Alien: Covenant wasn’t the only supernatural sequel Ridley Scott discussed at this year’s SXSW. He’s also eager to make another Gladiator film. Only problem is... the main character is dead. But Scott said he knows how to bring him back, and I’m hoping it’s because a bunch of Roman gods want him to kill Jesus. Seriously, that’s a real script, people.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Scott confirmed that he still wants to make a sequel to the 2000 Academy Award-winning film Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. If the ever-delayed Avatar sequels have shown us anything, it’s that it can be hard to continue a series after many years without making it a reboot. That’s especially true when the lead character is dead and buried. However, it doesn’t look like Scott’s going to let that stop him.
“I know how to bring him back,” Scott said. “I was having this talk with the studio — ‘but he’s dead.’ But there is a way of bringing him back. Whether it will happen I don’t know. Gladiator was 2000, so Russell’s changed a little bit. He’s doing something right now but I’m trying to get him back down here.”
It’s unclear what exactly Scott means by “bring him back,” since that’s very open to interpretation. It could be Maximus’ son sees him through a series of flashbacks or dream sequences, or the sequel could actually be a prequel (like Prometheus). However, I’m secretly hoping Scott actually takes up Nick Cave’s script, originally commissioned by Crowe and Scott and later rejected by the studio. Here’s an actual sample of the script, courtesy of Birth Movies Death.
MAXIMUS enters the dim confines of the temple. Rain leaks through the broken stonework and runs down the walls. A large torch-wheel hangs from the ceiling on a chain and it swings and creaks. SEVEN DISSOLUTE OLD MEN (JUPITER, APOLLO, PLUTO, NEPTUNE, MARS, MERCURY, BACCHUS) cluster around a makeshift table, their heads craned towards each other as they mumble amongst themselves. MAXIMUS stands before them. The OLD MEN grow silent. They look ill and diseased. The torch-wheel creaks. JUPITER, fat, eyes boiled and blood-shot, sits in the center.
In this God of War-style supernatural epic, Maximus is chilling in the underworld when he gets a “holy mission” from the Roman gods to kill Jesus and stop the spread of Christianity. The so-called “Christ killer” eventually decides to help the Christians instead, who are being tortured and killed for their faith... including in the Coliseum, which was transformed into a naval battle on a manmade lake filled with alligators (yes, that is a sentence I just wrote).
After switching sides and helping the Christians push back the Romans, Maximus is punished to repeat the cycle of war for all eternity. He fights in the Crusades, in World War I, in freaking Vietnam. Then we see him in the Pentagon’s war room, much like in Dr. Strangelove, presumably getting ready to launch a nuclear missile. You heard that right... Maximus, the gladiator dude, controls nuclear weapons.
“He becomes this eternal warrior, and it ends with this 20 minute war scene which follows all the wars in history, right up to Vietnam and all that sort of stuff and it was wild. It was a stone cold masterpiece. I enjoyed writing it very much because I knew on every level that it was never going to get made. Let’s call it a popcorn dropper,” Cave said in 2013 on WTF with Mark Maron.
If anyone could make a Gladiator sequel with Roman gods, alligator lakes, and Twilight Zone-esque twists work, it’d be Ridley Scott. Sadly, I doubt Cave’s script would ever be used, but it’s still delightful to know that it exists. And every time Scott teases the future of Gladiator, I will take that script in my arms, give it a giant hug, and sigh as I wonder what could’ve been.