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Wednesday April 17th 2024

Gladiator | 2000

Gladiator filming location: Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
Gladiator filming location: Maximus fights in the ‘African’ arena, Aït Ben Haddou, Morocco

Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning epic film borrows heavily from Anthony Mann’s 1964 Fall of the Roman Empire (made on vast sets in Spain, and which had Alec Guinness in the Richard Harris role of Marcus Aurelius, and Christopher Plummer as the barking mad emperor Commodus) and Stanley Kubrick‘s Spartacus (which was, itself, begun by Anthony Mann).

Gladiator filming location: Bourne Wood, Farnham, Surrey
Gladiator filming location: the bloody battle in ‘Germania’: Bourne Wood, near Farnham, Surrey

The savage opening battle, set in ‘Germania’, was staged at The Bourne near Farnham, Surrey. The story that filming caused ructions among environmentalists after swathes of forest were cleared seems to be a media concoction – this was an area scheduled for clearing by the Forestry Commission. The clearing, south of Dene Lane, off Tilford Road, southeast of Farnham, was revisited in 2009 by Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe for the castle and village sets in Robin Hood. More recently, the forest became the muddy battlefield of WWI for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and saw Marvel’s hammer-wielding superhero battling inhuman hordes in Thor: The Dark World. Diana Prince and her team ride through the forest to find the 'German High Command' in Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman.

The African town, where Maximus (Crowe) is sold into slavery, is Aït Ben Haddou, near Ouarzazate in Morocco. Director Ridley Scott returned to the same locale to film Holy Land scenes for Kingdom of Heaven.

Aït Ben Haddou is a ksar (fortified village) on the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. It's a great example of southern Moroccan earthen clay architecture and in 1987 was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The provincial arena was added to the existing village, which had already hosted films such as David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah (co-directed by Sergio Leone and Robert Aldrich) and Jewel of the Nile.

The vast ‘Roman’ sets (with extensive CGI additions) were constructed on the massive remains of Fort Ricasoli on Malta, later used for the filming of Wolfgang Petersen’s 2004 epic Troy.