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15 Epic Facts About Gladiator

Gladiator—Ridley Scott's historical epic that won the Oscar for Best Picture—told the story of the fictitious Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius fighting for his life and freedom in order to avenge the murder of his family. On the 15th anniversary of its release, we look back at some things you might not know about the sword-and-sandal hit.

1. STEVEN SPIELBERG GREENLIT THE MOVIE AFTER ASKING THREE QUESTIONS.

Screenwriter David Franzoni received a three-picture deal with Dreamworks SKG after writing the script for Amistad. During a "surprisingly brief" pitch meeting with Spielberg for what would become Gladiator, Franzoni told the Writers Guild of America that the director "really had three basic questions. My gladiator movie, it was about ancient Roman gladiators—not American, Japanese, whatever else? Yes, I said. Taking place in the ancient Coliseum? Yes. Fighting with swords and animals to the death and such? Yes. Great, let's make the movie."

2. A PAINTING CONVINCED RIDLEY SCOTT TO DIRECT IT.

Producers showed Scott a copy of Jean-Léon Gérôme's’ 1872 painting Pollice Verso, which depicted a gladiator awaiting the judgment of his fight by a coliseum crowd, who would move their thumbs depending on whether they believed a gladiator should live or die based on his performance. (“Pollice verso” is Latin for “with a turned thumb.”) "That image spoke to me of the Roman Empire in all its glory and wickedness," Scott said of the painting. "I knew right then and there I was hooked."

3. JUDE LAW AND JENNIFER LOPEZ AUDITIONED FOR ROLES.

Law tested for Commodus, but Joaquin Phoenix ran away with the role. Lopez reportedly tried out for Lucilla, but lost out to Connie Nielsen.

4. RIDLEY SCOTT DENIES THAT MEL GIBSON WAS HIS FIRST CHOICE FOR MAXIMUS.

While it has often been stated that Gibson turned down the lead role in the film, making way for Crowe, Scott insisted to CNN that "Russell was really always my first choice." He had seen him in 1992's Romper Stomper, and "thought he was someone worth watching."

5. COMMODUS AND LUCILLA WERE REAL PEOPLE.

Whereas Maximus is a work of fiction, Commodus and Lucilla are not. In 182 A.D. Commodus survived an assassination attempt by his sister Lucilla. He gradually became even more megalomaniacal, even renaming Rome "Colonia Commodiana" (Colony of Commodus). He was eventually strangled to death by a champion wrestler named Narcissus (who had been hired by Commodus' advisers).

6. SCOTT GOT PERMISSION TO BURN DOWN A FOREST.

Shooting began in Bourne Woods, a forest near Farnham, England that doubled as Germania during the battle between the Roman Legions and the German fighters. Scott learned that the Royal Forestry Commission had scheduled the area for “deforestation,” so he arranged to burn it down for them (and get the shots he needed),

7. ONLY A PART OF THE COLOSSEUM WAS REAL.

A 52-foot high fragment of the first tier of the arena was built, measuring about one-third of the circumference of the original Colosseum, as well as the bowels with the rudimentary elevator system. The rest of the arena—including the other tiers and the retractable roof—was CGI.

8. OLIVER REED PASSED AWAY BEFORE FILMING WAS FINISHED.

Reed died from a heart attack on May 2, 1999, while in the midst of filming Gladiator in Malta. His character, Proximo, was rewritten to die, but not all of his major scenes had been shot yet. So Scott used CGI in order to work around his passing, digitally scanning Reed’s face onto an extra in order to finish filming.

9. CROWE INJURED HIMSELF DURING FILMING. A LOT.

Crowe lost all feeling in his right forefinger for two years after a sword fight, aggravated an Achilles tendon injury, broke a foot bone, cracked a hip bone, and popped a few bicep tendons out of their sockets at different points in the production of the film.

10. CROWE WASN'T THRILLED WITH THE SCRIPT (OR LACK THEREOF).

While appearing on Inside the Actors Studio, Crowe said that only 32 pages of the script were completed when shooting commenced. Co-writer William Nicholson recounted how Crowe once told him, “Your lines are garbage but I’m the greatest actor in the world, and I can make even garbage sound good.” Initially, Crowe didn’t care for the now-famous line “And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next,” but repeatedly failed to ad-lib anything better.

11. JOAQUIN PHOENIX DECIDED TO CUT HIS HAIR AND GAIN WEIGHT AFTER FILMING HAD STARTED.

While reading the script one morning two weeks into production, Phoenix (who earned his first Oscar nomination with Gladiator) thought it made sense that Commodus would grow physically larger as his belief in his own power as Emperor increased. Phoenix also kept a sword in his hotel room.

12. PRODUCERS PURPOSELY AVOIDED SOME POINTS OF AUTHENTICITY.

Much like today's most celebrated athletes, Roman gladiators actually did product endorsements. But the producers didn't think that audiences would know—or believe—that, so left it out of the film.

13. JOHNNY CASH WAS A FAN OF THE FILM.

Before he was hired to play the legendary singer in Walk the LinePhoenix recalled to The Guardian how he once met Johnny Cash by pure coincidence, and how he "started quoting to me the most sadistic dialogue from Gladiator with obvious relish."

14. HANS ZIMMER WAS SUED FOR HIS WORK ON THE SOUNDTRACK.

The estate of composer Gustav Holst believed that Zimmer plagiarized Holst’s "Mars, Bringer of War” for “The Battle.” So far, there hasn’t been an official announcement on the verdict.

15. NICK CAVE WROTE A SEQUEL INVOLVING A TIME-TRAVELING MAXIMUS.

As Cave is best known as a musician, it seemed surprising to some that Crowe and Scott asked him to write a sequel to Gladiator. Cave dealt with the whole "Maximus is dead" problem by having the Roman gods reincarnate him in his script. The plan was for him to then be somehow transported to World War II, the Vietnam War, and then become a modern-day General at the Pentagon. The studio rejected it.

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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DreamWorks

Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

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