The director adds, "The most important thing when you assume a challenge like this is choosing the right people to work with, because you have no choice but to delegate on a production this size. I had the best department heads-people who had been there, seen it, done it or researched it. I knew I could rely on their artistry to craft the world in which our story unfolds, and they did an extraordinary job. You can almost smell the arena and feel the atmosphere of the city. The costumes are authentic. Watching the film, you should believe you're experiencing a contemporary situation…you're living in Roman times."
Principal photography on "Gladiator" got underway in a forest near Farnham, England, which doubled for Germania, near the northernmost border of the Roman Empire. There, the Roman Legions, commanded by General Maximus, wage a fierce battle against the heavily outmatched Germanic fighters. The timing of the shoot turned out to be serendipitous, as the British Forestry Commission had slated the area, known as the Bourne Woods, to be deforested. Ridley Scott and his production team were only too happy to comply. "I said, 'I'll do it for you. I'll burn it down,'" the director recalls.
Sixteen thousand flaming arrows were sent aloft by a team overseen by special effects supervisor Neil Corbould. Cinematographer John Mathieson used Aerial Camera Systems, with a track speed of 15 meters per second, to follow the flight of arrows into the trees. Adding to the conflagration, fiery clay pots were launched from fully functional catapults modeled after those of the era. Over a period of four days, another 10,000 non-flaming arrows were shot by archers, as well as special machines that could launch hundreds of arrows in quick succession. Underneath the barrage, the cast, stuntmen, and thousands of extras engaged in close combat with broadswords, axes, spears, crossbows and other weaponry.
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