Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Gladiator (2000 movie)
The protagonist of the movie is a Roman general turned gladiator named Maximus Decimus Meridius (played by Russell Crowe) whose family was killed on orders from the Emperor Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix), and is now eager to seek revenge. It won five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Crowe), Visual Effects, Costume Design, and Sound. It was nominated for seven more, including Best Supporting Actor (Phoenix) and Best Director (Scott).
The Roman emperors portrayed in the movie are Marcus Aurelius (played by Richard Harris), who ruled 161–180, and his son, the deranged Commodus, who ruled between 180–192 AD, and who scandalized Roman society by appearing in the Colosseum as a gladiator. The film's characterization accurately reflects Marcus Aurelius's reputation for wisdom, but its representation of Commodus is extremely watered down, as Commodus was far more insane and bloodthirsty than he appears in the film.
The character of Maximus is entirely fictional, though he is similar in some aspects to the historical figures of Narcissus and Spartacus. Also inaccurate is the quick death of Commodus and the supposed return of republicanism to Rome at the end.
Influences from film and literature
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) tells the story of Livius, who, like Maximus in Gladiator, is Marcus Aurelius's protege and romantically linked with his daughter, Lucilla. Both films tell the story of Commodus' murder of Marcus Aurelius and seizure of power when he learns that the aged emperor is planning to appoint Livius/Maximus as his successor, and of Livius/Maximus' subsequent exile and quest to avenge Marcus Aurelius by the death of Commodus.
Spartacus (1960) provides the film's gladiatorial motif, as well as the character of Senator Gracchus, a fictitious senator (bearing the name of a pair of senators from the 2nd century BC) who in both films is an elder statesman of ancient Rome attempting to preserve the ancient rights of the Roman senate in the face of an ambitious autocrat—Marcus Licinius Crassus in Spartacus and Commodus in Gladiator. In both films, incidentally, Senator Gracchus was played by the actor who had also played the title role in I, Claudius earlier in his career: Charles Laughton in Spartacus and Sir Derek Jacobi in Gladiator.
Additionally, Maximus, Quintus and other characters, as well as the opening sequence of the film (set in Germany), are inspired by a work of extraordinary historical fiction by Wallace Breem, Eagle in the Snow (set some 200 years later).
The making of the film
- Maximus - Russell Crowe
- Commodus - Joaquin Phoenix
- Lucilla - Connie Nielsen
- Marcus Aurelius - Richard Harris
- Proximo - Oliver Reed
- Senator Gracchus -Derek Jacobi
- Juba - Djimon Hounsou
- Lucius Verus - Spencer Treat Clark
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