Nick Cave's insane Gladiator sequel that never was

Australian musician Nick Cave has been busy lately. Alongside touring his 15th Bad Seeds studio album, Push the Sky Away, he's also been working on pseudo-documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, which is slated for cinematic release next year. 

This isn't the sleazy songwriter's first brush with the silver screen. As well as starring in and composing the soundtrack for a number of film titles, Cave also wrote the screenplay for gritty Western The Proposition, as well as boot-legging tale Lawless. However a certain screenplay discussed earlier this year in an interview with US comedian Mark Maron, captured the collective attention of fans and film lovers alike. 

Cave revealed the details of his long-since canned script for Gladiator 2. The screenplay was penned after Gladiator star Russell Crowe approached and tasked him with writing up a sequel to Ridley Scott's early noughties blockbuster.

The challenge of resurrecting the armour-clad fighter was taken in Cave's stride, as he produced a fantastically insane piece of literary absurdity.

"[Crowe] rang me up and asked if I wanted to write 'Gladiator 2'," Cave told Maron. "For someone who had only written one film script, it was quite an ask. 'Hey Russell, didn't you die in 'Gladiator 1?' 'Yeah, you sort that out.'

"So, he goes down to purgatory and is sent down by the gods, who are dying in heaven because there's this one god, there's this Christ character, down on Earth who is gaining popularity and so the many gods are dying, so they send Gladiator back to kill Christ and his followers."

Cave continued: "I wanted to call it 'Christ Killer' and in the end you find out that the main guy was his son so he has to kill his son and he was tricked by the gods. He becomes this eternal warrior and it ends with this 20 minute war scene which follows all the wars in history, right up to Vietnam and all that sort of stuff and it was wild."

As well as telling the tale of Russell Crowe slaying the Christian messiah, the film would have followed Maximus, as he fucked the living shit out of some Roman Gods, before getting kicked back into the land of the living. The newly reincarnated Maximus then goes on to put his boot to the chin of foes in famous historical wars, from the Crusades to Vietnam. The immortal powerhouse eventually winds down his bloodbath through the ages by retiring to a a job in the Pentagon. 

Believe it or not, Scott and Crowe both loved it. In fact, back in 2009 Scott told UGO : "We tried [to go with Cave's script]. Russell didn't want to let it go, obviously, because it worked very well. When I say 'worked very well', I don't refer to success. I mean, as a piece it works very well. Storytelling, [it] works brilliantly. I think [Cave] enjoyed doing it, and I think it was one of those things that he thought, 'Well, maybe there's a sequel where we can adjust the fantasy and bring [Maximus] back from the dead."

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the studio thought it was too over the top and kicked it to the bucket. This was a move Cave was expecting, despite the script being a self-confessed work of genius. 

"It was a stone cold masterpiece. I enjoyed writing it very much because I knew on every level that it was never going to get made. Let's call it a popcorn dropper." 

Words by Tanya Harris

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