From behind-the-scenes footage of a siege battle to talk of an onscreen clash between leading man Paul Mescal and baboons (yes really), we’ve developed some idea of what to expect from the Gladiator 2 plot.
As per the official logline, the long-awaited sequel follows Mescal as an adult Lucius Vera, son of Lucilla (Connie Nielson) and nephew of the villainous Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), who is inspired by the actions of Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe).
But how exactly will this fit within Ridley Scott’s ongoing mythology?
“[Lucius] has been in the wilderness for — let’s see, last time when he was 12 — say about 12/15 years later, he’s been out in the wilderness having lost touch with his mother. His mother has lost touch with him. She doesn’t know where he is. She thinks he might be dead.”
Kind of a Robin Williams in Jumanji-type scenario, by the sounds of it, only with more sandals and swords. This explains why Paul Mescal has gotten so ripped despite earlier reports indicating that he wouldn’t be stepping into the Colosseum.
It also explains why Mescal’s Lucius Vera must fight baboons; something Ridley Scott chose to include having been haunted by a video of the primates attacking tourists in Johannesburg (“Baboons are carnivores. Can you hang from that roof for two hours by your left leg? No! A baboon can.”).
Prior to this latest revelation, Scott teased the nature of Denzel Washington’s role in the Gladiator 2 plot; having reunited with Hollywood’s most consistent star 16 years after their first collaboration in American Gangster.
“As for Denzel’s character… There were businesses of gladiators who could indeed earn their freedom if they stayed alive. That was the deal. So we went right into that, in-depth,” Scott explained in an issue of Total Film magazine.
“Where did he come from? How was he taken? He was branded with marks and registered with a brand on his chest as a slave. So that’s how he comes into the story.”
“He’s a rich guy who’s still carrying a grudge.”
Scott added: “I respect Denzel Washington tremendously. I shouldn’t call Denzel a golden oldie — he’d f***ing kill me — but he’s gold dust.”
Paul Mescal, Denzel Washington, and Connie Nielson are joined by a star-studded cast featuring Joseph Quinn as co-emperor Caracalla, Fred Hechinger (replacing Barry Keoghan) as co-emperor Geta; along with Pedro Pascal, May Calamawy, Lior Raz, Peter Mensah, and Matt Lucas. Djimon Hounsou and Derek Jacobi reprise their roles as former gladiator Juba and Senator Gracchus, respectively.
The forthcoming historical epic also hails the return of costume designer Janty Yates and production designer Arthur Max; as well as reuniting Scott with two other seasoned collaborators — director of photography Dariusz Wolski and screenwriter David Scarpa (All The Money In The World, Napoleon).
With production now resuming in Malta given the SAG-AFTRA strike has finally been resolved, Gladiator 2 is still on track for its initial November 22nd, 2024 release date.