Gladiator star Djimon Hounsou reveals that the film’s final scene wasn’t in the original script and came about due to Oliver Reed’s death.
Gladiator star Djimon Hounsou reveals that the last scene in the movie wasn’t actually in the original script. Released in 2000, Gladiator was a hit both critically and commercially and is largely the film responsible for propelling actor Russell Crowe to stardom. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film tells the story of a prestigious general, Maximus, who, after witnessing the death of his wife and child at the hands of the Emperor’s tyrannical son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), is sold into slavery and forced to become a gladiator.
Hounsou plays Juba, a fellow gladiator who becomes an ally to Maximus. After sustaining fatal wounds during his climactic battle with Commodus, Maximus dies, leaving the movie’s final scene to focus on Juba. Juba buries Maximus’ small figurines of his slain family in the Colosseum before promising that he will see Maximus again, but “not yet.” While it has now been more than twenty years since the release of Gladiator, talk of a sequel has been ongoing for years, with Scott confirming in the fall of last year that a script for Gladiator 2 is now written and ready to go.
In a new interview with GQ, wherein Hounsou breaks down the most iconic characters he’s played throughout his career, the actor reveals that his iconic final scene in Gladiator wasn’t even in the original script. According to Hounsou, the death of actor Oliver Reed, who played Proximo, forced Scott and the studio to make changes on the fly regarding how to end the film. Ultimately, Hounsou says, the final shot ended up being an intimate moment captured with most of the crew not even present.
“The majority of the production was not aware of what we were making, what we were doing, particularly in regards to that scene, because that scene was not written. We didn’t know how we were going to finish the film because, towards the end of filming, we had lost one important character in the making of Gladiator – and that was Oliver Reed. That shifted everything and that changed everything. And so, “how do we end the film?” was I’m sure in discussion [between] the studio and, obviously, Ridley. So, how we shot that last scene was just a surprise to everybody, and no one was around. It was the end of the day, with just one camera operator, the director, and myself and it was beautiful.”
While Hounsou doesn’t reveal what the original Gladiator script’s ending was, it can be assumed that it involved Reed’s Proximo character somehow. Reed died of a heart attack in 1999 while on a break from filming of Gladiator, an event that precipitated a change to the film’s script and the shooting of new scenes using what was, at the time, groundbreaking CGI face replacement technology. Typically, movie scenes are planned out extensively ahead of time and (especially for a movie of Gladiator’s scale) involve dozens of crew members, making it surprising that Scott captured the final scene the way Hounsou describes.
Ultimately, the final scene in Gladiator is one of the most memorable in the entire movie. Juba’s final scene and the promise that he will see Maximus again, but “not yet,” creates a hopeful ending to what is otherwise a brutal and unforgiving film about revenge. While it’s not clear what fate befalls Juba following the end of Gladiator, it’s possible that, if a sequel ever does get made, audiences will get to see Hounsou’s character again in some form.
More: Why Gladiator Killed Off Maximus At The End (& What The Original Plan Was)
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