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Monday, 24 May, 1999, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Oliver Reed's show goes on
About 2,000 extras are bussed into the set every day
It was classic Oliver Reed: his death was as unpredictable, tragic and theatrical as his life. It also, like many of his wilder whims during a tempestuous career, left several people in the lurch.

When the actor died of a heart attack in a Maltese bar just over two weeks ago, he was on location for a film directed by Ridley Scott and financed by Steven Spielberg.

The movie, Gladiators, was part of a belated renaissance for the troubled actor. But production will go on, partly as a tribute to one of its main stars.

Oliver Reed died while filming Gladiators
Gladiators is a blockbuster in true Hollywood style. Costing $120m, it is being filmed in two locations: Farnham, in Surrey, England, and Malta.

It's on a huge scale - with 2,000 extras needed for many of the scenes. They arrive every morning in buses, to stand in a Roman crowd for up to eight hours at a time.

They each earn about 40 a day for their trouble: and several have developed one sunburned shoulder from wearing togas in the blazing heat.

Epic to recreate Ben Hur

The film is set in ancient Rome, and huge sets reconstruct the Roman Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

It is set in 180BC, and aims to recreate the tradition of epic gladiator movies like Ben Hur and Spartacus.

It centres around a power struggle for the position of Emperor of Rome, and its great set pieces take place in the gladiator's ring.

The cast is star-studded, with Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi and Joaquin Phoenix heading the list.

Recreating Oliver Reed

Existing footage of Oliver Reed's head will be imposed over someone else's body.
Most of the scenes involving Oliver Reed have already been shot, and most of what you see on the screen will be his acting.

But in some cases, where scenes involving Oliver Reed remain to be completed, the film-makers have ended up with something of a problem.

It is rumoured they may have settled for a far-fetched solution to keep the movie on track - using existing footage of his head imposed over someone else's body.

The film is due for release next year, and promises to be one of the biggest summer blockbusters for some time.

Virginia Eastman reports from the set of Gladiators
See also:

15 May 99 | Entertainment
Malta cashes in on movie-makers
15 May 99 | UK
Final toast to Oliver Reed
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