In an in-depth interview with THR, producer Douglas Wick has revealed how a painting was key to bringing Ridley Scott on board to direct the 2000 movie Gladiator, as well as a number of other interesting facts about the making of the classic Roman epic.
From the beginning Wick, along with Dreamworks executive Walter F. Parkes, knew that Ridley Scott would be the best person to bring the epic story to life, after his previous successes with visually enthralling genre films.
“We brought Ridley a painting from the late 1800s of the Roman Colosseum,” Wick said. “It was beautifully shaded, and because it was sort of in the blush of the British empire, it was slightly idealized. Ridley looked at the painting and said, ‘I’ll do the movie. Wherever the script is, we’ll get it right. I’m doing this movie.'”
The painting is French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Pollice Verso, the name Latin for “with a turned thumb.” As the name might suggest, it inspired one of the most iconic moments of the film, where the emperor gives a thumbs up to spare the film’s protagonist.
Scott himself has spoken on the painting before. In an interview for a book written about the making of the film he said, “Walter and Doug came by my office and laid a reproduction of the painting on my desk. That image spoke to me of the Roman Empire in all its glory and wickedness. I knew right then and there I was hooked.”
The interview also discusses the Gladiator sequel that has been in the works for some time, with reports that Ridley Scott will be involved in some way. Wick explained that the project will be respectful of the original, and will only proceed if a potential script is likely to live up to that legacy.
“Many writers I’ve spoken to say, ‘I’m afraid to touch it,’ or ‘I don’t want to do it if it’s just going to be a piece of product,’ which, of course, none of us would ever consider,” Wick said. “So, we are working, and we just all have the feeling that if we can get something good enough on paper, we will proceed.”
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