Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back

Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott breathe vibrant new life into the Roman-history film

It seemed a quixotic notion: "Hey, guys, let's make a movie in a genre that went out of fashion when The Sound of Music came in; that will cost $100 million, require arduous location shooting and elaborate computer effects; whose director hasn't made a film grossing even $50 million domestically in 20 years; whose script will be retooled by three writers turning in new pages during shooting; and whose 'star' is a gifted actor but also, by all accounts, a severe rectal itch." We can hear the moguls chorusing: "Gladiator? Thumbs down."

Today Douglas Wick, the movie's producer, can say, "Anyone...

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