improved or widened miles of road through the desert to allow the fleet of four-wheel drive vehicles, trucks and busses to traverse the rocky terrain. Branko Lustig also enlisted the Moroccan army to build a bridge across a river leading to the remote location, which the crew dubbed "Branko’s Bridge."

Morocco is home to the oldest existing casbah in that part of the world, which is known to have stood for about 500 years, but whose foundations probably date back to the time of the Roman Empire. Production designer Arthur Max offers, "In some ways, Morocco designed itself. It was magic. You come up over a hill, and you’re in another time. It was heavenly to find this ancient casbah, and, conveniently enough, there was an empty field at the foot of the town where the locals played football. It was the ideal spot for us to erect a small, provincial arena where our hero is introduced to the life and death existence of a gladiator."

It was important that the newly built amphitheatre be indistinguishable from the ancient architecture surrounding it. Using only indigenous materials and rudimentary methods that had not changed in generations, the construction team produced more than 30,000 mud bricks with which to build the structure. "The bricks were made of simple mud, mixed with straw, cast in a mold and baked in the sun," Max says. "When the arena took shape on the existing landscape, it looked like it had been there for centuries."

The production also employed local citizens as extras in the arena and in the bazaar, where both slaves and animals were purchased. As befit the setting, the weathered faces of the Moroccans gave no hint that they would return to the 20th century when Ridley Scott called "cut."

Leaving Morocco, the company journeyed to the "fortress island" of Malta, where the most daunting task still lay ahead. Malta, which holds pre-Phoenician ruins dating back some 6,000 years, had become part of the Roman Empire in 218 B.C. More than 2,000 years later, Malta would see the recreation of the Roman Empire as the location set for Rome and its magnificent Colosseum in "Gladiator." Scott notes, "Every film has its own inherent challenges, but how often do you get to rebuild the Roman Empire?"

Arthur Max reveals that he had a head start on the research for this crucial aspect of the production. "I had the advantage of having lived and worked in Rome and done some of my architectural training there. I knew the actual locations firsthand and had a sense of place. For me, the greatest challenge was how to achieve the scale and convey the vastness of the empire."

Max accompanied Ridley Scott to scout historic Fort Ricasoli, a 17th-century Spanish fort that had later been converted to a barracks by Napoleon’s invading forces. Scott remembers, "Technically, it didn’t date back as far as our story, but the prevailing winds and blowing sands had aged it nicely. There was also a giant parade ground that would fit our Colosseum perfectly. Arthur and I figured that the existing buildings had already provided some of the pieces, so if we integrated our sets with the real thing, we’d complete a fantastic jigsaw puzzle."

Over a period of 19 weeks, more than 100 British technicians and 200 Maltese tradesfolk labored to recreate the heart of the Roman Empire. Their efforts were constantly hampered by high winds and storms in what was reported to be Malta’s worst winter in 30 years.

The centerpiece of the construction was the Colosseum, which was a faithful recreation of the original. Time constraints and area limitations made it impossible to build a full-scale replica of the massive three-tiered architectural marvel that has been the center of Roman myth and culture for 2,000 years. Therefore, Max’s construction team built a fragment of the first tier that measured approximately one-third of the circumference of the original and 52 feet high. They also fabricated the bowels of the Colosseum, which included a technologically crude but elaborate system of elevators to lift the gladiators onto the field of combat, and the entrance to the arena itself.

The remainder of the Colosseum was achieved using state-of-the-art computer graphic imaging (CGI), handled by visual effects supervisor John Nelson and Mill Film LTD. in London. Utilizing models of Arthur Max’s design that were programmed into the computer, CGI was employed to finish the circumference of the first tier, and to form the second and third tiers of the structure in their entirety, replete with statuary. CGI was also utilized to produce the velarium, the ingenious retractable canvas roof that was used to shade the arena’s spectators from the glaring sun.

Despite the wonders of CGI, it was not optimum for realistic lighting effects within the Colosseum set. To cast light and shadows on the massive set at various times of the day, cinematographer John Mathieson contracted for the construction of an actual velarium made out of a synthetic material, and reinforced with a fiberglass mesh. Spanning more than 500 feet, the sunshade was suspended on 14 steel towers, standing 80 feet high. As directed by Ridley Scott and Mathieson, the apparatus could be extended or retracted on a system of cables and pulleys, controlled by first assistant director Terry Needham and his team.

Populating the Colosseum were 2,000 extras, who are seen cheering alongside 33,000 computer-generated spectators. Nelson created the CG audience by filming real extras performing a variety of motions and mapping them onto two-dimensional cards that were positioned in each seat. By replicating them in the computer, the visual effects team could give the arena a virtual "sell-out" crowd.

The CGI elements were so seamlessly blended with the real sets and people, that the filmmakers could do sweeping 360-degree panoramic shots and overhead views in which actual and visual effects elements are indistinguishable.

In addition to the Colosseum, the Fort Ricasoli compound also held the physical sets for the emperor’s palace, the forum, the senate antechamber, the marketplace of Rome, the residence of Senator Gracchus, and other backdrops. Computer graphics were again used to extend these sets, as well as to capture the scenic vistas of ancient Rome and to augment the teeming Roman population.

The last stage of filming was accomplished in a lush vineyard in northern Italy, which served as the home to which Maximus longs to return.

When the "Gladiator" company returned home, Scott and editor Pietro Scalia began the long process of editing the film in the same studio where composer Hans Zimmer was creating the score in collaboration with Lisa Gerrard. Gerrard also performed most of the music vocals, which, Zimmer comments, "lend the film a unique sound that helps transport the audience to a completely different place emotionally."

For certain scenes, Zimmer layered the music to great dramatic effect, with haunting orchestral melodies underscored by a driving percussive sound. "We were looking at Roman architecture and studying books about the Roman Empire, and I began to think about how gracious and civilized ancient Rome was. But at the same time, it was built on such blood and savagery. I wanted the music to reflect that kind of duality," the composer says. In addition, he notes, "Every film of this genre has fanfares, and ‘Gladiator’ is no exception, but I really wanted to avoid a cliché approach."

"I love working with Hans because his music is idiosyncratic," Scott says. "He always comes up with something that gives the movie its own identity."

"This film is a remarkable look at the Roman Empire, and it works because we have a great story—a heroic story—and Ridley got the world right as well. It feels real," Zimmer states.

Ridley Scott reflects, "I love the idea of creating worlds in the movies I make, and this was certainly no exception. In the best possible way, I feel like we built Rome, and then fought all the way from the Rhine to North Africa and back to Rome. But it was great fun to do."


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