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Ridley Scott Recalls The Moment He Knew He Wanted To Direct Gladiator

Russell Crowe holding sword in Gladiator
(Image credit: Dreamworks Picture)

Ridley Scott has directed a plethora of high-profile films. From classic sci-fi hits like Alien and Blade Runner to period sagas like House of Gucci and The Last Duel, the native Brit has certainly made his mark on the entertainment industry. Scott is choosy with his scripts, but there was one historical drama that he knew he had to direct: Gladiator

Ahead of the upcoming Oscar season, Deadline caught up with Ridley Scott to take a look back at his lengthy career, and among the topics he director discussed was his past film Gladiator and the upcoming sequel that's in the making. So what made Ridley Scott so invested in the Roman historical epic? He explained: 

First of all, I love doing period films. I love the research. I love to create sort of smells of the period. I think what we did with the first Gladiator…I don’t like being critical of other things that have happened before, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of Hollywood Roman epics, honestly. They felt artificial and so, when I was asked to consider a script, the script was not very good. But the person who gave it to me said, I want to show you one thing, and he picked up an illustration, this is true, it’s called For Those About to Die by Gérôme. He holds it up. It’s a picture of this big painting of the Coliseum, and in the corner there is this guy, about to tuna fork this poor bastard. He’s got this thing in his neck, and he’s looking up for permission to kill. I went, bloody hell, that’s never been done properly before. Never. I said, I’ll do it. He said you will? I said yes. Did you want to read the script? I said no, and we went off and hit the ground running around the table, and evolved the new material.

Ridley Scott’s films are definitely aesthetically driven, so it’s no surprise that a painting inspired him to dive into another historical epic. There are countless scenes in Gladiator that could easily have been taken from the walls of art galleries, especially the combat sequences, and it’s easy to see the artistic inspiration that Ridley Scott took from Gérôme’s artwork. And according to the director, that’s not a coincidence. He continued: 

It’s one image that got me. It was the smartest thing to do, for them to show me an image because I’m an image man. I went oh, my God. Yeah. What a good idea. I’ll do it. That was it. To be fair to the writer at that moment. There was a lot of work to be done on that script, and we reworked it.

One can only assume that a similar visual aesthetic will apply to the upcoming Gladiator sequel. Ridley Scott has confirmed that the film will not be a direct retread of Gladiator, but its influence will definitely be present. As of right now, there's no release date or casting information, but several cast members have expressed an interest in reprising their roles. It might be a while until the Gladiator sequel hits the silver screen, however, since Ridley Scott still has to finish his Napoleon biopic Kitbag with Joaquin Phoenix. Hopefully, it will give him plenty of time to find another inspirational painting. 

Only time will tell if Ridley Scott’s Gladiator sequel will join the lofty ranks of its predecessor. In the meantime, you can revisit the stunning historical drama of Gladiator on Hulu and Sling TV. 

Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.