Trivial Trivia…OR Down the Rabbit Hole We Go…

Sometimes you run across the funniest stuff when you’re perusing the web. And yours truly, as a movie fan, is always on the lookout for those little things which make you go ‘Are you kidding?’  

Since the assassination of Commodus was discussed the other day, I was doing a bit more reading on another film in which this historic character was prominent. Now Caligula definitely gets a whole lot more movie and television ‘coverage’. Hell, Caligula even got a notorious, controversial movie with his name in the title! Commodus, meh, not so much. 

Nowadays, especially among Crowe fans, most of us know Commodus from Gladiator. There was another ‘little’ film in which he played a major role, and that was the 1964 Anthony Mann directed The Fall of the Roman Empire, loosely based on the uncredited The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, written by Edward Gibbon and first published in 1776. The movie version of only a portion of the massive history was a box office failure, although critical reviews were for the most part favorable and continue to be so. But it, along with the ill-fated Cleopatra, were among the movies which allegedly led to the demise of the so-called ‘sword and sandal’ movie genre, a genre reborn with Gladiator. Which, of course, had Commodus. (Circle of life folks. Circle of life). And which also causes multiple IMDB arguments as to Gladiator “stealing” Roman Empire‘s plot, a subject I’m not touching with a 99-1/2 foot pole!

So the other day I posted some images in regards to the anniversary of Commodus’ assassination.

First, we have Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus:  And then Christopher Plummer (who worked opposite Russell Crowe in The Insider), better known as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, only this time, I doubt the Lonely Goatherd or Edelweiss had anything to do with the fall of the Roman Empire! Here’s Plummer again.   Looks like he’s about to burst into song any second! 

But here’s something you may or may not have known. Once upon a time, ‘back in the day’ – the Sixties to be more precise, there were some absolutely wonderful actors from the British Isles, actors (often Shakespearean trained) with voices which could melt butter. There was the Welshman Richard Burton, seen here as yet another Roman, Marc Antony, in Cleopatra.

Richard Burton as Marc Antony in ‘Cleopatra’

Wasn’t there a rumor that – during the making of Gladiator – Russell was channeling Burton? If not, it’s still a good story. 

Oh, there was the British-Irish actor Peter O’Toole, who was delicious with those blue eyes of his – which you can see in this shot from the role which earned him international acclaim Lawrence of ArabiaLawrence of Arabia has nothing to do with the Roman Empire, but what the hell. He’s gorgeous here! 

Peter O’Toole as the titular character – ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – posted just because he’s beautiful in this photo!

And there was Irishman Richard Harris, seen here as just being Richard Harris: 

Irish Actor Richard Harris

Now we’re back to The Fall of the Roman Empire. (About friggin’ time, I’m sure you’re thinking).

Director Mann originally wanted Charlton Heston to play Livius, the hero of the movie. Livius was sort-of-like Maximus…sort of. When Heston learned Sophia Loren was playing Lucilla, he bowed out; he and Loren had worked together on Mann’s El Cid and never got along. Next up was Kirk Douglas for Livius – he declined. The role then went to Stephen Boyd, who played the Roman Messala opposite Heston in the Oscar winner Ben-Hur. Here’s Boyd as Messala and Livius. Oh and I should mention that our hero Livius is Commodus’ mortal enemy, is also in love with Lucilla – the daughter and sister of two Emperors, and is the loyal subject to one Marcus Aurelius. And if you tell me that sounds vaguely familiar I don’t want to hear it LOL

Stephen Boyd as Messala in ‘Ben-Hur’ – yes, another Roman role

Stephen Boyd as Livius in the 1964 ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ 

And there’s one more little twist, and this is the one which started me down my rabbit hole.

“But what about Commodus?” I hear you asking. I’m glad you asked! Richard Harris was originally cast to play Commodus. When he couldn’t do it (and I’m not sure as to why yet), Plummer was hired. Harris, in 2000, went on to play Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator, the role which had been played by Sir Alec ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Guinness in The Fall of the Roman Empire.

          Richard Harris

     Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius in ‘Gladiator’

Alec Guinness as Marcus Aurelius in ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ (1964)

     Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi. Why not?

I should have told you all to bring a spreadsheet for this one.

And out of the rabbit hole I come! 



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