GladCollageSmall.jpg (25010 bytes)   GLADIATOR:
Directed by Ridley Scott (you know, the first Aliens movie, Bladerunner). 
Also stars: Djimon Hounsou (Juba), Joaquin Phoenix (Commodus), Oliver Reed  (Proximo Palindromos), Richard Harris (Marcus Aurelius), Connie Nielson, Vinnie Jones, Ralph Moeller, Derek Jacobi, Spencer Treat Clark, David Hemmings, Tomas Arana.
Screenplay: David Franzoni
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The following Cinescape   article couretsy of 4tune.  (Typos courtesy of petshark)

The AlienistThe Alienist

Working with Ridley was like doing quantum physics with Picasso," says Gladiator star Russell Crowe. "It was impressive, mate."
The Australian actor's simile is quite apt: Ridley Scott is  famous for infusing nuts-and-bolts filmaking with an artist's visionary aesthetic. In 1979, he turned sci-fi on its ear with Alien, a claustrophobic space fright-fest; three years later, Scott would revolutionize the genre entirely with Blade Runner. The baroque noir's bleak vision of the 21st century- a rain-slicked metropolis overrun by soul-crushing technology-- has been replicated (or, as some would say, ripped off) in countless films ever since.
But althought these two groundbreaking sci-fi films made Scott's name synonymous with slick, visually arresting moviemaking, most of his later works-- with the notable exception of the 1991 chick-flick-gone-haywire Thelma & Louise-- were rather forgettable exercises in style over substance. Legend, 1492:Conquest of Paradise, White Squall and GI Jane all failed to impress critics or cause significant ripples at the box office.
Now, however, it looks like Scott is poised to rock Hollywood yet again. He's currently putting the finishing touches on Gladiator, a $100 million epic starring the red-hot Crowe as a Roman warrior in 180 AD. gladiator3.jpg (37988 bytes)After that, he'll tackle a screen adaptation of Thomas Harris' controversial Silence of the Lambs sequel, Hannibal, which is currently undergoing   script rewrites (the final screenplay will determine whether or not Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster reprise their Oscar-winning Lambs roles).  When Cinescape caught up with Scott on cell phone, the director was driving to his London office for some Gladiator post-production work. While scooting through traffic, he discussed his childhood influences, his interest in a new sci-fi project and what we can expect from this summer's Gladiator and the upcoming Hannibal.
When you were growing up as a kid, what kinds of movies did you enjoy?
I think my father was starting to get worried about me because I wanted to be a cowboy until I was almost 17. I was an avid rider. We [were] living in Germany [and] my father's [business] colleague was a Texan who had a ranch, so suddenly I felt I had the real possibility of becoming a cowboy. So I think the person I really admired from when I was about 9 years old through 'til I was about 13 was Roy rogers. I loved Roy Rogers more than anyone else. It was partly the clothes and partly the gun and the trappings. I was desperately, avidly involved in Westerns, and of course, I haven't [directed] a Western yet. I think at some point I will. Bit [I'm] trying to find a Western that will mean something for today's audience. It is difficult, but everything at the end of the day comes down to story, story, story and then character, character, character. If you can get the story right, and the characters follow, then I think it will be good for any audience at any time.
Were there any particular movies or film-makers that influenced your work?
there are a whole bunch of [directors] from the  40's: Michael Powell, Orson Welles, David Lean. Then I started to discover foreign films, so there was [Akira] Kurosawa. I think they are the main influences.
While you were making Alien or Blade Runner, did you evere think that you would have such a lasting impact on modern science fiction-- that kids in film school would be studying your work?
No. Not really. You never do, you know. You don't think about that. All I remember [about making Blade Runner] was getting beaten up [emotionally]. It was a hard shoot. It was a difficult process because it was the first time I had ever made a film in Hollywood, even though I had previously made alien. Alien was all filmed in London. So Blad Runner was my first Hollywood experience in that I was driving through the gates of the studio every day. I thought, "this is fun. God, I never thought I'd ever get to do this." That was the best news. The bad news followed.
What was the bad news?
It was a hard introduction. I was the new kid on the block. My methods of making movies-- and at that moment I had done two [alien and the Duellists], so I wasn't a babe-- were different. I found it a little hard to come in initially. I found the structure and the way of working different. So it was a matter of me getting used to them and them getting used to me.
I understand that you're doing some restoration work on Blade Runner.
We're remixing and reprinting Blad Runner in January. We've been going through the old negative and we're adding a few scenes back into it because the film, according to Warner Bros., gets requested about 30 times a year [by repertory theaters]. So the prints were getting used up and they wanted to update everything. We'll add about eight minutes back in. But we're going to mix the whole thing and [make a new print], which will be inetresting because, you know, prints start to fade after about 10 years. It's pretty great. One of the great things [is being able to use] this high-definition digital DVD, which is one way we're managing to preserve the original look and sound of how the film was meant to be.
Gladiator2.jpg (22437 bytes)Would you say that you enjoy working on science fiction films?
Yes. I've only done two, but I would certainly like to do another. Again, the biggest problem is finding the story. I think I've found [a project] very recently. It's not science fiction in the conventional sense. It's not ray guns. It's sociological. It's futuristic in the sense that Blade Runner was futuristic. It takes place in about 2020, which I like because most of the audience can look to 2020 and say "I'll be around then." So it's tangible. It deals with a kind of future history because it's a prediction which may happen. So it's cautionary, as well. We have to caution ourselves and re-examine what we're doing at the moment. I've only just begun [thinking about the story], but I'm hoping that something will come from it. This just occurred earlier this week, so I'm quite excited, actually.
Is Gladiator your most action-oriented film?
I think you'll [have to] see it. It's got a very interesting combination of things. It has a strong narrative, which takes the main character through events that inevitably are involved in the gladiator arena.
We start the film off [in Germany]. Germany was the one territory that just woulnd't succumb to the Romans. [The Germans] wouldn't go away. So Marcus aurelius spent about 17 years on the German front [with his troops]. Can you imagine that? Seventeen years on the German front in those dark forests.
We start off with a 13-minute battle at the beginning of the movie, which also shows the frustrations and self-searching of Marcus Aurelius. Towards the end of his life he got even more philosophical, wondering if he'd dealt with his life in the right way. His closest aly and confidant is General Maximus, who is played by Russell Crowe. So there's an interesting context and some very good performances [amidst the action].
What else can you tell us about Gladiator's plot?
The story is quite intriguing and unusual for this kind of epic. As opposed to just reproducing history, we wrote a story into history, and actually did adopt certain factual characters such as Marcus Aurelius, his son Commodus [Joaquin Phoenix] and daughter Lucialla] Connie Nielsen]. We also added a very interesting character, a slave trader named Proximo, who is played by Oliver Reed.
the title describes the central character, who is Maximus. He's a general in the Roman army who is betrayed by politics and hierarchy [after Commodus has Marcus Aurelius killed.] He finds himself sold as a slave and eventually comes back into Rome as a powerful gladiator.
Scott.jpg (34057 bytes)Your next project is Hannibal, the sequel to Silence of the Lambs. Any word on when you'll go into production?
We are aiming to get started shooting around mid-March or the beginning of April. The middle act will be shot in Italy.
the rest of the film will be done in the Eastern US-- North or South Carolina [or] Virginia, near Washington, D.C.
Will Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins reprise their Silence of the Lambs roles?
At this juncture, I have no idea. I hope that they do.
Is it true that the ending of your film will be different than the ending of the novel?
the fact that Starling goes off with Lecter [in thomas Harris' book] is, well... a little hard to ... swallow is the wrong word. It's difficult. We've come up with another solution.
Which you can't tell me about, right?
Following up Silence of the Lambs won't be easy. Was it hard to say yes to the project?
I didn't hesitate.

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Ridley Scott's Gladiator reviewed

From Films Unlimited

An early review of Ridley (Blade Runner) Scott's long-awaited toga epic Gladiator has surfaced at  The critic, dubbed Surfbrat, describes the film - which stars Russell Crowe and the late Ollie Reed - as "in every way the perfect sword-swinging, super-violent popcorn epic. The best acting chops belong to Crowe for his fierce and bitter potrayal of the revenge-driven Maximus".
"The big, intense battles in the coliseum bring Ridley Scott back to true form. The backdrops are gorgeous. Everyone in the audience applauded after each brutal battle. They laughed in all the few cheeky parts. It never got cheesy. It was a spectacle!"
Worried that his review might suggest a prejudice in favour of gladiatorial cinema, 'Surfbrat' concludes, "I am not, by the way, a big fan of the sword-and-sandal genre. I've never seen Ben-Hur or Spartacus, but am tempted to rent them after seeing this!"

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Rome Wasn't Filmed in a Day

Let the games Begin! Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, and director Ridley Scott throw a toga party in "Gladiator"
by Alex Lewin
Article here courtesy of 4tune

PremGlad2.jpg (28232 bytes)If you were working on the Gladiator set, you knew to keep away from the French tigers. Of the four Bengals brought in for a Colosseum battle scene, two were from the United States and two were from France, The latter were "less people-friendly,? as stunt coordinator Phil Neilson puts it. Others are less diplomatic. "F**kers," director of photography John Mathieson says. "We didn't go anywhere near those. The (American tigers) were pussycats." But, he adds, "even the pussycats could be f**kers." Case in point: Blood was drawn when the tiger bit through the steel cuff on the arm of trainer Randy Scott Miller, who stood in for star Russell Crowe during scenes that required human-to-tiger contact. "It left a hole in the steel the size of a quarter," director Ridley Scott recalls. "Went straight into his arm. And the guy said, "'Has anybody got any iodine?' Then he slapped it around and fed it."

The mere presence of live tigers (not to mention hyenas and lions) suggests the ambitious nature of Gladiator, a $107 million epic that brings an aggressive authenticity to what Scott calls “toga-and –sandal movies”—a type of film that Hollywood hasn’t attempted since the early ‘60s. At the center of the story—based in part on real people and events—is Maximus (Crowe), a Roman general who in 180 A.D. is banished to the gladiators’ arena to die when his rival, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), ascends to the throne of the Roman Empire. Gladiators, however, can fight their way to freedom, and Maximus won’t go down easily.

A genre that reached its peak with Spartacus and Ben-Hur--and its valley with 1963’s Cleopatra, on of the great cinematic flops—ancient historical epics fell out of fashion because their costs ballooned as their popularity deflated. “The challenge [on Gladiator] was to reproduce the grand scale without bankrupting the studio,” production designer Arthur Max says. DreamWorks cohead of production Walter Parkes, who spearheaded the project for the studio, feels the time is right again for this type of epic. “In the past 10 years there have been successful movies that reintroduced classic genres to audiences,” he notes. “Titanic was a throwback to historical melodrama that even five years earlier would’ve been looked upon as a marginal bet. And we have the digital tools to re-create worlds in ways that weren’t available years ago.”

Gladiator began with a pitch by screenwriter David Franzoni, who was working with DreamWorks on Amistad at the time. And excited Parkes took the idea to Scott, who is known for the brilliant, otherworldly action of such films as Blade Runner and Alien. At their first meeting, Parkes held up a copy of a painting called Pollice Verso (“Thumbs Down!”), by 19th-century French artist Jean-Leon Gerome. It shows a gladiator standing over his wounded opponent in the Roman Colosseum while excited spectator vote for a kill. “Basically, Ridley looked at the picture and said, ‘I’m doing the movie,’” producer Douglas Wick (Girl, Interrupted) recalls. “Walter knew how to get me,” agrees Scott, who studied painting at the Royal College of Art, “Because I love to create worlds.”

The casting represents a collaboration of two generations. Crowe was Scott’s first choice to play Maximus, and he signed on before anyone else—before filming The Insider, in fact. Connie Nielsen (Mission to Mars) plays Commodus’s not-so-loyal sister, Lucilla. And for Commodus himself, whom Scott describes as “a wounded individual whose father was never with his son,? Phoenix (8mm) was chosen. “I like the bad guys to be sympathetic,” the director says. Alongside the newer faces, Scott casts an older cadre of Britain’s finest: Richard Harris plays Commodus’s father, the famed Roman emperor Marcus Maurelius; Derek Jacobi appears as a senator; and Oliver Reed, who died suddenly new the end of production, was cast as Proximo, Maximus’s trainer-owner.

PremGlad3.jpg (32684 bytes)The production itself was something of an odyssey. The six-month shoot began in the woods outside Aldershot, in southern England, which doubled for the German front in the film’s opening battle, between the Roman army and Germanic tribes. Then it was off to Morocco for about three weeks; then Malta, where most of the filming—including the Colosseum battle scenes—too place. Malta was the ideal location because it had a ruined fortress several hundred years old, which the filmmakers used as a jumping-off point in reconstructing ancient Rome. “We created a portion of downtown Rome by building large structures in relation to existing structures,? Production designer Max says. “Wherever there was a gray area in the history books, we invented. Napoleonic and Fascist design were influenced by the ancient Romans, so we drew upon Napoleonic historical paintings and Triumph of the Will.”

And upon Scott’s own sketches, known as “Ridley-grams” to veterans of his productions. “If he talks to a carpenter, he’ll do a little diagram, saying, ‘That’s how I want it,’” storyboard artist Sylvain Despretz says. “He would give Arthur Max piles of sketches on the backs of script pages.”

Rebuilding the entire Colosseum was, of course, out of the question, but the crew constructed one side of the amphitheater and two of its tiers; the rest was filled in with computer-generated imagery. “We used a combination of old, traditional film tricks and high-tech trickery,” Max says.

He rattles off the accomplishments of his crew, which he estimates reached 1,000 workers at its peak: “We had to equip an army, a palace, a senate, several senators’ houses, a slave market, a provincial gladiatorial amphitheater, a gladiator school in both Morocco and Malta, and all of their equipment, weapons, wagons, chariots. Not to mention underneath the Colosseums, which we called the bowels, where gladiators were held in holding pens, and mechanical lifts raised lions and tigers up to the floor of the arena.” All of this work was made more difficult by the iffy weather. “Everything had to be brought in by ship,” says Max, referring to the lack of lumber and equipment available in both Malta and Morocco. “We were building in the winter in an El Nino sort of year, and very often storms kept the shipments from arriving on schedule. Some of it’s still sailing around the Mediterranean looking for us.”

Like the sets, the script was never totally on schedule. The first draft was written in 1996 by Franzoni, but screenwriters John Logan (the Ridley Scott—produced HBO film RKO 281) and William Nicholson (Firelight) were brought in to do rewrites. “This was a work in progress up until the final day of shooting. “Franzoni says. “Bill Nicholson was literally writing six feet ahead of Ridley’s shooting.”

“We could have done with a bit more time on the script,” one crew member says. “We’d have to go back and do scenes that hadn’t really been settled on. Lines had been put in or we’d want to change the significance of the scene. Things got rigged and taken down again.”

The motivation for some of this script work was to keep the star happy. “[Crowe] came back from [The insider], and I guess he should’ve been watching the script as it went along. He was upset,” Franzoni says. “He felt his character didn’t have the vitality that it originally had. He get…”—Franzoni chooses his words carefully—“…straightforwardly intense about it. Russell’s character needed to be amped up, and it got amped up.”

While some felt that Crowe could be demanding and temperamental on the set (“he was a bit of a star,: says on crew member. “I wouldn’t cherish doing another film with him”), Scott laughs off the question of whether the actor was easy to work with. “The good ones never are,” he says. “I like a bit of rock ‘n roll.” He and Crowe did disagree about Crowe’s accent: The actor wanted to use a Spanish accent to reflect his character’s origins, but everyone else was set to speak in classical English accents. Scott won that debate. “I didn’t want him to say Barthelona,” Scott says. “We’re already taking this giant walk down a toga-and-slipper path. We didn’t need more complications.”

PremGlad1.jpg (41748 bytes)Indeed, the crew had enough to deal with during the movie’s elaborate battle scenes, some of which took as long as two weeks to film. Crowe trained for nearly a month before shooting (he had to drop the 35 pounds he gained for The Insider and continued to train and rehearse during production. “Russell’s very physical,” stunt coordinator Phil Neilson says. “He did all his own fight stuff; he did 95 percent of his horse stuff.”

For Phoenix, his sword fight with Crowe was the shoot’s highlight. “We rehearsed separately; the first time we did [together] was when we shot it,” he says. “I’ve never been much for sports or anything, but I had a blast.”

To give everyone a forum for blowing off steam during the arduous shoot, Crowe frequently hosted dinners for the cast and crew and took them to soccer games and horse races. “Not just the actors and the producer,” Connie Nielsen says. “He brings people from the crew, which is so nice about him. He’s gracious and giving.” Phoenix agrees. “If anybody’s ever been a big brother to me,” says the actor (who lost his big brother, River, in 1993), “it was Crowe.”

The entire production team was dealt a severe blow when, last May 2, costar Oliver Reed (Women in Love, Oliver!) died of a heart attack while patronizing a local pub. “It was a weekend, and I wasn’t working,” Nielsen recalls. “Ridley told me this had happened, and we were all in shock. We made a sort of dinner get-together where we all sat and talked about it. Two days after, we had to start again. And he was no longer in his trailer. It was sad.”

“He was a hero to me as a kid,” director of photography Mathieson says. “Some people say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but he wasn’t disappointing to me at all. I thought he was an excellent fellow. Warm, kind generous.”

Scott, who knew Reed for 27 years, likens him to another prodigiously talented and famously raucous British star, Robert Shaw (Jaws, The Sting). “I don’t know what made that generation, those guys,” he says. “The Robert Shaws of the world are disappearing.” Most of Reed’s scenes had been filmed, so the movie itself wasn’t affected greatly. There is one shot for which the visual-effects crew inserted a close-up of Reed from a previous scene and altered it slightly.

Through it all, the director was determined to keep Gladiator grittier and more authentic than its stylized predecessors, which he feels suffer from “the old curly-hair-brushed-forward syndrome. I know they probably did that [in ancient Rome], but I always relate to the facts of period times; they’ve still got to get up in the morning, clean their teeth, wash in the shower—if they were lucky enough to have one.”

“Within the first five minutes,” co-screenwriter Logan promises, “you will have forgotten every Victor Mature movie you have ever seen.”
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From Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview

April 28th, article here courtesy of Pachabel
"What's the big deal? Finally, the movie that will make Russell Crowe a marquee star.

For Crowe, packing on nearly 40 pounds to play The Insider's Big Tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand was a piece of cake. (Actually, several pieces of cake.) It was shedding the flab that was that was next to impossible. Not that Crowe (who scored a Best Actor Oscar nomination for The Insider) minded. It's just that the actor was on a pretty tight deadline not only to drop the pounds, but also to chisel himself into Maximus - the baddest badass in ancient Rome. "After five weeks of working out I'd only dropped five pounds," says Crowe. "For some people dropping 38 pounds is nothing, but my cholesterol was ridiculously high and I had trouble getting out of cars, I was so fat."

Vying to be the first blockbuster of the summer, director Scott's $100 million Roman action epic tells the swashbuckling story of Crowe's Maximus - a brave and loyal military general under Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). But when the emperor reveals his plans for Maximus to succeed him after his death, Aurelius' jealous son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) betrays Maximus and has him sent into exile as a slave. In shackles and with his family life destroyed, Maximus is trained as a gladiator under the tutelage of Proximo (Oliver Reed, who died of apparent heart failure toward the tail end of filming). When Maximus is sent to Rome to fight in the Colosseum, he begins to plot his vengeance and gain his freedom. While that simple general-to-slave-to-gladiator three-act story arc would be more than enough to sustain most summer fare, Scott and screenwriter David Franzoni had loftier goals, piling on a few twisty subplots involving Maximus' enslaved brother-in-arms (Djimon Hounsou), Maximus' past relationship with the emperor's daughter (Connie Nielsen) and her plan to restore Rome to democratic rule with the help of a civic-minded senator (Derek Jacobi).

While Crowe's character is fictional, others are drawn from the history books. "It's pretty smart," boasts Scott. "Thankfully, a lot of the story was there in Roman History, so we didn't have to make too much up." Still, the director says Gladiator's real surprise is its lean-and-mean leading man, who he predicts will rocket from a bristling and brooding character actor into one of Hollywood's heavyweight stars. "Trust me, if I had to hire Russell after this movie comes out," says Scott, "I wouldn't be able to afford him."

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Fan Reviews:

5crowe.gif (2095 bytes)The movie was never slow or boring. I saw it twice but I did think the battle scene was a little too fast and blurred. But Russell Crowe was sexy, magnificent and believeable.
Rated: Five Crowes

5crowe.gif (2095 bytes)RC magnificently protrayed a MAN who believed there was life beyond the thrills and overcoated world of pretensiousness that exists even today. He was a man of strengh and was not afraid to love God. He made me believe that men could still be men and women be women. He exudes the kind of masculinity that seems to rarely exist these days. I truly believe he portrays himself to some extent, if not all in all his films. Maximus is certainlly the best of all, he is a powerful actor and the best of his caliber. I originally started out intensely disliking RC but soon came to realize it was the characters he play(so well) that I really hated (Hando, Bud, Cort etc.) and to top it off I thought he was ugly. Not so anymore!!! Gladiator is the film of the century and RC is the Marilyn of the Millenium. You go RC!!!
Rated: Five Crowes

5crowe.gif (2095 bytes)Russell Crowe did an excillent job getting into shape after the movie the Insider. I believe that he is the only man who could have played the part of the Gladiator. There is not a lot I can say but he is amazing!!!
Rated: Five Crowes
~Just a fan

What do you expect from Ridley Scott? We all remember "that" scene from ALIEN don't we! Even Legio Secundum Augustus were impressed, despite a few historical blips. This is serious stuff. Fantastic CGs, even better acting from the entire cast, I care not what others say. The atmosphere between RC and Joachin Phoenix could be cut with a knife. The emotional restraint between RC and Connie Nielson. You're holding your breath the whole way through. Richard Harris plays Marcus Aurelius with a certain degree of insight, as one might expect, we have heard rumour that members of the cast read the Meditations of Marcus Auerlius prior to filming. Oliver Reed (sadly missed) was I first thought an odd choice for Proximo, but having seen the film, he was perfect ... the ageing artist .. one last show. The whole thing is a masterpiece.
Rated: five crowes

Links to more articles:

NY Post Online: Russell's a lot to Crowe about

What's Eating Crowe: Gladiator's Russell Crowe slays Hollywood's protocol
She's History:
Connie Nielsen goes back in time and joins a Roman boy's club...
Glorious!:   Gladiator a brawling, sprawling cinema spectacle...
Bang Up Job: Djimon Hounsou...
Roman Empire Fight Night: Gladiator is no Roman holiday...
Twisted Tales and Steaming Entrails: No place like Rome for blood 'n guts

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