Spanning three seasons and four countries, production on "Gladiator" presented the filmmakers with any number of logistical hurdles to overcome. Branko Lustig remarks, "In many ways, it was like making four different movies because we had to coordinate the efforts of four separate crews: one in London, one in Malta, one in Morocco and one central crew that moved from location to location."
Verisimilitude became the hallmark of the entire production, though Scott was determined that "Gladiator" never be seen as a page out of a history book. "There is a great deal written about the Roman Empire, but there are also questions about what is accurate and what is merely conjecture. Therefore, I felt the priority was to stay true to the spirit of the period, but not necessarily to adhere to facts. We were, after all, creating fiction, not practicing archeology"
Scott continues, "The most important thing when you assume a challenge like this is choosing the right people to work with, because you have no choice but to delegate on a production this size. I had the best department heads— people who had been there, seen it, done it or researched it. I knew I could rely on their artistry to craft the world in which our story unfolds, and they did an extraordinary job. You can almost smell the arena and feel the atmosphere of
the city. The costumes are authentic. Watching the film, you should believe you're experiencing a contemporary situation...you're living in Roman times."
Principal photography on "Gladiator" got underway in a forest near Farnham, England, which doubled for Germania, near the northernmost border of the Roman Empire. There, the Roman Legions, commanded by
General Maximus, wage a fierce battle against the heavily outmatched Germanic fighters. The timing of the shoot turned out to be serendipitous, as the British Forestry Commission had slated the area, known as the Bourne Woods, to be deforested. Ridley Scott and his production team were only too happy to comply "I said, 'I'll do it for you. I'll burn it down,"' the director recalls.
Sixteen thousand flaming arrows were sent aloft by a team overseen by special effects supervisor Neil Corbould. Adding to the conflagration, fiery clay pots were launched from fully functional catapults modeled after those of the era. Over a period of four days, another 10,000 non-flaming arrows were shot by archers, as well as by special machines that could fire hundreds of arrows in quick succession.
With Russell Crowe as Maximus leading the charge, Roman soldiers rode into the fray on horseback. No camera person or vehicular camera mount was agile or fast enough to follow the galloping horses over the steeply graded landscape and through the trees. To capture the shot, cinematographer John Mathieson utilized a tracking system, in which the camera was mounted on a steel tube, similar to a monorail, that was laid down along the contours of the ground.
At the height of the battle, the cast, stuntmen, and thousands of extras engaged in close combat with broadswords, axes, spears, crossbows and other weaponry. More than 2,500 weapons were designed and manufactured for the film by supervising armorer Simon Atherton and his team. Many of the armaments were original concepts, resulting from a combination of research and innovation.
Atherton explains, "I started by looking in books for references to weaponry and armor from this period, but there was not much to be found. So, taking ideas from what we know about subsequent periods and trying to imagine the evolution of certain weapons and armor—with the understanding that they did mainly close-quarter fighting— we were able to come up with some designs and ideas that would have been fea
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