Gladiator April 4, 1998 Script Draft: Page #2
INT. MARCUS AURELIUS' ROOM - LATER
Marcus Aurelius sits up in his bed and watches with a seasoned campaigner's eye as Narcissus and Quintus lean over a large, beautifully hand-drawn map. Commodus sits by his side, the attentive son.
Felix Army controls the narrows.
Four cohorts from Quintus' legion
hold the opposite shore and once we
repair the German fort we'll be able
to reinforce and supply them at
Seeing he's having trouble seeing, Narcissus holds the map up for him.
Can the Germans cross up stream on
boats or float bridges?
Not through those rapids. They're
disorganized and their army barely
But they're not destroyed, not yet.
Do we really need to repair this
fort? It seems like an expensive
undertaking. I propose we burn it
to the ground. That way if the
Germans cross the Danube here there
will be nothing to help them build
an offensive position.
Commodus, it's we who are going on
The fort helps position us for a
final invasion in the spring when
they're most vulnerable.
Commodus -- listen to Narcissus,
listen to the man who has never lost
a battle for Rome! You're young
with years ahead of you before you
gain the experience to wear the
Commodus visibly reacts, but swallows his anger. Marcus sits back, weakened from the exchange.
Father, you have to rest...
I'm sorry... all of you, excuse me.
They all make shallow bows and turn to leave, but Marcus holds Narcissus' hand. Quintus sees and politely leaves, but Commodus only goes reluctantly.
I want you to start your work for
the last phase of the campaign.
I will, Marcus. But you're going to
be well enough to direct it
I've made so many mistakes,
Narcissus. We all put off the very
last duties of our lives because
we're afraid of admitting when our
lives are over.
There's no reason to say that.
Everyone knows you're going to be
well. I had Servis groom your horse
for a triumphal visit to the front
at first light.
Servis made it through again?
He's like you, sir, too tough for
the Gods to swallow.
Marcus laughs and looks like he's better just talking with Narcissus. But now he holds Narcissus' hand with both of his.
If I'd ever had a sign that you
wanted to rule I would have... no,
again, it's my own bullheadedness.
Narcissus, I should have adopted you
years ago. And now the Gods are
begging me to make you my son!
Commodus is just a young man, he'll
learn what you had to learn.
It's not because he's young, it's
because he's ignorant and arrogant.
His sister is a better man. That's
why I have undertaken to begin
sweeping changes in the relationship
between the emperor and the Senate.
So I understand.
Everyone talking about it? I
wouldn't wonder. All I seek is a
genuine balance of power between the
Emperor and the Senate. Thus I have
transferred legal power -- which was
theirs to begin with -- back to the
Senators. This includes a shared
right to taxation too but some bite
in the plan. It's a start, only a
start. If the Emperor and the
Senate can share power then the
people will be ready to take their
share. This means Commodus has to
bend; does he strike you as that
You're too hard on him. He is a
strong young man, with you as his
A man should be upright, not be kept
History shows us that a good general
is quick to recognize opportunities
-- even if it means making a
complete about face at the last
minute. I want you to consider
becoming my heir.
Marcus, you honor me, but I'm a
soldier, politics scare the hell out
The Senators admire you.
They fear me.
They fear change. The new Caesar
must be honest enough to know when
the emperorship is no longer
feasible. You could be the one, the
Emperor, the man who oversees the
rebirth of the Republic.
I'll do anything in my power to help
you restore the Republic but I can't
be that power.
The door creeps open and Galen slips in followed by Commodus.
General; the emperor needs my full
attention. Please? He must have
Don't waste time. Finish our
I swear, Marcus.
Marcus smiles, but grips his hand.
I'm going to miss riding the lines
with you, Narcissus...
Commodus walks Narcissus to the door himself.
You and my father have become very
close. Perhaps one day I may say
the same for us.
You flatter me, Caesar.
Being as close, I'm certain you've
noticed what we all have noticed.
That this illness has clouded his
He shuts the door with an ominous finality.
EXT. MARCUS AURELIUS' QUARTERS - NIGHT
Narcissus turns and runs straight into Lucilla who's been waiting for him. Her reaction is to put her arms around his neck and look up into his smiling face. But he's just amused.
I thought all good generals were
quick to recognize opportunities.
Sneaking around with your brother?
Without him. He'd be weeping if he
overheard that. Well? The idea of
you as my adopted brother is very...
I'm not fit for the job and as a
matter of fact I'm not taking the
Why do you keep playing at being so
humble? It's a little embarrassing.
Why do you play at being drunk?
How do you know I am playing? Well,
the clown is always harmless. Isn't
that right? And how did you ever
get to know me so well? The last we
spent any time together I was
fourteen. I think you know me
better than my father.
He's going to die, isn't he?
I don't believe that. He's got the
best doctor in the world and a will
of iron. You know we're preparing
for a full-blown invasion of
Of course I know -- who do you think
is paying for it? The Emperor
himself, didn't you know? Why do
you think Commodus came rushing up
to the front? Burning patriotism?
Filial love? He wants to be sure
when he takes over there's enough
cash left in the treasury to...
play Emperor. Watch out for him,
Narcissus; he's inexperienced,
but... be careful.
INT. NARCISSUS' TENT - NIGHT
Narcissus painfully pulls his toga over his head and for the first time we really get to see his battle wounds. All the dressings have bled through. He dips fresh bandages in a bowl of hot water... then reaches back and peels off a dressing.
FIVE LITTLE FIRED TABLET PORTRAITS OF NARCISSUS' ANCESTORS... each in an individual stand on a tiny alter. Narcissus' table is set with five colorful wooden plates with food and drink for each. Dressed again, he not so much as prays to the tablets as carries on a conversation.
Postumas, Lilliana, Guyan,
Agrippina, Lartes. The battle is
won, my family. Of course, I'm sure
you were there with me, Guyan.
Grandmother always said you loved a
good fight. Lilliana, I set some
local fruit at your place tonight.
They're not bad. And don't tell me
you don't like exotic food.
He lights incense that goes up fast seeming to flood the tent with smoke.
Welcome to the table of life, my
Narcissus hoists his arm onto a folding stool and leans his head on his arm, exhaustion finally taking over. In the dark and the smoke of the incense he falls asleep.
There's a moment when their faces seem somehow alive in the ghostly, shimmering smoke.
Daddy... Daddy! Daddy wake up!
slowly focuses on the portraits in the muted dawn light. In front of the portraits is the beaming face of a YOUNG GIRL. She's his six year old daughter THEMIS, a black-haired, dark eyed beauty.
She holds a DOLL up in his face: it's a doll dressed up like a Roman General.
This is you, daddy.
He picks her up and spins around to find his wife SELENE with their older daughter MANTO. Now the others rush to embrace him. A thirty-year old male house-hold slave -- LINDO -- enters carrying woven bags of personal belongings.
Selene! Manto! Lindo, too! Oh,
gods... how did you get here?
EXT. CAMP - NEAR THE DANUBE - MORNING
As the family walks along the edge of a slow moving, peaceful bend of the great river, Themis holds her doll for Narcissus' approval.
Lindo walks close; though a slave he's clearly part of the family.
Narcissus takes the toy likeness, makes sure his daughter sees he's giving it a serious scrutiny.
He's very realistic.
Isn't the helmet magnificent?
I made the plume from a quail
Much more colorful than the ones we
wear. And, of course, less dented.
Father, is it true the Germans are
just fighting to protect their land?
Narcissus and Selene swap a fast look.
Well, you wanted the girls to have
the best teachers.
That sounds even worse.
Teacher says that the divine Julius
used the Germans as a pretext to
dissolve the Republic.
Did he now...?
And that the Germans are only
struggling to keep their honor and
the ways of their people. And that
throughout history Rome has always
been the aggressor.
Well, remind teacher: once upon a
time it was the Hebrews over the
Philistines; the Babylonians over
the Hebrews; Egypt over Babylon; the
Greeks over the Trojans; Persians
over the Greeks; Etruscans over the
Latins; Sabines over the Latins and
Etruscans. Now it's Rome over
everyone and I don't know when the
world has known such peace.
I can't wait to tell my teachers all
Can see Narcissus feels better about this already.
What about their philosophy lessons?
They're studying with Cynics.
Daddy, Lindo says these forest are
haunted by sprites and spirits! Can
we go to bed early so we can meet
them in our dreams?
Narcissus and Selene catch Lindo's smile...
INT. TENT - LATE NIGHT
Narcissus and Selene making love in the dark. From outside come distant lightning flashes followed by the hollow roll of far off thunder.
Finally Selene collapses against Narcissus, but it looks like she could go on for another hour if she just weren't simply exhausted. They laugh quietly at their passion.
You need to come home!
I can see that...
The battle is over. The war is
over. You've won!
If you win, you know, you have to
stay. It's the losers who get to go
home. Besides, I'm not so sure it
is over. Centurions report enemy
scouts probing our lines.
Selene sighs, then gets an idea and slides out of bed; she returns with a long necked jug.
Look what we've brought you all the
way from Spain.
He looks at the jug and the label.
This is our oil from our estates?
I've been overseeing production
myself for the past three years,
you'll be surprised at how wonderful
our oil has become.
She pushed the bottle neck between her naked breasts and smiles.
If you want to know, you'll have to
come and get it.
Narcissus puts his hands on the base of the bottle, then lets his hand slide to her breast. But she moves the bottle aside, pulls him close -- but he snatches the bottle and gives it a good look.
Very fancy. Did you design the
Who else? I'm the one who runs the
estates while you're here risking
everything we have for the glory of
Rome! Or for the glory of you!
I'm a soldier -- we're at war. I
can't stay home tending the damned
We don't need your help we're doing
great on our own.
Narcissus cools down, sees this is going a bad way.
I want to come home, of course I do,
I'd have to be mad not to want that.
It's just that Marcus trusts me.
Let him trust Quintus.
Quintus is overly idealistic.
I never knew a more idealistic man
Me? Well, I believe in Rome...
you'd have to after what I've seen,
how people outside the empire treat
I don't even want to imagine the
things you've seen...
What you don't want to imagine is
the things I've done.
Silence. All the while they've been talking the storm has been slowly approaching, thunder beating ominously closer. Selene embraces him.
Suddenly Manto and Themis leap into bed with them and push beneath their bearskin blanket. Themis is crying and Manto is shaken.
Girls! What's the trouble? Manto?
Lindo was right! This is a haunted
place! The night spirits came to
We had horrible nightmares!
Lightning flashes and thunder drops like a bomb as the storm settles on the camp. The girls pull themselves close to Selene and Narcissus.
INT. NARCISSUS' TENT - LATE AFTERNOON
Themis and Manto help Selene and Lindo pack the last of several baskets.
Don't stop to visit -- take the
children straight home and I'll
follow as soon as I can.
As soon as I can.
On your honor as a Roman officer,
On my honor as your daddy...
One of Narcissus personal guards enters.
Sir, Caesar Commodus and Quintus
Clarus to see you.
Tell them to come in!
Commodus and Quintus enter as the guard returns to his post. Quintus sets his helmet down. He's wearing his lorica segmentata.
Commodus nods as Selene motions for the children to sit
Marcus Aurelius has died.
He left us at dawn.
Everyone stunned. Selene embraces the children. Narcissus slowly sits back at the table.
Please accept my deepest sympathy as
you were one of his most loyal
Narcissus takes out four scrolls, hands them to Commodus.
These were my latest reports to
But Quintus takes them.
I want to extend my hand in
gratitude for what you have done for
my father and Rome, and to offer my
friendship. The next few weeks will
be trying. As you know Marcus
wisely or unwisely laid the
foundations for greater Senatorial
control and there are those likely
to take advantage of his good
intentions. Will you join me in
strengthening my government? As you
know your support, your friendship
at this critical moment would
silence a dangerous faction.
While they speak Quintus unrolls the documents. He's not happy reading them.
Centurions on both sides of the
river are convinced the Germans will
try one last offensive. They've got
nothing to lose and it's so very
Commodus and Quintus swap a fast look.
I'm ordering a general stand-down in
preparation for withdrawal back
across the Danube.
We have to stop the Germans now!
We must obey our emperor and the
I met with Falco, and the Senators
have agreed to call for a truce with
Forgive me, Caesar, but do two
Senator represent the mood of the
whole Senate or the will of the
Roman people? Besides, every truce
we make with the Germans they break!
They won't break this one.
Apparently my opinion wasn't needed.
Everyone knew you would have been
outspoken against this deal.
Rome is going to pay an allotment to
the German tribes on an annual
Narcissus reacts as if he'd been stabbed.
Rome is going to pay tribute -- like
a defeated nation begging for mercy?
Have you told your troops that?
My troops don't make policy.
Well, they die for it!
Narcissus -- it's over! Pack and
come home with us...
You have a wise woman by your side.
On his death bed I promised Marcus I
would complete our work here. The
Senate may be vacillating, but I
have the army behind me. I'm taking
half a cohort and restocking that
I can't let you do that.
Narcissus turns and for the first time really looks Quintus over.
In you armor, Quintus? Is that how
you come to visit a friend?
They stare at each other. Narcissus goes for his sword just as LEGIONNAIRES rush in. Commodus backs against the tent wall. Narcissus heaves one soldier into the furniture, fells another with a chair and grabs his sword...
Don't kill him!
Three soldiers tackle Narcissus to the floor. Soldiers grab Selene and the children -- Lindo reaches for a knife and he's immediately killed. The children SCREAM...
INT. CELL - NIGHT
Narcissus sits in the dirt leaning against the log wall, his hands chained in front of him. The door opens and four heavily armed Praetorian Guard enter.
EXT. CELL - NIGHT
Narcissus stands in the pouring rain facing Falco, Gaius, Tribuus and several tribunes. Four slaves hold a canvas over Commodus and the others -- as they talk Narcissus continues to be drenched.
Where is my family?
Cooperate and they will be returned
to your estate. I could have
And my army would have thrown your
body into the Danube.
They glare at each other in the dark; Commodus' eyes seem to burn in the lamp light.
The army is a problem. They love
you. You have led them from victory
to victory in the name of Rome and
they love you. And after all,
you're just a hothead acting from a
misguided sense of loyalty -- who
could fault you for that?
(nods to Falco)
Thus have I reached a compromise
with the Senate over your fate:
instead of executing you, I'm
sending you to Rome where you will
On what charge?
Insubordination. To the Emperor...
and the Senate.
Quintus will tell the army that you
are being called to Rome to
celebrate your victory. They will
hear that you are living in luxury.
He will let them feel you have
betrayed them for the good life.
And soon the army won't even
remember your name.
All turn and leave but Gaius. Two soldiers hold Narcissus while a third goes through the process of chaining his wrists.
The Senate too?
The moment you returned from the
battle your options were clear. If
you are a friend to neither side,
legate, you must be an enemy to
both. We needed to know what you
I hope you live to see what I
At that the soldiers drag Narcissus toward a wagon with tiny barred windows.
INT. PRISON WAGON - NIGHT
In the dark Narcissus is chained to a bench and the door slams shut.
EXT. PRISON WAGON WHEEL - DAY
The thick spoke wood wheel slams over rocks and ruts of a primitive forest road.
INT. WAGON - DAY
Narcissus jars awake and flies swarm off his face. A GERMAN PRISONER is chained to the wall, a rag-wrapped chain around his mouth as a gag. His head nods forward; could be asleep, could be dead. Narcissus leans forward and is stopped by his own chains. He glares at the rusted iron links as if they were the most unbearable insult.
At the far end of the wagon is Juba. Looks like he's been worked over pretty good. They stare at each other.
You on your way to trial, too,
general? Or do you think they've
already had our trial?
My loyalties... were in doubt.
Fools to let us both live; we'll be
our own best witnesses at our trial.
That's what worries me...
Suddenly hands LURCH FOR HIS THROAT but are stopped by chains. It's the gagged German. He drops his arms, but keeps his eyes lowered staring at the Imperial Roman Eagle around Narcissus' neck.
EXT. ROME - DAY
Wearing a flowing toga and golden laurel, Commodus rides into Rome in a military chariot through the Arch of Titus that leads down the 'Sacred Road' through the Forum. A skeleton force of legionnaires parade just behind as DRUMMERS beat a brisk tattoo. Tribuus walks ahead of the chariot as two legionnaires hold military standards on high.
First they pass the Senate on their left where the Senators stand on the steps to greet him. Falco is out front and raises his arms in welcome. As they pass the Senate they're surrounded by citizens.
Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus
Augustus, Emperor of Rome,
conqueror of the German tribes!
Master of the Danube! All of Rome
Citizens of Rome line the way. Some cheer, but most are quiet. And that silence is unnerving. Then:
Romans do not pay tribute!
And that causes a landslide of yelling. Commodus stares dead ahead as they're now forced to run a gauntlet of outraged citizens. Finally his chariot picks up speed as it continues through the forum toward the palace on the Palatine Hill.
INT. IMPERIAL PALACE - DUSK
While Commodus paces like a caged animal, Falco walks to and fro oddly trying to keep up with him. Lucilla sits stretching her legs; after the long trip she looks exhausted. A slave pours wine.
The Senate is out to sink you. I
swear it, Caesar, your generosity is
being repaid with public attacks on
your honor. Your enemies want you
weak enough so by the first of Janus
when you must be confirmed the
Senate will be able to deny you.
How can they? Who else is there? I
have no heir...
That's the point, dear brother, your
'heir' is the Senate. And believe
me, they know it.
Do not take this lightly, Caesar.
They mean to abolish the
Emperorship. If they do you and
your sister will be executed.
You've got to plan your moves as
seriously as if you were going to
EXT. PRISON WAGON WHEEL - DAYS LATER - NIGHT
The wheel bumps up from a rut and onto a road of precisely cut polygonal lava blocks.
INT. PRISON WAGON - DAY
The wagon STOPS. Narcissus wakes and looks across to Juba. With a horrendous BANG the entire side of the wagon falls away as it's unhinged by SOLDIERS.
EXT. PRISON WAGON
The prisoners are lined up facing a rank of soldiers holding them at spear-point. Narcissus now sees that their wagon is part of a convoy of four; all unload prisoners on the edge of a forest.
Is this Rome? Are we just going to
They can't... if this is Rome...
Narcissus is chained wrist-to-wrist with the German as all the prisoners are CHAINED IN PAIRS. Juba gets chained to a tall blonde German WARRIOR.
NOW EVERYTHING HAPPENS FAST --
A DOZEN ARMED MEN with feathers woven into their hair charge at them from the far end of the path and dive them down a trail that leads between a double row of tall oaks. Cries, hoots and cheers surround them like an INVISIBLE MASS OF HUMANITY and at the end of the grove there's this unnatural GLOW.
IN THE GROWING LIGHT
they emerge into the center of a VAST ARENA that's been 'planted' with trees to imitate a forest.
From the tops of the sheer twelve foot perimeter walls, banks of seats slope away tier after tier until, at the very tops of the seating are arch after arch, each framing a marble statue of a different Roman emperor.
gawk at the enormous proportions of the building: it's the COLOSSEUM of Rome. Looking back at them are FIFTY THOUSAND FANS -- and as one, like some surreal canned sound track they all LAUGH.
Then to a fanfare of horns and drums a corpulent, self-important man rises. This is JERSES -- head of the Roman Circus. Jerses turns to the imperial box, but the marble throne-like seat which has a carved wolf relief, is EMPTY.
On this dawn! In celebration of the
New Caesar, Lucius Aelius Aurelius
Commodus' glorious triumph over the
German tribes I declare these games
-- which will run without
interruption to the month of Janus
-- open to one and all!
HOWLS and CHEERS from the audience -- many in the 'best seats' (nearest the arena) rise and directly applaud
Searching the row of prisoners he sees Juba staring dead ahead.
In sacrifice for Rome that the world
might know the new Emperor's love
for his citizens, during these games
two hundred pairs of gladiators will
fight to the death...!
One thousand criminals will be
devoured by wild beasts... there
shall be venationes! Battles be-
twixt elephants and rhinoceroses;
bears and bulls; leopards and lions;
exotic animals never seen in Rome --
captured by our legions in their
triumph in Africa -- will be hunted
to the death!
Narcissus is staggered -- his head pivots around at the frantic, blood-lusting crowd.
emerge from a door in a wall of the Colosseum, bows strung over their shoulders, each carries a small jug and each archer approaches a pair of chained-together prisoners. As they DAUB PAINT on the prisoners' arms -- a particular NUMBER for each pair -- spectators rise, pointing at different pairs, some jotting notes. Juba and the Blonde get daubed with a red 'III'.
Wagers! Make your wagers -- visit
the Blue Betting booths! Remember
the number of your favorite pair!
Red Booths -- bet at the Red Booths!
The Red Booths always give you the
best odds! The Red Booths -- open
A young, SURLY-LOOKING ARCHER gets to Narcissus and the German. He snorts his disdain, then daubs a black Roman numeral 'V' onto the German's arm -- but when he paints Narcissus he decks the archer with his free hand. The audience CHEERS and there's a spurt of note-taking in the stands.
FROM THE CHEAP SEATS --
a lanky GREEK, PROXIMO PALINDROMOS, instantly flashes his dark eyes down into the mass of prisoners.
Hard to see anything from this far up. He starts to turn away when the German Warrior steps aside and as Narcissus is revealed his ROMAN EAGLE FLASHES.
suddenly very interested... Quickly he looks across to the opposite side of the arena where a pencil-thin man in a dark green toga sits beside Jerses, also scrutinizing the prisoners. He looks RIGHT UP AT PROXIMO. The man is LYKAS.
Narcissus is shoved down an immense stone hallway mad with activity.
Juba is rushed along twenty feet ahead. Behind the huge doors are drawn closed by two burly slaves but at the last second they stop to let Proximo in.
Narcissus herded with the others down a steep ramp. They pass...
-- huge baskets of FLOWERS being ground to juice and dumped into a sluice.
-- the side of a cage; as Narcissus passes, a leopard SLAMS against the bars.
-- Narcissus is pushed on, deeper into the guts of the Colosseum. He gets a fast glimpse of a room where BUTCHERS chop out slabs of meat. Bleeding ribs dangle from hooks...
-- SLAVES charge in opposite directions along a tunnel yanking pulley ropes as a CAGED BEAR rises from below.
-- But now they're pushed deeper into the darkening 'basement' until finally they reach --
Slaves wait with oil lamps to light their way as they run in a semi-squat beneath the low stone ceiling. Prisoners GASP in the choking air while around them come the banshee wails of other PRISONERS. Finally they stop and Narcissus and Juba come face-to-face.
But Juba is knocked down by two guards -- one rears back to spear him when Narcissus throws himself in front of Juba...
The guard instantly backs off as torches converge lighting up the claustrophobic tunnel. Proximo steps into the light as Narcissus stands. Then he takes hold of Narcissus' Roman Eagle.
Is this your?
Narcissus GRABS the eagle and shoves Proximo back.
Proximo nods to slaves and Narcissus' chain is held up against the wall and with two blows the links are broken with a hammer. Narcissus is yanked back the way he came. He just has time to look over his shoulder to see Juba shoved into the hole and the door SLAMS behind them.