Gladiator October 22, 1998 Script Draft: Page #4


EXT. COLOSSEUM - ARENA - DAY

At last we see it.

The mighty Colosseum Arena.

Nothing we could have possibly imagined could have prepared us for the sight of the thousands and thousands of screaming spectators, the row after row of cheering faces.

It is staggering.

But for Maximus none of this exists. His full attention is focused on one spot alone. The Imperial Box.

He can see Commodus and Lucilla sitting in the box. The box is elevated fifteen feet above the arena floor at the top of a sheer black marble wall. A cohort of fifty imposing Praetorian Guard Archers surround the box. Commodus' personal Body Guard of six Centurions actually stand in the box itself, eyes constantly watching like modern Secret Service agents.

Commodus is untouchable.

Meanwhile, three teams move from different entrances to the arena.

As Cassius orates to the crowd:

CASSIUS
This day we reach back to hallowed
antiquity to bring you... THE FALL
OF MIGHTY CARTHAGE...!
(the crowd cheers)
... On the barren armies of the
barbarian Hannibal! Ferocious
mercenaries and warriors of all
brute nations bent on merciless
conquest! Your Emperor is pleased
to give you... THE BARBARIAN HORDE!

He gestures to the gladiators in the arena. The crowd laughs, jeering the "barbarians."

The drummers begin pounding out a more insistent, heroic beat.

CASSIUS
But on that illustrious day the Gods
sent against them Rome's greatest
warriors...! The very life-image of
nobility and glorious valor... who
would on this day, and on these same
arid Numidian deserts, decide THE
FATE OF THE EMPIRE... Your Emperor
is pleased to give you... THE
LEGIONNAIRES OF SCIPIO AFRICANUS!!

The crowd EXPLODES in cheers as the huge doors at one end of the arena suddenly burst open and ten chariots thunder in --

Each chariot has a driver and an archer, both dressed in theatrical versions of the familiar Roman Lorica Segmentata.

A chaos of dust -- and the battle is on --

The chariots zoom around the arena -- the archers keeping up a deadly hail of arrows.

Maximus immediately dives onto a passing chariot and kills the charioteer and archer -- he dramatically leaps from the front of the chariot to a lead horse and cuts it free.

And Maximus takes control, we see the General of the Felix Regiment gloriously alive again as he barks out orders and leads his gladiators in battle. They follow him faithfully, his stern commands unquestioned.

His strategies are quick and smart, he makes the gladiators work together.

This kind of slaughter could last for hours...

We see flashes of the endless battle... Maximus races on his horse past another chariot, kills the driver, the chariot smashes into a wall... the sun sinks lower, the shadows on the sand lengthen... areas of the sand are swamps of blood, Juba slips, pulls himself up fighting... Maximus uses Vibius to create a diversion, two chariots collide... the crowd roars... a gladiator is dragged between a chariot and the side wall of the arena... the drummers pound out their relentless tattoo...

Finally...

Maximus is on his horse across from the final chariot.

We can see that Juba and Vibius and a few other gladiators are still alive. The rest of the arena is polluted with the dead and injured.

Maximus spurs his horse and gallops toward the final chariot -- the charioteer whips his horses and zooms toward Maximus --

The crowd is breathless -- watching the final battle --

Maximus and the chariot speed toward each other -- like Medieval jousters --

And collide in a flashing explosion of steel --

Maximus sails from his horse -- as the charioteer sails from his chariot --

Maximus lands hard but quickly pulls himself up, he races to the final charioteer. The charioteer is defeated but not dead.

Maximus glances around, all his opponents are defeated.

He stands over the final charioteer. Then he simply tosses down his sword.

The crowd is stunned by this strange act of mercy. But then an enormous roar grows from the crowd -- wave after wave of adulation for the hero of the day.

Maximus looks around, taking it all in.

Then he turns to the Imperial Box.

Maximus slowly walks to before the the Imperial Box. The Praetorian Archers immediately raise their bows, pointing down at him.

Maximus glares up at Commodus through his helmet mask. Commodus returns his gaze, curious.

The crowd is intrigued, growing quiet. What is going on?

Then Maximus simply turns and begins walking away.

COMMODUS
Slave! Who are you?

The Colosseum is suddenly silent. The Emperor is speaking to a gladiator.

Maximus keeps walking.

COMMODUS
SLAVE! WHO ARE YOU?

Maximus keeps walking, his fists clenched now.

Commodus suddenly grabs a spear from a nearby Praetorian and hurls it with perfect aim -- the crowd gasps -- the spear sails past Maximus -- actually nicking his shoulder -- it slices into the sand ahead of Maximus.

Maximus stops.

COMMODUS
SLAVE! WHO ARE YOU?!

Maximus can hold it no longer. He spins to Commodus -- ripping off his helmet mask -- and THUNDERING:

MAXIMUS
I AM MAXIMUS MERIDAS, GENERAL OF THE
FELIX REGIMENT OF THE ROMAN ARMY AND
SERVANT TO THE EMPEROR MARCUS
AURELIUS!

Commodus eyes shoot wide -- Lucilla bolts up -- Gracchus leans forward -- Proximo is stunned -- the crowd is mystified --

MAXIMUS
I AM FATHER TO A MURDERED SON AND
HUSBAND TO A MURDERED WIFE AND
LANDLORD TO A MURDERED WORLD -- AND
I WILL HAVE VENGEANCE!

The Praetorian Archers tense their bows -- ready to kill the defiant slave --

But something extraordinary stops them. Almost as one being the crowd roars -- they leaps to their feet and thrust their thumbs up! They cheer and stomp their approval of Maximus.

Commodus looks around at the people of Rome, amazed.

He finally plasters on a benevolent smile and thrusts his thumb up! The Praetorians lower their bows.

And the crowd cheers. Never in the long, long history of the Colosseum have they ever seen such a thing.

Maximus leads his gladiators out of the arena.

INT. PALACE - THRONE ROOM - NIGHT

To our great surprise, Commodus is not raging. He sits quietly on the polished marble floor in front of a model of the Colosseum. He moves model pieces around in the Colosseum, planning his festival.

Lucilla stands, tense.

COMMODUS
Why is he still alive?

LUCILLA
I don't know.

COMMODUS
He shouldn't be alive. That vexes
me. I am terribly vexed...

Lucilla watches her brother cautiously, expecting the explosion. He carefully moves some model pieces in the arena.

COMMODUS
There, that's better. Do you like
the platform here?

LUCILLA
Mmm.

COMMODUS
I do too. Simple, elegant...

Lucilla is growing more and more unnerved at Commodus' unusual serenity.

COMMODUS
Father would have wanted something
more ornate but he's dead now.

A beat. Commodus laughs. A beat.

COMMODUS
Maximus Meridas haunts me. I see
Father turning away from me and
gazing at him. How many times did I
suffer that indignity, I wonder?

LUCILLA
What are you going to do?

COMMODUS
I'm going to kill him.

LUCILLA
Good.

COMMODUS
(glances at her)
Oh, you're too clever, Sister.
Don't tell me part of you won't weep
for him.

LUCILLA
When he defies my brother the
Emperor, he defies me. But you
shouldn't send assassins.

COMMODUS
No?

LUCILLA
The people embraced him today. They
will be expecting his next match...
(she kneels next to
him)
... let him die in the arena like
the slave he is. Let the people see
what comes of defying Caesar.

A beat as he looks at her.

COMMODUS
He wounded you deeply, didn't he?
Long ago.

She does not answer.

COMMODUS
Nonetheless, your political acumen
is, as always, unerring.

He picks up a model tiger and puts it in the arena. He looks at the model tiger and smiles.

INT. PROXIMO'S COMPOUND - CELL - NIGHT

Maximus silently awaits Commodus' assassins with Juba. They hear footsteps outside the cell. Maximus stands, preparing for death.

JUBA
(also standing)
I will fight with you.

MAXIMUS
This isn't your battle.

JUBA
Better to die for a friend than to
die for gold.

The door swings open and they are surprised to see Proximo sweeping in with a cloaked woman. The woman gives Proximo a bag of money.

PROXIMO
Enjoy yourself, Madame...
(he glances to
Maximus)
General, perform well and there will
be riches for you.

He beckons to Juba, they go, shutting the door behind them. The woman pulls off her cloak, it is Lucilla.

Maximus glares at her, his muscles tensing.

LUCILLA
Rich matrons pay well to be
pleasured by the bravest champions.

Maximus backs up, fighting the urge to strangle her on the spot. He finally bumps into a wall of the cell.

MAXIMUS
I knew your brother would send
assassins. I didn't think he would
send his best.

LUCILLA
Maximus, listen to me --

MAXIMUS
My family were crucified and burnt
while they were still alive.

LUCILLA
I knew nothing of that.

MAXIMUS
(low)
Don't lie to me.

LUCILLA
I wept for them.

MAXIMUS
Don't.

A long, tense moment.

She does not look at him.

LUCILLA
Do you know what it is to be the
daughter of the Emperor? I learned
on the night my father had my
husband killed. I loved my husband
very much. Very... simply. He was
a man who believed in the Republic.
He was a man who thought Marcus
should be tending to Rome and not
conquering the world. One night my
father had him strangled for
conspiring with the Senate. My
father never spoke of it. I never
spoke of it. That is what it is to
be the daughter of Rome.

She finally looks up at Maximus.

LUCILLA
My son will live. He will survive
this cursed bloodline. Rome will
die and the jackals will pick her
clean -- but my son will survive.
Empires come and go. Cities crumble
to dust. Only family matters.

A beat. Despite himself, Maximus is moved.

MAXIMUS
My son was innocent.

LUCILLA
So is mine.

A beat.

MAXIMUS
I want your brother dead.

LUCILLA
So do I.

A beat. Maximus is surprised at her direct answer.

LUCILLA
My son will never be safe while he
lives.

A beat.

MAXIMUS
How do you plan it?

LUCILLA
The Senate is with us, and the City
Guard. We have growing power in the
streets. But we need a leader.
Someone the people can --

MAXIMUS
So the crown passes to your son.

LUCILLA
No. So that my son will be safe.
So that we may leave this charnel
house forever and never look back.
Look into my eyes, Maximus, and
believe what I say to you...

She rivets him intensely with her eyes.

LUCILLA
By all the Gods, and in the name of
my father who loved you, and in the
name of the husband I loved... I
swear to stand by your side in this
now and always.

A beat.

MAXIMUS
What is your son's name?

LUCILLA
Lucius Verus. Like his father.

MAXIMUS
I weep for him.

A long beat. Maximus' cold eyes give away nothing.

Lucilla turns and starts to go. She stops, not looking back.

LUCILLA
Commodus plans to kill you in your
next match in the arena. He's
planning something. I will pray for
you. As I have always done.

She then pulls something from her robes and sets it down, a little bundle wrapped in cloth. She sweeps out. The sound of the door being bolted shut on the other side.

Maximus stands for a moment and then goes to what she has left. He opens the cloth. Inside are his six "ancestor" figures.

He picks up one of the figures. He looks at it deeply, gently feeling along the contours with a finger.

EXT. COLOSSEUM - ARENA - DAY

The Colosseum is again packed. Commodus, Lucilla and her son Lucius are in the Imperial Box.

It is late in the day and teams of slaves are cleaning the arena after a bout. They haul off carcasses and toss down fresh sand.

Meanwhile, Cassius is orating to the crowd:

CASSIUS
... in his majestic charity the
Emperor has deigned to this day
favor the people of Rome with an
historical final match. Returning
to the Colosseum today... after five
years in retirement... Caesar is
pleased to bring you... THE ONLY
UNDEFEATED CHAMPION IN ROMAN
HISTORY...
(the crowd is going mad)
... THE LEGENDARY... TIGER OF GAUL!!

The crowd erupts in paroxysms of joy as TIGER explodes into the arena in an ornate chariot. Tiger is a fierce man in his 40's, his brutal, scarred face and hugely muscled body a testament to his many years in the arena.

Tiger speeds around the rim of the arena in his chariot, raising an arm in triumph. The crowd roars.

INT. COLOSSEUM - HOLDING CELLS - DAY

Proximo stands with Maximus, who is busy strapping on armor.

PROXIMO
Gods! That old Homicide! The
Emperor must truly hate you.

MAXIMUS
What can you tell me?

PROXIMO
He cheats.

INT. COLOSSEUM - ARENA - DAY

Tiger waits. He stands in the center of the arena. He has only a traditional short sword. The crowd is breathless with anticipation. As:

CASSIUS
(orating)
And from the rocky promontories and
martial bloodlines of Spain...
representing the training lyceum of
Proximo Antoninus... I give you...
THE WARRIOR MAXIMUS!

The crowd cheers. Maximus appears from his gate. His fans have increased in number considerably. They eagerly crane forward and celebrate him.

Meanwhile, Maximus looks at Tiger. Only one man with a sword? Maximus approaches, cautious but confident.

He stops a few feet from Tiger. They lock eyes, salute each other and then turn to the Imperial Box, raising their swords.

The crowd waits eagerly for the immortal words...

MAXIMUS AND TIGER
We who are about to die salute you.

The crowd cheers and Maximus immediately turns and starts slashing -- Tiger easily blocks and strikes back --

The sword play is very fast -- they block and parry and hack like lightning -- constantly attacking -- they are perfectly matched --

As he fights Maximus becomes aware of a strange sound over the roar of the crowd -- a low rumbling -- then he feels something -- a vibration in the ground --

Suddenly traps doors swing open and four enormous platforms rise into view. On each platform is a snarling Bengal tiger restrained by a chain. Tiger's teams of "cornermen" hold the chains through a pulley system. The cornermen are safely inside cages. The platforms stop at ground level.

The four ferocious tigers now mark the four corners of the battleground.

Tiger takes advantage of Maximus' momentary confusion and assaults brutally -- forcing him back toward one of the tigers -- the tiger claws for Maximus -- Maximus just evades it claws -- rolls for a new position -- another tiger snaps at him --

Tiger attacks -- Maximus is on the defensive -- fighting off Tiger and evading the four snarling beasts --

And then all four tigers are suddenly closer. The teams of cornermen are letting the chains play out, bit by bit, gradually reducing the size of the battle ground. The crowd roars.

But the fight is hardly fair.

Whenever Tiger is near one of the tigers the cornermen pull back the tiger slightly -- when Maximus is near a tiger they let it out a bit.

Maximus and Tiger fight -- swirling action -- finally, Maximus has the edge -- he circles so that the sun stabs into Tiger's eyes -- then Maximus lunges forward under Tiger's swinging sword and SLAMS into him -- they fall -- a tiger swats at Maximus' face -- he jerks his head back -- he shoots out a leg and kicks Tiger's sword toward one of the tigers -- it is out of reach -- Maximus leaps up and stands over the winded Tiger, sword to his throat.

Tiger is gasping for breath, crushed.

Then one of Tiger's corners suddenly cheats -- they completely release a tiger -- it leaps for Maximus --

Maximus barely has time to turn -- the tiger crashes into him -- its claws slashing into his back, cutting through his leather armor -- Maximus shoves an armored forearm into the tiger's jaws and stabs with his sword --

Tiger takes this chance to pull himself up -- one of his corners throws him another sword -- the crowd boos --

Maximus wrestles with the tiger -- spinning it around with superhuman effort so it is always between himself and Tiger -- so that Tiger can't get at him --

Maximus finally kills the tiger and leaps for Tiger -- he quickly disarms him and tosses him to the ground --

Maximus stands over him -- ready to administer the coup de grace.

All eyes turn to the Emperor.

Commodus slowly stands and steps to the edge of the Imperial Box. He raises his arm and gives the fatal thumbs down.

Maximus looks up at him.

And then defiantly tosses the sword to the ground, refusing to kill Tiger.

Commodus is stunned.

The crowd gasps -- a collective intake of breath -- and then an enormous roar building. It cascades around the Colosseum. It is a roaring celebration of the unexpected act of mercy. And the delicious act of defiance of the Emperor.

Commodus slowly sits.

Maximus walks across the arena -- the people stand and cheer for him. Cries of "Maximus the Merciful" can be heard.

It is the birth of a hero.

INT. COLOSSEUM - HOLDING CELLS - DAY

Maximus is resting in his cell after the battle, head down, deep in thought.

LUCIUS' VOICE
Is it true you're a General...?

Maximus looks up, Lucius is standing at his cell. Maximus has no idea who the boy is -- just another young fan -- but Maximus is immediately struck by Lucius' resemblance to his own son.

MAXIMUS
I was a General.

LUCIUS
I saw you fight. The Carthage
battle too. I've never seen so much
courage.

MAXIMUS
It doesn't take courage to kill.

LUCIUS
My father was killed.

A beat.

MAXIMUS
I'm sorry.

LUCIUS
He still comes to me in my dreams.
Do you have a father?

MAXIMUS
I had a father. He wasn't really my
father but I cared for him very much.

LUCIUS
I hope he comes to you in your
dreams. My father and I ride horses
in mine.

These simple words strike something deep in Maximus.

Lucilla appears from the shadows and puts her hands on Lucius' shoulders.

LUCILLA
Lucius, run along now. I need to
talk to the General.

Lucius runs off to his Male ATTENDANT, who leads him away.

A long beat as Maximus and Lucilla look at each other.

Finally:

MAXIMUS
Where is my army?

A drum beat is heard. It increases throughout the following scenes, building momentum like a Roman gallery accelerating to ramming speed.

The conspiracy scenes are enclosed in a montage of scenes in and around the arena showing Maximus' growing popularity with the People of Rome...

EXT. COLOSSEUM - ARENA - DAY

Maximus is fighting an opponent.

The drums continue...

INT. THE SENATE - DAY

Lucilla conspires with Senators Gracchus and Gaius and Captain Marcellus in a dark corner of the Senate. Whispers.

LUCILLA
... Maximus will summon his army
from Ostia and he will strike from
the inside as his army strikes from
the outside. But he insists that
the Senate be present.

GAIUS
We've been ordered to attend.

LUCILLA
How many are with us?

GRACCHUS
About half. But once the tyrant is
dead. All.

A beat.

GRACCHUS
I want to meet him.

LUCILLA
I'll arrange it.

GAIUS
And what of the Emperor?

A beat.

LUCILLA
He has withdrawn. He's not eating.
He doesn't go out. He won't even
see me... I don't know what tempests
rage within him but...

GRACCHUS
We should fear for the blackest
storm.

LUCILLA
Yes.

A beat.

GAIUS
One question... who is to be the
actual Regicide?

A beat. She glances at him.

The drums continue...

EXT. COLOSSEUM - ARENA - DAY

Maximus defeats his opponent. He stands over him. He does not kill him.

He tosses his sword down and walks away. The crowd goes crazy, roaring their approval of Maximus.

Senator Falco, sits in the stands and watches with some alarm. He glances around as the crowd exalts Maximus. He is becoming a hero to the people.

The drums continue...

INT. COLOSSEUM - HOLDING CELLS - DAY

Maximus returns to the holding cells. Vibius and Juba are waiting.

VIBIUS
You didn't kill him.

MAXIMUS
I will not kill another warrior.
There is no honor to it.

Maximus goes. Vibius thinks about it, listening to the adulation of the crowd.

The drums continue...

INT./ EXT. SLAVE WAGON - ROMAN STREETS - DAY

Maximus and the other gladiators are in a slave cart on the way from the arena. A gang of children run alongside the cart, cheering and chanting:

KIDS
Maximus the Merciful! Maximus the
Merciful!

The drums continue...

INT. PROXIMO'S COMPOUND - CELL - NIGHT

Maximus and Juba are with Lucilla and Gracchus. Lucilla is writing on a piece of parchment.

MAXIMUS
Tell him we will enter Rome on the
first day of Commodus' festival.

LUCILLA
And they will march on Rome for you?

MAXIMUS
Yes. But this letter must go to the
lieutenant named Titus, no one else.

LUCILLA
Captain Marcellus will take it. And
his City Guard will by with you when
you get to Rome. Is that enough to
face the Praetorian Guard?

MAXIMUS
(looks to her)
The Felix Regiment will never be
defeated.

A beat.

GRACCHUS
I only have one question for you,
General... Why?

A beat.

GRACCHUS
You will lead an army of your
brothers on Rome. Many will die.
Why?

MAXIMUS
I want Commodus dead.

GRACCHUS
That's not the reason. Tell me the
truth.

A beat.

MAXIMUS
Because one night an old man
whispered to me about a dream. I
will die for that dream.

A long beat.

GRACCHUS
I knew the old man well. And I
loved him very much. In our youth
we would spend hours building that
dream together. After he went to
the wars and lost his way... I was
very cruel. I tormented him to
remember that dream we spoke of.

MAXIMUS
He did.

GRACCHUS
You can have no idea how much that
means to me.

A beat.

GRACCHUS
Any man who will die for a whispered
dream deserves my respect. I honor
you, General.

The drums continue...

EXT. COLOSSEUM - ARENA - DAY

Vibius defeats an opponent -- he stands over him. He looks around at the crowd. Then he tosses down his sword and walks off.

The crowd goes mad with pleasure. Vibius eats it up, raising his arms and soaking up the applause.

Maximus watches from the holding cells. He smiles.

The drums continue...

EXT. STREET - NIGHT

Proximo supervises as a huge banner is unfurled. It covers the side of a tall building.

It shows a dramatic painting of Maximus.

Proximo supervises happily as torches and braziers are lit to illuminate the mammoth banner.

The drums continue...

EXT. COLOSSEUM - ARENA - DAY

The ending of a group fight -- Proximo's gladiators triumphant.

The crowd waits for the delicious act of defiance. We note many placard and banners honoring "MAXIMUS THE MERCIFUL."

Maximus, Vibius, Juba and a few other gladiators toss down their weapons and walk off, leaving their opponents alive.

The crowd roars. They have completely embraced Maximus and his fellow gladiators.

Gracchus, in the stands, laughs.

The drums finally conclude.

INT. PALACE - LUCILLA'S CHAMBER - DAY

Lucilla is with her HANDMAIDEN. They sit before a large mirror, the Handmaiden perfecting Lucilla's makeup for the day.

One of Commodus' Centurion Body Guards enters, bows.

CENTURION
Madame, the Emperor would like to
see you.

Lucilla quickly glances to her Handmaiden in the mirror and then braces herself, stands, and quickly leaves with the Centurion.

INT. PALACE - HALLWAY - DAY

Lucilla strides quickly, nervously, down the long corridor to Commodus' chambers. She enters...

INT. PALACE - COMMODUS' BEDROOM - DAY

Commodus is wrapped in a sheet, gazing out a window.

LUCILLA
Caesar...

He turns. She stops.

He looks as if he has not slept for days. If a word could now sum up his clouded face it is this: tormented.

She goes to him, embraces him. He holds her tightly.

COMMODUS
I am sorry to have kept you away...
I needed this time to think...

LUCILLA
Of course...

He moves away from her, slowly moving around the room.

COMMODUS
I limited my world to these four
walls so as to let my mind free...
again and again my mind settles on
but one question... What kind of
world are we making when the people
of Rome prefer a slave in the arena
to their father?

A beat. Commodus' strange philosophical bent is unnerving Lucilla.

COMMODUS
It is my responsibility to make the
world as it should be. How is it I
have made this world?

LUCILLA
Brother, do not be influenced by the
mob. They are a great, faceless
beast --

COMMODUS
They are not "the mob," Lucilla,
they are the people. They are my
children and all I want to do is
love them.

A beat. He stands before a bust of Marcus Aurelius. He touches it.

COMMODUS
Our father loved Maximus... and I
love him still... yet he defies me,
he tasks me in front of my children.
And they love him for it. Just as
Marcus loved him for it. Tell me
why, Lucilla.

LUCILLA
They see themselves in him. They
throw in their own sad dreams
alongside his. They think he fights
for them.

COMMODUS
And what do I do but fight for
them?! I give them games to please
them. I strangle dissent to give
them peace. I empower the
Praetorians to give them order.
What more can I do?!

A beat.

COMMODUS
Say I should fight him, in the
arena. Let my children see who the
Gods truly favor.

LUCILLA
And what if he should win?

A beat.

Commodus continues to slowly move around the room.

COMMODUS
A God is more powerful than a man...

This odd statement hangs in the air for a moment. Then:

LUCILLA
Caesar, you let this unduly worry
you. At best he is a passing fancy
-- he is a name, an image on a
banner, ephemeral -- he will be
forgotten as the next fancy
appears --

COMMODUS
But I need to know -- why do they
love him?

LUCILLA
Mercy.

He stops. Looks at her.

LUCILLA
He will not kill in the arena. He
is merciful. As they all wish they
were in their own hearts.

Something in her words has struck a chord in him.

COMMODUS
And for that moment in the arena
they are merciful too. For a
moment... they are Gods. Offering
life.

He looks at her.

COMMODUS
But who can be more merciful than
the Emperor of Rome?

EXT. COLOSSEUM - ARENA - DAY

Maximus is fighting a thick GIANT of a man. A few quick blows and the Giant falls -- like a mighty tree he crashes to the sand.

The arena cheers their hero.

Maximus stands over the beaten Giant. The crowd waits for the famous act.

Maximus salutes the Giant and tosses down his sword, refusing to kill. He walks away.

The arena explodes in cheers -- a chant of "Maximus the Merciful" grows to deafening proportions.

Suddenly the arena is filled with Praetorians -- they block Maximus' exit from the arena -- the crowd boos -- horrified --

The Praetorians surround Maximus. He is unarmed, but coils for the inevitable battle.

Then the Praetorians part...

And Commodus walks through them. He carries something wrapped in a rich cloth. Maximus glares at him.

The Praetorians move back and the crowd watches eagerly. The Emperor and the Gladiator, at last.

Maximus and Commodus stare at each other. The crowd cannot hear what is said, but strain to observe this incredible confrontation.

COMMODUS
Brother... we've taken a sad path
since we were children at Capri,
have we not?

Maximus doesn't answer.

COMMODUS
For my own part... I am sorry it
came to this. And to you alone of
all men, I acknowledge my errors.
And my regret. I shall live with my
sin for all my days.

MAXIMUS
As will I, Commodus. As will I.

Commodus unwraps the cloth bundle. Inside is a small wooden sword. He holds it up so the crowd can see.

A collective gasp. The wooden sword, prized by all gladiators above all else. Freedom.

COMMODUS
As the first act of my contrition I
offer you the wooden sword of
freedom.

He holds out the wooden sword. A beat.

COMMODUS
Take it, brother. Stand at my side
as a free man worthy of your
ancestors.

MAXIMUS
I only have ancestors because of
you, brother. You killed everything
that ever lived alongside me.

A beat.

COMMODUS
Take it, Maximus. Let us heal that
fatal wound together.

MAXIMUS
This is the new home you cursed me
to. And I am safer here from your
treachery than I could ever be
outside.

COMMODUS
Will you always mistrust me?

MAXIMUS
Why don't you ask your father that?

Commodus visibly flinches at that, but still holds the wooden sword out. The crowd is breathless.

MAXIMUS
I have more power as a slave in the
arena than I could ever have as a
free man. As the Colosseum goes,
the people go. As the people go,
the Empire goes.

COMMODUS
(tense)
You think this is power? I could
show you power, slave --

MAXIMUS
No, Caesar... I will show you.

With that, Maximus does the unimaginable. He simply turns his back on the Emperor and walks away.

And the crowd goes mad. They cheer the defiant gladiator, their champion.

And, equally, they deride the Emperor. They mock him by holding out food and trash like Commodus is holding out the wooden sword. They laugh and jeer.

Commodus glances around at his children, lost.

Then he turns to the Imperial Box. He sees Lucilla slipping out the back of the box. He watches her go.

And the crowd continues to jeer.