Abandoned Sequels: GLADIATOR 2: CHRIST KILLER - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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You can imagine how well this title would've gone down...

A sequel to Gladiator is actually in development. Whether or not it ever makes it to the big screen remains to be seen, but this is not that film. Oh no! This proposed and abandoned sequel stems from the mid 2000s and the pen of Bad Seeds frontman, Nick Cave.

Although primarily known for his music, his baritone voice, emotional intensity, and lyrical obsessions with death, religion, love and violence, Nick Cave is also a respected screenwriter. He wrote the screenplay for the 2005 film The Proposition, a film about bushrangers in the Australian outback during the late 19th century, which was released worldwide to critical acclaim. He'd go on to write a screenplay titled The Wettest County in the World, which was used for the 2012 film Lawless starring Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf. And, in 2006 at the request of his friend and fellow Antipodean Russell Crowe, Cave wrote a script for a proposed sequel to Gladiator.

If you've seen the original Gladiator, released in the year 2000, then you'll know it stars Russell Crowe in his breakout role. Under the direction of Ridley Scott, Crowe portrays Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when Commodus, the ambitious son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, murders his father and seizes the throne. Reduced to slavery, Maximus becomes a gladiator and rises through the ranks of the arena to avenge the murders of his family and his emperor.

You'll also know, Crowe's character dies at the end.

Taking $460 million at the global box office, from a budget of $100 million, Gladiator was so popular there was no way DreamWorks & Universal, co-distributors of the film, were not going to be interested in a sequel. And indeed one year after its release, in June 2001, producer Douglas Wick said a second Gladiator film was in development but given Maximus' status at the end it was likely going to be a prequel.

The following year, Wick revised his statement and switched direction to a sort of sequel/spin-off set fifteen years after the events of Gladiator. A new hero would rise, when an older Lucius discovers the identity of his real father against a backdrop of a Rome ruled by the Praetorian Guard. Of course, Lucius, played by Spencer Treat Clark in the first film and said to be named after his father Lucius Verus who was co-emperor of Rome until AD 169, discovers that the man he idolised in the arena as a child, Maximus Decimus Meridius, is his real father.

Ridley Scott expressed interest in returning to direct, although he believed DreamWorks spin-off involving Lucius was too complex and more of a tale of corruption in Rome whereas Gladiator worked due to its simple drive, revenge. Scott also felt that the project would likely have to be retitled as it had little to do with gladiators.

And then Russell Crowe became interested in resurrecting his character of Maximus, and off his own back undertook research on Roman beliefs about the afterlife in an effort to find a way to accomplish this. Taking his findings to Scott, the pair approached Nick Cave in 2006 to draft a screenplay.

Cave's screenplay leaked onto the internet in 2009. It's a long, detailed read, and it's certainly not the film you'd expect as a Gladiator sequel. Cave later explained his synopsis to Marc Marron on his WTF Podcast back in 2013,
“Maximus goes down to purgatory and is sent down by the gods, who are dying in heaven because there’s this one god, there’s this Christ character, down on Earth who is gaining popularity and so the many gods are dying so they send the Gladiator back to Earth to kill Christ and his followers.

In the end you find out that [Christ] was his son, so he has to kill his son and he was tricked by the gods. [Maximus] 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.”
Yes, Maximus becomes the eternal gladiator, shown fighting in every conflict for 2000 years in one long, swooping epic climatic battle scene to end all battle scenes. The film would've then cut to the present day with Maximus washing his hands in a men’s room sink. Upon exiting it's revealed that the bathroom is located in the Pentagon and Maximus is leading a group of smart-suited men into the war room to strategise their next conflict.

Although he could later look back and realise that his screenplay was maybe just a bit too out there for a big Hollywood production company, at the time Cave felt his sequel was “a stone cold masterpiece” and he even had an appropriately shocking name for it...
“I wanted to call it ‘Christ Killer’"
DreamWorks, perhaps unsurprisingly, bulked at the screenplay, but Crowe continued championing Cave's story. Simply if the studio wanted their star back this was the direction and screenplay he would return for, as he told Empire Magazine in 2007...
“At first I was very cynical about that notion [of a Gladiator sequel], but I’ve come around on it [because we've had a] different idea for it... We step off into the metaphysical and you actually acknowledge the fact that Maximus is dead [laughs]. Nick Cave actually wrote a draft for me. He’s an excellent writer, man.”
As I said at the beginning, a Gladiator sequel is currently in development. This is not that story, because even though Crowe and Scott were both very much behind Cave's screenplay, no studio would bankroll it, and so the pair eventually abandoned hope of producing "Gladiator 2: Christ Killer".

In 2009 Scott revealed,
"We tried [to go with Nick Cave's script]. Russell didn't want to let it go, obviously, because it worked very well. When I say 'worked very well', I don't refer to success. I mean, as a piece it worked very well. Storytelling, [it] worked brilliantly."
If we do ever see a sequel to Gladiator, I think it's safe to say it won't be one operating on a metaphysical level.

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