Gladiator April 4, 1998 Script Draft: Page #5
INT. NARCISSUS' CELL - NEAR DUSK
Narcissus slowly wakes. He sees Adonis and Dala. Though Dala slumps in a corner, asleep, Adonis carefully crushes garlic bulbs in a mortar. Confused, his eyes stray around the room and fix on a CRUDE POSTER OF HIMSELF holding up a sword nailed to the wall.
Proximo enters, kicks Dala awake and kneels beside Narcissus. He helps him sip water.
General, hang on... drink slowly.
You are blessed by the Gods to have
a physician and a Divine of Janus
with you tonight. A fan sent them
Alive... I'm alive...
Narcissus seems disappointed, disoriented and at first, possibly delirious. The doctor kneels on his right, the Divine on the left.
Your fans have gathered below in a
vigil. Even the Senate, that swamp
of double talking dung beetles is
The Doctor carefully works on his arm taking garlic from Adonis and smearing it on the wound.
I'm here to guide you through the
gates of Janus, general.
My daughters, my wife. Are they
But the Divine shuts her eyes, muttering almost inaudibly. The Doctor works -- as if it were a contest between the pair. The door opens and Vednas pokes his head in, gestures to Proximo who exits.
Narcissus looks up at the two windows and sees FACES peering in at him. They're the other GLADIATORS who live in Proximo's school. One is tying a charm of leopard claws to the bars.
Then the door opens and Lucilla is ushered in by an ultra fawning Proximo. Lucilla wears a veil which she lowers as she sits beside Narcissus.
I knew they'd never kill you.
It takes Narcissus a second to focus and when he sees he grabs her by the throat with his good arm -- Proximo and Adonis pry him loose... for a second Lucilla chokes.
It's my brother's neck you want, not
Yours will do!
Narcissus winces with pain from the effort and Lucilla leans beside him against the wall.
General, you nearly opened your
Keep that up and you'll make
Proximo, if this is her doctor he's
Don't be ridiculous.
If you die, general, I'll kill them
both for you.
The Doctor and the Divine look at Adonis, then to Lucilla for a clue.
I came here to see that you stay
alive. The people need a living
breathing alternative to Commodus, a
You mean a symbol of someone who
But you do exist. Narcissus: hero
of the battle of the Danube.
Narcissus tries to laugh, but it just hurts.
You've got the Senate scared they'll
have to explain to the people how
they joined the Emperor in illegally
condemning you. And Commodus, he
lies awake thinking how he could
kill you, and finally rid himself of
my father. You are the only man in
Rome no one can touch. Live,
Narcissus Meridas, the citizens of
Rome protect you now.
The Doctor hands Lucilla a damp cloth and while he finishes bandaging the wound leaving a long lamp wick to help it drain, she gets closer and wipes his forehead. The longer she does it the more it becomes a caress.
Twenty years I've led men to die.
For me it was the glory of Rome.
But that was something. If it
wasn't that, then it was the pay or
the loot of the next whore -- but
that was something! These men here
are butchered for laughs! Their
lives are like jokes delivered in
the back alley theaters where their
death is a punch line!
For the sake of the Gods, you're not
leading these men? How like my
father you are. You 'believe'... I
guess that's why you're still alive.
Narcissus grips the Divine by the sleeve.
When the door is open, I'll be ready
to pass through.
Lucilla looks over at Proximo, then the Doctor. Proximo nods and backs out of the room.
Jove's hands are on him now.
As Narcissus starts to fade again she gestures them out and they dutifully follow Proximo.
To think I brought my daughters up
on all things Roman. Read to sleep
on Catullus, Lucretius... Virgil...
every night. My beautiful
Do you remember your Epictetus, that
little homily we recited when we
were children? The one that was
supposed to remind us we were
She holds Narcissus' head, daubing away the perspiration with the cloth.
"If you consider yourself to be only
one thread of many in the tunic,
then it is fitting for you to be
like the rest of men, just as the
thread has no desire to be any
better than the other threads.
"But what if I wish to be purple?"
They smile recalling the old, childhood words.
"A small part, which is bright, and
makes all the rest appear graceful
"Why then do you tell me to make
myself like the many?"
"For if I do, how shall I still be
Now they laugh, finding this connection. But Lucilla knows exactly where she's going.
"Then when you ask me the question,
whether death is preferable of life?
I say "life." "Pain or pleasure?"
I say "pleasure."
She kisses him and as best he responds. In the end the best both can do is get close on his blanket.
You cannot die.
Would that Marcus had lived.
Marcus would have lived but... was
poisoned by his son.
He killed his father and then my
Narcissus, I have your family.
They're alive. All of them.
Narcissus forces himself to sit up -- in fact he tries to tand but just can't.
Where are they?
Hidden. Where my brother cannot
place hands on them. He didn't have
the guts to watch them die so... I
took care of it all. The sooner he
is put out of our misery, the sooner
will they be safe.
EXT. PALATINE HILL - PALACE - NIGHT
Commodus looks out over Rome from the broad palace window. Lucilla enters, dismisses her slaves. Commodus is fixed on the only sound: voices of people WAILING.
Where have you been?
Taking my pleasure. Do I need to
clear my lovers with you?
You must start clearing everything
with me -- especially your lovers.
Why are you so surly -- you've won,
brother. The people have bread and
the city is quiet.
What is that... wailing?
The fans of Narcissus. They were on
vigil outside the school of Proximo.
They believe he's dying.
First time we've ever seen Commodus so pleased.
Now that is a happy sound!
Tomorrow, I want the citizens -- my
people -- back in the arena. The
Gods know, I'm tired. Come to bed,
now; tonight we're celebrating.
What are you talking about?
Now that we're done with that
If I ever loved Narcissus it wasn't
like you want.
But I get what I want, always, don't
He presses her against the wall and she shoves him back sinking her nails into his face. But he pushes her down on her knees as he twists her head back by her hair.
Thanks to you I've been studying up
on all the great times of my
predecessors in the Colosseum:
Domitian had the daughters of
conquered kings raped to death by
Chimpanzees -- Vespasian's
unfaithful mistress pulled apart by
elephants; like they, I can do
anything so long as the citizens --
that stinking mob -- approves.
He yanks her to her feet -- she struggles again but he slams her against the marble wall, laughing.
Come now, surely I'm more handsome
than a Rhinoceros or an elephant.
Dazed, Lucilla allows Commodus to walk her toward his bedroom. But he pauses by the window again to hear the cries. Then he yanks her toward the bedroom.
INT. FARM HOUSE - COUNTRYSIDE - NIGHT
Manto and Themis on the rough floor by a blazing hearth as Selene reads from the AENEID.
So clash their swords, and so their
Jove sets the beam; in either scale
The champions' fate, and each
On this side, life and lucky chance
Heavy with death, that other scale
INT. COMMODUS BEDROOM - DAWN
ON A PAINTING of leopards being captured for the circus. It drifts like a dream over a bed where Commodus seems to float in silk and linen. Lucilla lies asleep, face down naked but partly buried in the silk. Distant CHEERS from far below jar him AWAKE. Then Lucilla slowly wakes...
EXT. SCHOOL OF PROXIMO - DAWN
On a terrace over-looking the streets Proximo and Cos flank and support Narcissus.
Clearly still in intense pain, he's determined to let the people know he's alive. Proximo is a human grin.
Narcissus surveys these faces, POOR PEOPLE mainly, common WORKERS, probably UNEMPLOYED. Then he picks out the gang-kids... all look to him as a hero. Beside them the Cute Whore... wearing a purple wig. Narcissus raises his hand, waves and they break into cheering.
Feeling something overwhelming as the breeze blows up from the forum carrying the cheers of the crowd.
INT. GLADIATOR STORE HOUSE
as Proximo and Cos watch Narcissus prowl through heaps of armor looking for just the right 'effect'. He sets a gaudy silver inlaid bronze helmet aside.
It will be good luck for you to wear
that helmet... It belonged to Cimon
of Smyrna... he was crushed by an
Lucky it didn't step on his head.
Proximo and Cos swap looks. Narcissus comes up with a battered but wildly designed lorica segmentata studded with cheap gems and a SMILING SUN FACE of brass... he sets it aside. Then from the junk and comes up with a PLUME...
So tell me, what happened between
you and the emperor? What really
happened on the German front? You
know the Senate's arguing your
That's their job, isn't it? To
argue. So, I think my case will be
long on talk and short on action.
I am prepared to write anything you
Narcissus goes back to sorting armor.
My birth sign is Water Bearer,
twenty-fifth day in the month of
The exact month when the Emperor
must be confirmed!
Narcissus allows himself a smirk; he knows what Cos really wants to hear. Cos writes fast. Proximo looks from one to the other a little confused.
The Emperor and I are bound by the
threads of The Fates. He was born
on August thirty-first, you know.
That makes his birth sign... Virgo!
Why that's the sign of a little
girl! Can you tell my readers more
about your star-crossed connection
with Emperor Commodus?
Proximo, we need to talk about my
one third... I imagine the betting
booths will be doing good business.
And, what was the name of that olive
Yes, of course, we'll go over
everything -- but Cos has a
wonderful surprise! This is all
over the city!
Cos unrolls a copy of the Daily Action and proudly reads his own words.
COS (READING OVER)
"Like Orpheus who ascends from
death's clutches, Narcissus The Good
has thrown back hell's gate!"
INT. PALACE - PALATINE HILL - MORNING
Commodus glares at a poster of Narcissus on the table as Lucilla reads from the Daily Action. She takes enormous pleasure in this.
"... encased in the armor of a
demigod, Narcissus The Good
continues his impossible climb in
the arena where he was unjustly
Yes? Go on!
"... by the emperor of Rome.
This writer asks: between a Senate
that debates truth until they choke,
an Emperor who has the birth sign of
a woman, is it possible there is
more virtue within the arena than
Commodus looks like his head is going to explode... SHOUTING VOICES RISE OVER...
EXT. COLOSSEUM ARENA - MORNING
Narcissus messages his arm parading with the gladiators in his gaudy armor shiny as the massive chrome bumpers of a '59 Caddy, his wild plumed helmet under his arm. People shout 'Narcissus!', and 'General!' He raises his arms overhead like a super-hero -- accepting, encouraging and getting the wild adulation of the crowd.
Narcissus breaks away from the line of gladiators -- blowing kisses to the girls, absurdly striking muscle-man poses -- and the crowd goes completely berserk -- Narcissus is their man and they chant his name over and over.
As Narcissus comes in from the arena Proximo gleefully hands him a fresh poster.
No more bad luck now! The people
are anticipating you! I have
posters up over half the city
advertising you as the great warrior
-- the true Roman! The man who
fought side by side with the wolf of
Make us rich, Proximo, make us very
INT. COLOSSEUM HALL
Colosseum Slaves shove Narcissus and the other gladiators against the walls as the double doors leading to the street swing wide and a CHARIOT drawn by two WHITE HORSES THUNDER DOWN THE HALL.
It's Tiger! 'Tiger of Death!'
The TIGER OF DEATH charges into the arena. At his side is Commodus, hair and beard GLINTING WITH GOLD -- he wears a loin-skin gladiator costume. Tiger races brutally forcing the horses to 'skid' on their hind legs rodeo-style.
Cos joins them, reads from the scroll handed him by the Praetorian Guard.
"Caesar Commodus discovering his
lineage converges with the Demigod,
Hercules, has determined to display
his magnificence before his beloved
citizens." The Emperor's going to
fight in the arena. I'm supposed to
write this for tomorrow's edition.
Commodus... he's a gladiator... is
To an eerie silence Commodus is escorted into the imperial box by Guards. All eyes are on him in his invisible passage inside the Colosseum -- catching up with him as he emerges into the imperial box. Still that silence.
Realizing the crowd is confused Commodus gestures toward Tiger who immediately struts for the fans who now see reason to CHEER.
Dressed in gold and silver inlaid gladiator armor, Tiger is fifty, but the guy looks terrific -- got muscles on muscles. Maybe bald, he wears a gaudy flowing RED WIG. His chariot is a tight-framed sport model, tough and cutting-edge.
This is the man! Tiger is the only
living gladiator ever to win the
What's the wooden sword?
A symbol of something no one ever
gets to keep the gladiators fighting
hoping they'll get it anyway.
Freedom, is the wooden sword. If
you perform extraordinary feats, the
Emperor can award you the wooden
sword... and you're free.
Tiger of Death waves the audience to silence. Then he turns and bows deeply to Commodus.
TIGER OF DEATH
My people! I have returned!
How I have missed my glory days in
this arena! And this is truly the
most glorious day in the history of
the Colosseum -- in the splendid
history of Rome! Caesar is to enter
the arena as a gladiator! At long
last an Emperor with enough guts to
be one of us! Upon receiving this
news I raced here in my new chariot
straight from Ostia -- nonstop! It
took me only four hours and these
new wood and leather wheel springs
designed by my personal craftsmen
smoothed out all the ruts!
A gush of 'OOOs' from the crowd. As Tiger shamelessly flogs his vehicle, the retainer slowly walks it around the perimeter of the Colosseum.(3)
Caesar must have promised Tiger if
he helped him he could flog his
crappy chariots in the Colosseum
watches as the crowd reacts to the fabulous absolutely-out-of-reach sport chariot. Some GASP. A WOMAN covers her mouth and sobs...
TIGER OF DEATH
The rails are crafted of the finest
black Akee from Africa. The
passenger shell rendered light by
alternating the orange Cedar of The
Lebanon with through-cut cream Manna
Ash from Gaul -- The entirety of
this sublime structure is secured
with Abyssinian Gilead Resins and
cold forged brazen pegs!
A portly rich MAN in a toga the size of a tent -- and who couldn't fit in the chariot if you used a twelve-foot shoehorn -- gestures to Tiger.
Tiger! Is it possible for mortals
to acquire such a vehicle?
TIGER OF DEATH
Mortals -- never! For like
Phaethon, son of Helios, who could
not control his father's sun-
chariot, the unskilled would
certainly crash! But I see you are
a friend of Caesar you must be no
mortal! I will take your order.
Proximo puts his hand on Narcissus' shoulder.
Tiger's challenged you and Jerses
has made me an offer, made us both
an offer: you take a fall.
What the hell are you talking about,
Proximo gestures to Adonis who folds aside a cloth revealing a brown leather BLADDER.
You put this inside your shirt --
when Tiger stabs your stomach --
it's full of pig's blood. Gushes
out everywhere! It's really
impressive. Fantastic! Better than
the real thing!
So I pretend I'm dead. You get
gold, what do I get?
You get to come alive again in the
As, what, 'The Galloping Gladiator?!'
The point is you get to fight the
easy country circuit, the small
arenas, relax, live the good life!
Spend my days beheading country
bumpkins? I don't know, Proximo,
who has better wine than you?
Besides, I'm beginning to think of
the Colosseum as my home.
But -- you have to go out there!
I'll give you more than your one
third! When I get paid... just take
the fall! You're too hurt to fight
and the man's a killer!
Pressures on, eh Proximo? There's
got to be a load of money in this.
Why else would you toss a red hot
commodity like me out the window?
It's absolutely not like that! This
is for your own good! Come on get
the rest of your armor on!
But Adonis approaches holding Narcissus' shield.
General? Do you want me to strap on
a shield? You can't hold it.
In reply Narcissus lifts his injured arm as much as he can and Adonis works to attach the shield. Then he checks with Narcissus -- who seems noncommittal -- and stuffs the bladder under his shirt. Outside the CHANTING rises.
Tell me honestly, since this may be
our last earthly meeting: if this
were a fair fight where would you
put your money?
On you! Of course! You are my
bravest fighter -- the best fighter
I have ever seen!
Such nobility from such an ignoble
mouth. Take my advice and make that
Oh, shit. Take your time! Don't
get suckered! This man is a
murderer! In his career he's killed
over a thousand gladiators. Please,
just take the fall!
Narcissus steps into the blistering sun. The crowd in the cheap seats is on its feet applauding.
sits in his box watching grim-faced. To his right sits Lucilla. Falco sits near the emperor.
He's going to take the fall. It's
all set. He must, he was almost
killed yesterday. He has no choice.
By morning he'll be gone.
As soon as Narcissus steps forward Tiger swirls around to face him, beckons dramatically.
TIGER OF DEATH
Come my sweet! The sacred sand of
the arena lust for another life!
Satisfy her hungering!
Then the cheap seats chant as one:
Surrender or I'll kill you!
Tiger looks around, stunned. Narcissus yanks the bladder out of his shirt -- holds it up for all to see and stabs it gushing blood onto the sand.
GASPS from the crowd and Tiger realizes he's in deep guano.
The crowd works itself up again -- the noise they make is that accelerating train sound of a British Football Mob.
Furious but trying to stay calm. Lucilla can't hide a smirk of perverse pleasure.
Looks like old Tiger is going to
have a good old fashion fight on his
Tiger charges Narcissus. The crowd shouts as their swords cross and the battle is on. The two RAGE AT EACH OTHER.
... motions to Tribuus.
Tell Lykas to send a retiarius and a
Samnite to help Tiger.
You can't do that... listen to the
mood of the crowd.
I want that bastard dead!
You want control of the crowd -- you
can't get it by killing their hero.
I am their hero!
Not yet, dear brother...
Send them out!
Narcissus HAMMERS at Tiger as if he were trying to chop down a huge tree -- every blow rattles the old pro. With each blow the crowd in the cheap seats echoes with: "Yes! -- Yes! -- Yes!"
Then a RETIARIUS and a SAMNITE -- a lightly armed Italian (non-Latin) warrior with a jag-edge sword -- enter and move in on Narcissus. The crowd erupts in thunderous BOOING hurling Commodus' food back into the arena. Just as suddenly Bad Teeth and Vednas shove into the arena to flank Narcissus -- but they're unarmed.
kicks a Slave -- yells out at them.
Jack asses! You'll all die! Get
back in here!
The crowd chants: "ARM THEM -- ARM THEM!" That's good enough for Proximo -- he kicks the slave again.
Two Arena Slaves dart out, hand Bad Teeth and Vednas swords, run off and the crowd CHEERS. For a second Narcissus spots Dala near the gate.
watches the fight but Lucilla studies Commodus. Clearly Narcissus is driving him mad.
The battle now shapes up even, Bad Teeth driving the Samnite back, Vednas and the retiarius circling. Narcissus and Tiger LOCK ARMS -- swords frozen overhead, they try to power the other down and it becomes a test of strength. Narcissus starts to cave from the pain to his wound.
Stands -- this could be it... EVERYONE STANDS...
But Narcissus digs deep, grits his teeth and Tiger STAGGERS and FALLS, losing his sword. Instantly he's on his feet and running like a scared rabbit as a slave rolls out his chariot. Tiger leaps into his hot-rod, hefts a thrusting spear and makes straight for Narcissus.
There's a universal howl of rage from the mob as they fill the air with pieces of food, sandals -- whatever is loose. At that moment the Lykas retiarius overwhelms Vednas.
Narcissus dodges Tiger's first charge and as the chariot swings back into position he surprises the retiarius by yanking his net backwards toppling the retiarius and freeing Vednas.
turns to Dala who's strapping his wrists.
He can't do that! And what the hell
are you doing?
Waiting for the general's orders.
Bad Teeth and Vednas drive their opponents back: But then Narcissus motions Vednas and Bad Teeth back as Tiger lines up for another run on Narcissus. Absolutely trusting him -- like their general in battle -- Vednas and Bad Teeth move toward Narcissus just as Tiger charges -- and Narcissus WAVES AT DALA.
Dala comes HOWLING into the arena on his ostrich buck naked, spinning his red toga overhead. Tiger's horses take one look at this yowling apparition and FREAK -- one goes left, the other leaps UP -- Tiger's chariot CRASHES hurling him onto the sand. The crowd CHEERS in one mad voice.
This love raining on him, Narcissus motions Bad Teeth and Vednas back as he stands over the fallen Tiger. Defeated and suddenly pitiful, he holds up his trembling forefinger in the sign for mercy. But the crowd shouts, stamps their feet and universally give the "thumbs down."
Narcissus looks around at the howling crowd, but does nothing and finally they quiet because they can't figure out why he hasn't killed him.
He's surrendered! I can't kill him!
For a second the crowd is dumbfounded. People look at each other as if to say "so what?" Then they start laughing.
This isn't the army! Kill him!
Narcissus turns his sword around OFFERING THE GRIP TO THE AUDIENCE.
Who will do it?
They fall silent again. Then Narcissus laughs and HURLS his sword up into the audience.
People duck as the sword clatters on the marble seats. A second -- then like a souvenir home-run ball everyone seems to leap for it at once. Then EVERYONE LAUGHS as Narcissus struts back across the arena, really PLAYING THE CROWD.
slowly closes his eyes as if forcing back his rage.
all but doing a jig.
This man! My god! He can't do
anything wrong! No matter how
stupid he is!
INT./ EXT. ROYAL CHAIR - LATE AFTERNOON
Surrounded as usual by Praetorian Guard, Commodus and Lucilla are carried in the enormous 'chair' by slaves through Rome. Commodus looks in the dumps, but then leans out.
Tribuus! Go left here, I want to
see my new statue at Via Claudia.
We need more statues -- perhaps I
should open medical clinics. For
the poor. Citizens only, though...
In the center of the bustling square is a magnificent STATUE OF COMMODUS holding up a sword.
But towering over the statue is an ENORMOUS MOSAIC BILLBOARD OF NARCISSUS HOLDING UP A BOTTLE OF OLIVE OIL. And it's done as an EXACT IMITATION OF THE POSTURING OF THE COMMODUS STATUE HOLDING HIS SWORD. Beneath, in GILT MOSAIC LETTERS: "NARCISSUS DRINKS ONLY GOLDEN POMPEII OLIVE OIL!"
literally getting the picture.
INT. COLOSSEUM - GLADIATOR AREA - LATE AFTERNOON
Arena Slaves basically packing it in for the day. Proximo slings an arm over Narcissus.
Listen, there's some people who want
to talk to you.
He indicates A WOMAN, about forty and her son about twenty. They look prosperous.
How much money is involved?
A great deal. They designed and
build Tiger's chariot...
They want to dump Tiger and have me
endorse their damned chariot, right?
They don't waste time...
I can really rape them on this! Can
I at least tell them you'll think
No. Tell them I'll do it. But I
want more posters all over Rome.
Fantastic! Wonderful! But posters
are very expensive.
Then get a large cash advance.
Right, right... But they'll have to
bring in a lawyer. I don't want to
get sued over this.
Before they leave, get gold.
Right, right, what am I thinking of?
I want another interview with Cos.
Tell him to bring plenty of ink.
I'll do it! Sure as there's shit in
the Tiber we're all going to die,
but for you -- anything!
Ah! Already we're dead!
What do you want, mighty Tribuus?
Caesar wants to talk. I've come to
guarantee Narcissus safety.
You've come to send us to hell!
As they talk other gladiators close around Tribuus.
Our general stays with us.
Tribuus puts hand on his sword.
Keep away from me, animal!
Vednas and Dala move closer. Narcissus steps in between and grabs Tribuus' sword arm.
Tell your master I'll meet here, on
the sand. After the Colosseum
Tribuus pulls lose, turns -- and runs smack into Bad Teeth -- who SMILES. He shoves past.