Heroism comes in many forms, be it through human characters like Gladiator’s Maximus or metahumans like Diana Prince in the Wonder Woman films. But despite the obvious differences, there’s one key component that ties both together in unison: their impeccable value systems. Connie Nielsen is someone who definitely knows this firsthand, as she saw her on-screen brother wield the power of a civilization in the former, and got to be the one with the crown herself in the latter. And Ms. Nielsen agrees that when it comes to Gladiator and Wonder Woman, the thread that ties them together is the good of the republic.
More specifically, Connie Nielsen sees the values system of both films tied together through the heroes that represent them. So in her talk with THR, Nielsen noted how she sees Maximus and Diana as kindred spirits in what they show the audience as the ideal of heroism in their respective films. She elaborated her views on both films as follows:
I do think that the secret sauce in [Gladiator] — just as it is in Wonder Woman — is a concept of who we can be as societies. What are the values, guarantees and norms that provide a continuity for a Republic? Those were the questions we were asking in Gladiator, and people felt those values. A hero is someone who exemplifies those ideas and this unconscious understanding that their sacrifice will prevent the sacrifice of millions. That’s the idea, I think, of Gladiator and also Wonder Woman. One person is willing to stand for this idea so that millions won’t have to be living in tyranny.
Those ideals come into play quite heavily in Wonder Woman 1984, as the opening sequence showcasing a huge contest of Amazonian strength and sporting prowess teaches young Diana a valuable lesson in winning the right way. And firmly on hand to help her process that lesson is Connie Nielsen, who reprises her role of Hippolyta in that flashback sequence. Teaching her daughter to not accept shortcuts, and to live the truth in her words and deeds, the values any good republic should stand on are squarely laid out, before the ‘80s action takes that message and runs with it.
It’s very much a story akin to that of Russell Crowe’s Gladiator hero, as Maximus crusades against corrupt emperor Commodus, played by the iconic Joaquin Phoenix, for similar reasons. With a rule that was unjustly stolen, and one that led to the death of Maximus’ family, Ridley Scott’s hero avenged his family and fought to restore the post of emperor to someone who truly deserved it. It’s the same lesson, but with a different rating, an entirely different Hans Zimmer score and way more blood.
Connie Nielsen’s comparison between Wonder Woman and Gladiator is rather interesting, as all sorts of potential links pop up. Even in the way that Steve Trevor is resurrected in Wonder Woman 1984, there’s a sort of shade on the way out there idea as to how Maximus could have come back for a sequel. At this point, you may as well cast Russell Crowe as Zeus for the recently announced threequel, and wrap the trilogy with the ultimate Gladiator reference.
Back in reality, you can see Wonder Woman 1984 now, as it’s currently in theaters, as well as streaming on HBO Max until January 24. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in revisiting Gladiator, a 4K reissue was released earlier this year, to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary. And as always, keep a tab open with our 2021 release schedule, as you're not going to want to miss the next heroic adventure to wow audiences in the world of the movies.