Oliver Reed did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for BAFTA, for portraying Proximo in Gladiator.
Reed plays both sides of the role very well. As the outer side, Reed shows Proximo to be a shrewd businessman. Reed brings the right sly attitude with a certain strong force of personality as Proximo showing him to be a man well versed in the nature of his trade. Proximo though does have the deeper connection with Gladiator's then just the money. Reed has one great scene where he tries to inspire his men to victory giving a hint of his own mastery of the arena. Reed is terrific as he thrusts with a knife portraying the powerful technique in Proximo, and suggesting exactly who Proximo once was when he had to save his life by ending another simply for entertainment purposes.
Oliver Reed's best scene though is when he encourages Maximus to be more than a killer, and be a showman who the crowd adores. In the scene Proximo describes when he was made free by the former emperor after becoming the champion of the arena. Reed handles the scene beautifully because it is not like he is just giving a lecture to Maximus. Reed instills the moment with a tremendous nostalgic pride and shows Proximo almost relive the moment as he gives the sense of the joy Proximo held when he finally achieved freedom so many years ago. It is a wonderfully acted scene by Reed, and it also properly alludes to why Proximo would be willing to give up his own livelihood to help Maximus late in the film.
This film was Reed's last one, and unfortunately he actually died during filming. All of Proximo's scenes were not completed and this is noticeable in the film. When everyone is captured in Proximo's compound the Roman guards for whatever reason kill Proximo even though they don't do the same to the slaves even the ones who have fought back. Of course this is a pretty obvious rewrite to compensate for Reed's untimely end. The required changes cuts Proximo short really. If Reed had lived it is pretty easy to see that Proximo probably would have had one more scene that would have given a more fitting end to his character, rather than the very quick exit his character receives in the film.
In my view Oliver Reed once again gives the best performance in a best picture winning film, even though once again his character is far from being even the most important supporting character in the film. Reed even with the fact that he really did not get to portray the actual conclusion of the character before his death makes Proximo a compelling character. I only wish there had been more of Proximo in the film as Reed makes him a fascinating part of the film even though the character could very well have made absolutely no impact on the film whatsoever. Oliver Reed brings out the complexities of the part incredibly well, and creates an interesting portrait of a gladiator after he has put away his sword.