Nick Cave‘s aborted screenplay for a Gladiator sequel is one of the most intriguing unrealized projects in cinema history. After the runaway success of Ridley Scott’s Roman epic in 2000, star Russell Crowe apparently approached his fellow Aussie about writing a followup, despite the fact that most of the primary characters were dead by the end of the original. Cave got around this with a wild gambit involving Crowe’s protagonist resurrected as a sort of deathless ghost, battling his way through history, all the way up to the present. He wanted to call it Christ Killer. Eighteen years later, Scott is now reportedly moving forward to finally direct a sequel. Sadly for all of humanity, the brimstone-breathing Bad Seeds frontman is not involved, and the film won’t be Christ Killer.
The forthcoming Gladiator film will instead be penned by The Town screenwriter Peter Craig, and will tell the story of Lucius, nephew of Commodus, Maximus’s nemesis in the original film. Which, who knows, might make for a perfectly good movie, but it certainly won’t involve Russell Crowe as an immortal soldier on a quest to slay Jesus himself. Here’s how Cave described his idea on an episode of WTF with Marc Maron a few years back, via NME:
“(Crowe) rang me up and asked if I wanted to write ‘Gladiator 2,” he said. “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.”
He 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. 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.”
A stone-cold masterpiece! Cave, mind you, is no screenwriting naif, having penned both the bloody Australian outback western The Proposition in 2005 and the Shia LeBeouf bootlegging drama Lawless in 2012. Even Ridley Scott acknowledged in a 2009 interview that Christ Killer was the shit:
“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.
For anyone who’d rather see a blood-splattered ghost laying waste to thousands on the killing fields of Khe Sanh than some heartwarming redemption story or whatever, the full script of Christ Killer is available for your perusal here.