Theatrical Release: 1960
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-A truck drives along the hills behind a battle scene.
-Slave extras wearing wristwatches and sandshoes. As well, Antonius (Tony Curtis) is wearing a Rolex watch. (The same wristwatch mistake has also been mentioned about Roman soldiers as well. However, it must be noted that some of these "wristwatches" might actually be decorative metal bands around their wrists, which would be in keeping with the period.)
-Aquitania was not under Roman rule until 15 years after the date of the film.
-A map of Italy can be seen in Spartacus' camp tent (it is prominently featured in the scenes involving the pirate emissary), which is far too accurate for the times of the movie.
-Slaves digging with steel shovels of a pattern invented in the early 20th century instead of Roman wooden spades.
-Although Caesar and Crassus were allied in the First Triumvirate, at the time of the Third Servile Revolt, Caesar was a young ambitious politician. The alliance among Crassus, Caesar and Pompey wasn't formed until much later.
-Numerous errors in the history of the Roman Republic: The last influential senator named Gracchus died some twenty years before the events depicted in the movie. Caesar never commanded the garrison of Rome. This garrison did not exist during the Republic; it was a creation of the Caesars and usually consisted of German mercenaries whose loyalty was to the Emperor rather than the Senate. Several times during the Imperial period, the garrison placed someone on the throne rather than allow the Republic to be restored.
-Although Spartacus, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Julius Caesar were real-life people, the end credits to the restored edition state that all persons in the film are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. This presumably accounts for the many differences between the real and fictionalized Spartacus.
-In the scene when Spartacus is detailing on a map how he intends to invade Rome, he is reading the cities on the map of Rome. In the scene immediately prior to that, we learned he cannot read.
-One of the reasons why Spartacus and his army was defeated was the internal strife between Spartacus and his lieutenant, Crixus. According to Greek historians, Appius and Plutarch, Spartacus wanted his army to leave the Italian peninsula and go to Gaul so the army can be disbanded. After disbanding, Spartacus wanted the slaves to go home to their countries of origin. However, Crixus wanted to stay in Italy and keep on pillaging. The Roman generals used this internal strife to their advantage and defeated Spartacus' army. The movie makes no mention of this very historically significant internal strife.
At the end of the film, Spartacus is crucified along with all of his surviving men. In fact the real Spartacus disappeared during the final battle in Calabria. Nobody knows what happened to him. (Realising that reality would make a pretty dull ending to the film, the scriptwriters fictionalised his death - and much of his life, too).
-During the scene where the slaves are storming a wall, the slaves who die at the wall can be seen rolling under it to jump over again later.
-During the initial breakout of the Gladiatorial training school, an armed guard is stabbed on a balcony or papapet and falls to the arena below. He clearly gets up and walks into the doorway adjacent to where he had fallen, apparently satisfied that his part was completed.
-When climbing the balcony during the revolt, Draba (Woody Strode) reacts to being hit with the spear before it actually reaches him.
-During the final battle sequences the slaves drag down burning hay rollers. One of the slaves in Sparacus's army overshoots the end of the run and a Roman soldier generously drops his sword in order to catch him.
-In the main battle scene toward the end, there is a soldier lying "dead" on the ground that clearly repositions himself as others fight around him so that he isn't stepped on.
-In the scene where the slaves roll down the hill a flaming ball of something, we see it strike several roman soldiers. Look closely and you will see they are actually stuntmen dressed in asbestos suits.
The development of the film was partly instigated by Kirk Douglas's failure to win the title role in William Wyler's Ben-Hur. Douglas had worked with Wyler before on Detective Story, and was disappointed when Wyler chose Charlton Heston instead. Not wanting to appear beaten, he decided to upstage Wyler and create his own epic, with himself in the title role.
Contrary to what the book and film portray, the historical Spartacus was born free in Thrace (modern-day Bulgaria) and may have served in the Thracian army or even the Roman army in Macedonia (Rome often impressed soldiers of armies it had defeated into its own army). It is thought that he was either captured in battle or deserted the army and later captured (depends on what side he fought on) and then sold into slavery.
Stanley Kubrick replaced director Anthony Mann 14 days after shooting had started, after Mann had a falling out with Kirk Douglas, who was co-producer of the film. Mann had already shot the opening scenes in Libya and Spartacus' arrival at the gladiator school.
Kubrick was not given control of the script, which he felt was full of stupid moralizing. Since then, Kubrick has kept full control over all aspects of his films
Ingrid Bergman, Jeanne Moreau, Elsa Martinelli and Jean Simmons rejected the role of Varinia. Sabine Bethmann was then cast, but when Stanley Kubrick took over he fired her and re-offered the part to Simmons, who took it.
Kirk Douglas, as co-producer of the film (through his company, Bryna Productions), insisted on hiring Hollywood Ten blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to adapt the film. (Trumbo was working under the pseudonym "Sam Jackson" at the time.) Douglas also hired blacklisted character actor Peter Brocco to play a supporting role.
Douglas, a passionate Zionist, wanted the history depicted to parallel the story of the Jewish people, but Trumbo was more interested in Communist themes.
Trumbo originally wanted Universal to get Orson Welles to play the character of the pirate, Tigranes Levantus. It was eventually played by Herbert Lom.
In order to get so many big stars to play supporting roles, Kirk Douglas showed each a different script in which their character was emphasized.
The sound of the crowd cheering "Spartacus! Spartacus!" was actually recorded at a football game in Spartan Stadium, home of the Michigan State University Spartans in East Lansing, Michigan.
Of the 167 days it took Stanley Kubrick to shoot this film, six weeks were spent directing an elaborate battle sequence in which 8,500 extras (including infantry from the Spanish army, who played Roman legionnaires) re-created the clash between the Roman troops and Spartacus' slave army. Several scenes in the battle drew the ire of the Legion of Decency, and were therefore cut. These include shots of men being dismembered (dwarfs with false torsos and an armless man, played by Bill Raisch, the "One-Armed Man" of The Fugitive (1963) fitted with a phony breakaway limb, were used to give authenticity). Seven years later, when the Oscar-winning film was reissued, an additional 22 minutes were chopped out, including a scene in which Varinia watches Spartacus writhe in agony on a cross. Her line, "Oh, please die, my darling" was excised, and the scene was cut to make it appear that Spartacus was already dead.
A number of scenes featuring Peter Ustinov and Charles Laughton were rewritten by Ustinov after Laughton rejected the original script.
Draba, played by Woody Strode, is killed in the ring after attacking one of the senators. His body is hung upside down in the gladiators' quarters as a warning. Originally this was going to be a replica of Strode, but when the effect wasn't satisfactory, he himself hung upside-down, ropes tied around his ankles. As the gladiators slowly file past his dangling body, Strode doesn't flinch or twitch. According to his son Kalai, the unused replica of Strode hung inside the entrance to Universal Studios' prop room for several years.
The original version included a scene where Marcus Licinius (Laurence Olivier) attempts to seduce Antoninus (Tony Curtis). The Production Code Administration and the Legion of Decency both objected. At one point Geoffrey Shurlock, representing the censors, suggested it would help if the reference in the scene to a preference for oysters or snails was changed to truffles and artichokes. In the end the scene was cut, but it was put back in for the 1991 restoration. However, the soundtrack had been lost in the meantime and the dialogue had to be dubbed. Curtis was able to redo his lines, but Olivier had died. Joan Plowright, his widow, remembered that Anthony Hopkins had done a dead-on impression of Olivier and she mentioned this to the restoration team. They approached Hopkins and he agreed to voice in Olivier's lines in that scene. Hopkins is thanked in the credits for the restored version.
Part of the film was shot at William Randolph Hearst's castle, San Simeon, where the horsemen ride up the marble stairs. Several scenes from The Godfather (1972) were also filmed there.
Cinematographer Russell Metty walked off the set, complaining that director Stanley Kubrick was not letting him do his job. When he returned to the set, Kubrick told him to shut up and butt out and, subsequently, Kubrick did the majority of the cinematography work. Metty complained about this up until the release of the film and even, at one point, asked to have his name removed from the credits. However, because his name was in the credits, when the film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, it was given to Metty, although he actually didn't shoot most of it.
During the arduous, long shoot, Tony Curtis allegedly asked Jean Simmons, "Who do I have to screw to get off this film?" Some versions of the interaction include Simmons shouting back, "When you find out, let me know."
For a while the studio did not want to give blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo screen credit for his work. Stanley Kubrick said that he would accept the credit. Kirk Douglas, however, was so appalled by Kubrick's attempt to claim credit for someone else's work that he used his clout to ensure that Trumbo received his due credit - and in doing so effectively ended the Hollywood blacklist.
In winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Lentulus Batiatus, Peter Ustinov is the only actor to win an Oscar for a Stanley Kubrick film. Peter Sellers is the only other actor to receive so much as a nomination.
The 1991 version was restored by Robert A. Harris who produced a new 65mm preservation negative from original color separations. The original camera negative had lost too much of its yellow layer to be usable.
The famous scene of the movie involving the recaptured slaves being asked to point out which one of them is Spartacus in exchange for leniency, and each yelling "I am Spartacus", is sometimes called a "Spartacus moment" in the movie world, in reference to this particular scene.