There are some very strange spec scripts that float around Hollywood. Sometimes, they get made into amazing films, and sometimes, they go nowhere. But when Ridley Scott announced his intention to make a sequel to his 2000 smash hit Gladiator, studios were all in. Gladiator 2 will be out next year and could be another run-of-the-mill battle film.
But the thing was, Scott had some very interesting ideas about where he wanted the script to go. Maybe Maximus would pass on the torch? Maybe Rome would find new glory? Or maybe something completely bonkers would happen instead.
What We’re Getting
Maximus has been dead for over fifteen years, and Lucius, who was only a child in the first film, is now an adult, attempting to navigate his life and possibly even find his true father. The film has some returning actors, including Connie Nielsen, Djimon Hounsou, and Derek Jacobi, all of whom were present in the first.
Although the full plot has not been made clear, there have already been rumors regarding Colosseum-style battles, some of which occur in the flooded amphitheater. This type of mock sea battle was often staged at the Colosseum and featured the same gladiators who would have fought each other and wild animals on dry land.
Russell Crowe will not be back for this film and has made it clear that he is done with the series. Director Ridley Scott is back to direct and is excited about the prospects of this sequel. However, he was not always so excited. In fact, his original concept for the film was completely different and completely bonkers. The going rumor is that he did not want a sequel and instead presented studios with something he thought, rightly, they would never film.
What We Could Have Had
In Ridley Scott’s original idea, the film would have left its grounded original in the dust and gone for a fantasy-based plotline. In this case, fantasy means that everything we had seen before was just a precursor to the type of creative genius that Hollywood can offer but often stomps down in fear.
Consider this: Russell Crowe does return as Maximus. The character did not escape death in the first film. This is not a casual switcharoo movie. In fact, Maximus is very much dead. He was 100% murdered and is now in a completely new realm—the realm of the dead.
Romans had a rich pantheon of gods and myths, and this film would have leaned heavily into all of them. Maximus realizes he is dead and must navigate the afterlife. He would have met a number of gods, realized they were not nearly as mighty as he had thought, and fought them, proving himself worthy of something that very few were able to achieve: reincarnation.
Upon returning to the world of the living, Maximus finds that Lucius, the son of Lucilla (Maximus’ former lover and sister of the now-dead Commodus), has taken on the role of Emperor. Yet Lucius is no longer the fearful young boy that Maximus knew. Now, he is as angry and violent as his uncle was before him. In fact, he has begun to lose his mind and, in doing so, has found that his greatest threat and target: Christians.
Maximus now sees that he must once again conquer an evil Emperor. His heart is saddened by the thought that the boy he loved, almost as a son, has found his way to a place of utter evil. To combat this new threat, Maximus amasses and trains an army of Christian soldiers to help him rid the world of the plague that is Lucius.
As an added bonus, there was the thought that Maximus would, in some way, cross paths with Jesus. Because, you know… history.
Gladiator Was Never Accurate
One of the things that people say when they hear about this script idea is that it would have been stupid because it isn’t accurate in the way the first Gladiator film was. But this is a falsehood because nearly everything in the first film, aside from the names of characters, was completely off.
Although Emperor Commodus did exist, and there are some thoughts that a general named Maximus existed, they would never have known each other. Also, Commodus was never murdered in an arena, and his reign was quite a turning point for the Roman Empire. Ridley Scott had an idea for a movie, wrote a crazily interesting script, and shot a swords-and-sandals epic. It made a ton of money based on fake facts (welcome to Hollywood), and because of that, studios demanded more (welcome, once again, to Hollywood).
The fact is that Gladiator 2 will most likely be a hit simply because it is able to draw a wealth of actors and promises to build on the epic that came before it. There is nothing wrong with that. But with that in mind, it is amazing to hear the kinds of ideas that are never made in Hollywood. In this case, we can see the revised version of the sequel next year.
Gladiator 2 is set to be in theaters starting November 22, 2024. In the meantime, check out our interview with Russell Crowe for one of his most recent films, The Pope's Exorcist: