Gladiator April 4, 1998 Script Draft: Page #3
Exhausted, Narcissus is rushed back up the ramp into the main hall where Proximo waits. Then a side door opens and OUTSIDE LIGHT explodes in like a flashgun.
EXT. COLOSSEUM - DAY
Narcissus is led -- chained -- into the streets, armed slaves urge him along as ahead Proximo rides in a sedan chair.
-- FOOD AND DRINK VENDORS shout and wave samples of their wares;
-- TICKET SCALPERS hold up IVORY TICKETS yelling out Colosseum seat numbers;
-- BOOKMAKERS stand on tables -- some with RED headbands, some with BLUE -- screaming out names of various gladiators and indicating their 'odds' with fingers as citizens queue up to bet;
-- RELIC HAWKERS hold up pieces of gladiatorial armor yelling the name of the dead gladiator and the number of his victories;
-- Lion paws and leopard ears are touted as potency medicines;
-- WHORES bare-chested with wildly painted breasts line the road taking customers into the alleys...
EXT. PROXIMO'S GLADIATORIAL SCHOOL - DAY
They approach ornate double wooden gates with carved action scenes of gladiators in battle.
INT. PROXIMO'S INSULA - GLADIATOR SCHOOL - DAY
Narcissus enters with two powerful armed SLAVES who unchain him and give him water and bread. Proximo sits behind his 'desk' which is a slab of thick rose volcanic rock polished to a high luster, its corners supported by salvaged marble BUSTS painted in the original garish Greek style: faces pink, hair brown or blond, eyes white with brown or blue irises.
Gaudy mosaics of gladiatorial battles hang on the wall over his table. Narcissus eyeballs the setup: everything but pink flamingos.
With Proximo is ADONIS THE BOXER: a tall, thick man, face deeply scarred, nose pulverized. The other is an albino dwarf -- DALA. Dala has Jimmy Winters -- white hair and almost crimson eyes.
Proximo stares at Narcissus for a time as Dala pours him a cup of wine. Finally, Proximo drinks.
Welcome to Rome.
Who are you?
Instead of answering, Narcissus holds out his cup.
You're a legate in the Roman army.
Huh...? and you act like one.
What was your crime?
I killed too many barbarians.
I'm a Greek, thank you. And I was
brought up believing Romans were the
Give our new colleague some of the
Cretan white. Relax, tell me
everything, I'm your friend.
Dala fills Narcissus' cup. After a second of hesitation Narcissus drinks... and it's good.
Who the hell are you?
I am the man who might save your
life -- give you a bit more life at
any rate. I am Proximo Palindromos
head of this gladiatorial school
which is named after me. I own this
school and everything that's in it.
You're in it! But why? What did a
Roman general do to get himself
condemned to the Colosseum?
Understand, we usually get corn
thieves and pick pockets. Please, I
separated you from the others
... my nose tells me you've been
condemned for important reasons.
Condemned? Aren't I owed a trial
before being condemned?
General, all I know is you have been
condemned to the Colosseum, and a
trial is nowhere to be seen.
Impossible! Every citizen has a
right to trial -- this is Rome!
One of the attending SLAVES chuckles and is hushed by a glare from Proximo.
In Rome, you will discover, all
things -- especially the most
unthinkable -- are possible. What
were you charged with?
Now Narcissus won't talk.
Well, it probably doesn't matter.
Probably you'll be dead tomorrow.
But it might matter tonight because
I'm going to plead with Jerses head
of the circus to have you instituted
as a gladiator immediately. He's a
loathsome pig but in this business
one doesn't get to choose one's
friends. Your business too, maybe?
Oh yes, the arena slaves took this
from you. It's yours, isn't it?
A slave hands Narcissus' small box of ancestors to Proximo who hands it to Narcissus.
Thank you. What is going to happen
You are to be killed, exactly.
They'll give you a sporting chance,
but just enough to make your
murder... entertaining. Romans like
to mix their metaphors: laughter
with their executions, you know? If
you survive, though, you will become
a gladiator. A gladiator at least
gets a fair fight.
Death is a very light thing for you.
Death is... everything for me. Now
you have to go to your cell, and I
to dicker with Jerses... you'll be
fed well. I want you to be fit as
you can be; I want you to win for me
tomorrow! I want all my gladiators
to win and be happy! Besides, I've
never owned a Roman general before.
EXT. GLADIATOR SCHOOL YARD - DAY
Narcissus is led through the yard -- notes Adonis on his right and Dala following along behind. Two armed slaves flank them in a tight formation. Dala and Adonis watch Narcissus with a mix of curiosity and awe; Adonis knows what he's thinking.
Escape is impossible, general.
First you have these guards who will
not hesitate to kill you. Then you
have the Praetorian Guard, and then
the Rome city police...
The vigiles, Vigilant Patrols.
They're everywhere... you don't know
if maybe even your best friend could
be a spy.
GLADIATORS range around the walled-in open space -- like a mini-arena -- working out in the sunshine. Some lift WEIGHTS made from crude chunks of iron or rock; there's a primitive BOW-FLEX DEVICE made from real bows. Bored armed GUARDS range the walkway atop the wall.
A PIECE OF CLOTH WEIGHTED DOWN WITH A ROCK flutters over the wall and thuds in the square and there's a short scramble as gladiators rush for it. Finally the 'note' is passed on to Adonis.
Crassus, it's for you.
A tall, handsome gladiator: "CRASSUS THE SPARTAN" whose hair is woven with TINY SILVER BELLS, stands beside Adonis in expectation.
Come on! Tell me what it says!
"I dream of your muscles, dear
(howls from the
"... and pray the one between your
legs is as large as the one between
your ears is small!"
Hoots as Crassus grabs the 'note' away from Adonis.
For a price Proximo can manage a
meeting for any lady...
A gladiator with Bad Teeth moves up to intercept Narcissus. The man's lost teeth are replaced with glued-in bits of colored stone. He looks Narcissus over, scoffs and returns to his friends. As they pass along a wall it dips to waist level over a sheer drop. Narcissus stops at the view.
... is the FORUM OF ROME with its bustling street and squares and magnificent buildings.
From here Narcissus can see the Roman Temples: that of the Divine Claudius; Venus and Rome; Mars Ultor; the Temple of Minerva; of Peace; the Divine Julius; of Castor and Pollux; of the Vestal Virgins. Each like a miniature Parthenon seems to faintly GLOW.
Beyond are the Domus of the upper classes and the insula of the poor. Actually overwhelmed by the sight; perhaps it gives Narcissus hope.
INT. CELL - DUSK
TIGHT ON the ceramic FACE OF HIS ANCESTORS looking like a row of hollow caricatures. They seem to be watching...
who sits in the shadows of his cell that's twenty feet square. There are two barred windows, one on the rear wall and another on the side wall. Finally Narcissus rises... he takes up one of the ceramics, snaps a piece off on the side of the table to get a nice sharp edge. He rolls back his sleeves and starts to open the vein of his left wrist.
FROM ABOVE Dala shouts down from a small window in the roof. The cell door flies back and TWO SLAVES tackle Narcissus. Dala enters followed by Proximo. Dala pushes one of the slaves aside and grabs Narcissus' wrist.
Take your hands off me animal!
The slaves immediately bind Narcissus' wrists with a leather strap that's locked with a metal cleat.
Sorry but I have to get at least one
fight out of you otherwise I won't
even get back the cost of the bribe
I had to pay the arena slaves to get
you here. I know what you're trying
to do: kill yourself and trust in
the Roman tradition of justice that
the emperor will let your family
survive and keep their lands. The
only thing you have accomplishes is
to prove you're a very important
individual. You make me feel good
about my investment! And that
puking pig Jerses -- he won't even
discuss you. Both of you have
clamped mouths! But I love all my
fighters -- I'll find out about your
family. And about you. That I
I refuse to be your slave. I
-- to fight? We'll see...
Proximo leaves and the door shuts behind him. Narcissus is left chained in the dark.
INT. GLADIATOR WAGON - MORNING
The side of a broad barred opening like an animal circus wagon designed to show-off the creatures inside. The gladiators watch Narcissus: various men, all colors, all showing battle scars...
GANG KIDS dressed like gladiators chase the wagon shouting: "Gladiator -- Hey, Gladiator!" "Crassus! Crassus The Spartan! Throw us a head" "Hey -- Bad Teeth!" Who you going to skewer today?!"
Most catch up to the wagon slogging along in rush-hour traffic and hammer the sides with their FISTS. Fascinated, Narcissus leans close to the bars -- LITTLE KID FACES peer back.
You're new! Hey! A new one!
You're dead! They're gonna rip your
guts out! You're dead -- dead!
Then they pass the senate steps -- Senator Gaius and an AGED SENATOR who seems from another era, GRACCHUS, address a crowd. The kids peel away from the wagon and shove through the audience. Narcissus presses to the bars for a good look.
Friends of yours?
The gladiators laugh. But as they pass, Narcissus watches the senators.
Shall we allow Commodus to turn the
labor of Marcus Aurelius upside
down? Are we Romans or dogs?!
The KIDS START BARKING. The cart veers toward the enormous flank of the Colosseum. A FAT PERSIAN TICKET SCALPER and his two young SONS man a table holding ivory Colosseum tickets like fans of cards, shouting seats and prices.
FOUR ROME WHORES ending their day laugh and wave at the cart. A CUTE WHORE in a yellow wig blows them a kiss. SOUNDS OF THE COLOSSEUM CROWD RISE OVER...
EXT. COLOSSEUM ARENA - DAY
FEET of the MOB in the Colosseum stamping as their chanting VOICES echo in shock waves through the giant marble chamber.
Standing for the crowd. He's surrounded by members of the Imperial Household -- Lucilla on his right beside Falco. Commodus sits, seems nervous.
Don't you think you should at least
Why? Then they'll notice when I'm
gone. Well. I'm making a public
appearance aren't I?
GLADIATORS parade single file through the arena. They strut their stuff: flexing their muscles, gesturing obscenely as they receive the cat-calls of young girls. SATURNUS -- a muscular gladiator with waist-length wavy hair stops to bask in the animal howls of the crowd.
stands inside a heavily guarded double door watching the action. As the 'Proximo gladiators' come in off the field they sit on blocks of stone lining the wall. Then, Narcissus spots Commodus and moves closer to the opening.
Saturnus stops directly in front of the Imperial Box, lifts his hand in the Roman salute -- which was the model for the Fascist's salute.
Caesar! Those who are about to die,
It's the cue for the crowd to go WILD. Again Commodus looks around at this vast arena. He tentatively makes a broad wave and instead of getting the expected universal cheers, some LOUD BOOS jab up at him from the cheap seats. Commodus is outraged.
Caesar, ignore them.
Ignore that?! The sooner we leave
this disgusting place the better.
At least stay for the running of the
animals. You are paying for it you
A set of tall doors are pulled back by pairs of slaves and ANIMALS RUSH INTO THE ARENA. WILDEBEESTS -- HYENAS -- ANTELOPE -- ZEBRAS -- WILD ASSES -- BEARS -- JACKALS -- even a LONE HIPPO... blunder off the smooth marble walls in terrified confusion. Commodus seems physically struck.
The money was set aside for your
father's triumph. The people expect
Gods of hell! This must cost a
fortune! How many days is this
going to go on?
Until your confirmation date.
Commodus looks back out on the arena where every animal must look like a heap of cash.
A month! The treasury is
bleeding... and these pigs expect me
to sponsor their amusement while
they boo me?
Commodus turns and his entourage follows him out.
moves closer to the opening, trying to see through the dust and animals but gets shoved back. The other gladiators sit on stones, backs to the action. There's an 'imminent feeling' like soldiers gathered in a trench before battle. Narcissus turns back to the arena.
MOUNTED HUNTERS --
Carrying javelins charge into the arena.
And while they corner animals and impale them a LONE MAN -- a 'Colosseum Clown' rushes across the sands with a furious BEAR hot on his heels.
The Colosseum Clown reaches the far end of the arena and 'runs' up the slick marble side using his momentum. As the bear lunges for him he flips off the wall, over the bear and starts running the other way. The crowd goes wild for it.
LOWER CELLS/THE HOLE...
ABSOLUTE BLACKNESS. A solid door pulls back and faint light reveals Juba collapsed in the filth of the cave-like cell. Drenched with perspiration he gasps in the 'fresh' air and like the other prisoners looks nearly asphyxiated. Arena Slaves poke torches at them.
Come on! Time to meet Pluto!
As Dala jabbers on, the PRISONERS are rushed up from the depths of the Colosseum.
I usually fight women gladiators or
other dwarfs. Sometimes I ride into
battle on an ostrich. Women are
ruthless! Ostriches can break your
arm with a single kick!
Narcissus is yanked to his feet by armed slaves and chained to the German Warrior who bears the same blue paint smear as he. They study one another, brothers in pain. Narcissus searches the faces and sees Juba is one of the last men being pulled out of the 'hole' by a chain. Bad Teeth looks up:
They're going to bet on you:
whoever dies last wins! So long
AT THE DOOR
The prisoners are lined up as the last of the dead animals are dragged off. A slave dumps short gladius swords from a sack, the prisoners scramble to arm themselves. At the last second Proximo shoves through and grabs hold of Narcissus' arm.
Legate Narcissus Meridas, general of
the Spanish Felix Legions! I'm
proud to have you in my school!
(picks up a sword)
Now, show them what you can do!
I'm not a gladiator. I refuse to
Then, you'll die...
(off his silence)
Just, know this: because you asked
I asked: I'm sorry but...
A HORN BLOWS and the Colosseum Slaves herd the prisoners out in a rush.
... the emperor has executed your
Narcissus is YANKED ahead.
Narcissus is so staggered by this news he seems barely able to walk.
Narcissus! A sword! Get a sword!
As the prisoners are double-timed around the arena spectators rise like a Dodger Wave, shouting and pointing out pairs -- money swaps hands. Arena Slaves circle quickly with rakes smoothing the sand over the animal blood.
Citizens! Make your final wagers!
Jerses unrolls a scroll. As he speaks ARCHERS line up against the wall directly beneath Jerses facing the prisoners.
Prisoners, you have been found
guilty of offenses against the
Fatherland: In the name of Caesar
Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus and
the Senate of Rome, you have been
condemned to the arena, beneath the
beneath. Fight well -- live long!
barely has time to absorb this when the archers take aim. PANICKED prisoners trip over their own chains, colliding with each other.
The German crosses in front of Narcissus and is hit square in the chest with an arrow. Instinctively Narcissus tries to help the German but the man slides out of his arms and crumples dead in the sand. Narcissus looks UP as the crowd cheers...
They're gladiators with faces hidden by helmets; carrying THRUSTING SPEARS they look like EXECUTIONER ROBOTS.
Narcissus sees that one man of each chained-together pair has been killed and then that Juba is still alive. Each Andabatus squares off with a surviving prisoner.
Narcissus -- fight! Fight!
The crowd ROARS as the Andabatae attack. The 'joke' is Narcissus -- like the other prisoners -- has to drag a dead man around while fighting for his life.
Narcissus dodges the first blow but the movement yanks his chain taunt and he falls -- barely rolls clear of the next blow. Spectators CHEER and LAUGH; the Andabatus circles keeping Narcissus stretched to the limit of his chain.
Juba lurches, nicks the Andabatus and has time to grab the sword of the dead Blonde German.
Juba heaves the sword toward Narcissus, turns to parry away the Andabatus. The crowd HOWLS...
Narcissus sees the sword is within grabbing range but he still won't go for it. Then the crowd SHOUTS...
JUBA GOES DOWN...
The Andabatus straddles the badly wounded man, salutes the audience and kills him. Narcissus now sees he's the last prisoner left alive.
Narcissus' Andabatus lunges and as Narcissus quickly pulls out of range he falls forward foot coiled in the chain. Now it looks like it's all over -- the crowd goes wild with expectation.
The Andabatus raises his weapon over Narcissus as spectators poke their chest with their thumbs to symbolize they want Narcissus killed. He looks to Jerses for orders.
sees Juba dead, his blood in the sand. And suddenly something happens to him -- with every once of energy left, Narcissus grabs the sword, and CHOPS through the ACHILLES TENDON of the Andabatus' left leg. The Andabatus DROPS as Narcissus lunges out with the sword and the man FALLS on the blade.
It's over. Narcissus rolls on his side to face up at Jerses who still stands about to give the death command -- his mouth DROPS.
got those Don King Eyes... Adonis and Dala come forward.
Did you see that?! Did you see?! I
knew he was a fighter! A real
THE AUDIENCE --
GOES WILD. Especially those in the cheap seats. Narcissus stands with the chain to the dead German in his hand. Then he looks over to where Juba has fallen in the sand. A man dressed in A COSTUME OF BLACK SCALES and a monster head walks to each prisoner administering a coup de grace by clubbing them with a big HAMMER. He's 'PLUTO'.
Narcissus drags the chain with the body of the German behind him until he reaches Juba's side. Pluto sees Narcissus protecting Juba's body and decides to take a 'pass'.
Finally, exhausted, Narcissus drops to his knees on the burning sand. Lowering his head as cheers of the crowd surround him...
IMPERIAL ENTRANCE - COLOSSEUM
At ground level at the dead end of a long hall Lucilla watches through an ornate stone grate. Of course, she's seen everything.
Lady, are you coming?
She's startled to find Tribuus has come looking for her. She nods, shoves past and he follows her down the hall without a single backward glance.
INT. IMPERIAL 'CHAIR' - LATER AFTERNOON
Commodus and Lucilla ride along in silence, Praetorian Guard walking ahead to part the crowd. As they pass the Senate, Commodus points to a clutch of CITIZENS gathered on the steps.
They're talking about me.
Lucilla gives him the hard stare. But then all the citizens turn to watch the Imperial Chair pass.
They hate me, they really hate me
Maybe you should get married. Pick
one of your cousins, it would
demonstrate a profound stability.
Commodus puts his hand on her leg.
What about you?
They just stare at each other. As he talks he continues to feel under her toga to her hip. She tries to remain amused.
I should at least have you, don't
If you get me pregnant with a boy
he'll be a double direct heir and
will end up killing you for the
He freezes -- absolutely turned off -- and takes away his hand.
Did Narcissus die today? Wasn't
this his day to die?
I'm sure, I don't know.
Finally he removes his hand and leans out the opening to Tribuus who rides alongside.
Tribuus, what happened in the arena?
Was Narcissus killed?
He must have been. He was on the
list of prisoners to be executed.
No one in Rome has ever heard of
him. Do you want to remind those
few in the Senate who have? The
whole sordid thing is far beneath
your position to begin with. Forget
Let some time pass... then ask,
quietly, without anyone knowing it
comes from me.
Leave it to me, Caesar.
INT. NARCISSUS' CELL - LATE AFTERNOON
Narcissus has drunk himself unconscious and lies face down on the table. The door swings open and Proximo enters with an armed guard and COS, a handsome young man who looks like a student. As the light sweeps in through the open door Narcissus blinks awake.
Narcissus Meridas, general of the
Spanish VII, famed Felix Legions.
I'm proud to have you in my school!
Narcissus staggers to his feet and crosses to the rear window. He leans against the bars and gulps cool air.
General, do you realize what
happened out there today?
I didn't get killed and everyone
That's one way to look at it.
You won an impossible fight. You
got the attention of the crowd,
This is Cos, this precocious young
man. A scribe for the Daily
Action.(1) I've invited him to
write a small piece about you...
I'm mentioning you in tomorrow's
athlete's section, legate. So, I'd
love to know your birth sign; it
effects how people bet. And perhaps
you could tell me a bit about...
well, who are you?
Narcissus looks from one to the other then back to his view of Rome which looks like lead in shadows.
I don't have a birth sign...
Cos looks to Proximo who starts to speak but realizes the interview is over...
INT. NARCISSUS' CELL - LATE AFTERNOON
Narcissus crouches in the corner slowly sipping his wine staring at the 'faces' of his ancestors.
Janus, God of passages, I know you
I beg you open the door for Selene,
Manto, and my little Themis to the
land of our ancestors. I have no
fit offering for the task I ask, but
if you save my ladies one day I will
find a sacrifice worthy of you.
Dala's face peers in from above.
Don't let Proximo push you around.
Proximo must, by law, give you a
third of everything he makes off you
outside the arena. Popular
gladiators get rich!
Narcissus grabs his wine jug and throws it at Dala who leaps out of sight. Then Narcissus picks up a stone and stands over the images of his ancestors.
ON HIS ANCESTORS...
One by one he SMASHES EACH FACE. SOUNDS OF THE COLOSSEUM RISE OVER as if cheering him on...
INT. COLOSSEUM - GLADIATOR AREA - MORNING
A SWORD drops in the dirt. Narcissus looks up to find Proximo with an Arena Slave who holds a sack of swords.
We're calling you "Narcissus The
Good." It's in the Daily Action.
A CHEER from the crowd and Narcissus glances toward the arena.
Crassus has speared a panther which drops, clawing hopelessly at the blade stuck in its throat. To resounding cheers, Crassus holds up his arms, playing to his audience. Then with a huge show he straddles the cat and kills it with a dagger -- the crowd erupts...
picks the sword up so fast the point almost catches Proximo in the face. Proximo straightens, scowls and moves off. Bad Teeth chuckles. But when he gets the cold stare from Narcissus he turns away, chuckling to himself.
Narcissus faces a Hoplomachi. The Hoplomachi looks completely protected in lead grey armor. He carries a round shield and a long sword. Narcissus walks slowly toward him and the audience hushes.
Surrender or I'll kill you!
People just crack-up...
Narcissus The Good!
As one the audience howls throwing trash down into the arena.
Narcissus drops his shield, grips his sword with both hands -- feints -- the Hoplomachi misses left and Narcissus comes down full force on the man's helmet. Narcissus' sword SPLITS THE HELMET AND STAYS THERE. The Hoplomachi takes two more steps and drops dead.
Narcissus turns and strides back the way he came ignoring the crowd as it GOES WILD.
INT. GLADIATOR WAGON - LATE AFTERNOON
Narcissus sits rubbing his wrist where he's cuffed. The others watching him. Crassus hands him a small jar and a rag. Narcissus wipes his wrist -- and it stings. Bad Teeth chuckles. Now, heading away from the Colosseum are Four Whores, today the Cute Whore wears a BLUE WIG; they blow kisses...
EXT. FORUM - LATE AFTERNOON
Outside the Senate Tribuus with ten Praetorian Guard face down an angry demonstration.
INT. SENATE - LATE AFTERNOON
Commodus faces the challenging, stoic wall of Senators in their pure white togas. Falco sits prominently near the front. From outside come the sounds of the mob.
Senators. There was no more fair
man than my father. A man of
learning who dreamed the fondest of
all Roman dreams: restoring the
Republic. Still, my father ruled.
And though I seek only to fulfill
his dream, I too must rule. For
despite the gossip of philosophers
men are not born free; they must
have freedom given them by the
Are you alleging, Caesar, that our
citizens' desire for the Republic is
Men who believe they can truly be
free, like it or not, are
And like children everywhere they
scream "freedom" the most when they
desire it least. I beg you, please
At the opening of the month of
Janus, I will ask this noble body to
confirm my emperorship...
Gracchus points out toward the street.
We don't have to wait for the month
of Janus, the people deny you
It is you, Gaius and you Gracchus
who incite the people until they are
out of control!
It is not the Senate's duty to
control the people, rather to allow
them the right to control us!
Gentlemen, gentlemen: our emperor
has come here humbly to address us
about his confirmation...
If there is a confirmation!
... and I insist we show him the
respect and honor he is due.
Caesar, what are you doing about
this growing grain shortage? If
there is unrest now, what happens
when there is no bread at all?
And that treaty! By giving the
Germans money and letting them
remain on the Danube at arms do we
not run the risk of essentially
financing their next invasion of
Caesar, the Senate must answer to
EXT. SENATE - LATE AFTERNOON
As Commodus comes out protected by a line of Praetorian Guard; he's scared, but smiles like a politician.
Make way! Make way for Caesar! Son
of Marcus Aurelius!
To hell with the son! Give us back
The crowd breaks into a chant for Marcus Aurelius. As Commodus and Tribuus move faster to get clear of the crowd people actually begin THROWING TRASH.