Image: courtesy of Paramount

JUST WHEN YOU thought you could stop thinking about the Roman Empire, Gladiator II is marching on the horizon. The sun never sets on Ridley Scott (or Paul Mescal, for that matter).

The highly-anticipated sequel to the Russell Crowe-starring 2000 epic Gladiator, also directed by Scott, will see a stacked (both in talent and physique) cast take up the mantle in a storyline that takes place 20 years after the events of the original film. Much to the delight of the internet, actors Paul Mescal and Pedro Pascal will be starring, alongside Stranger Things’ Joseph Quinn, Denzel Washington, and Connie Nielsen reprising her role as Lucilla. And from what we’ve seen so far of the production, which was mostly shot in Italy between June 2023 and January 2024, the 24-year wait for a sequel is paying off.

Scheduled for release in November, the film will also coincide with the release of Wicked (starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo). Feeling like déjà vu? The contrast in genre signals that this is perhaps 2024’s Barbenheimer, with the internet already reacting to the joint release. Gicked? Gladicked? Wickadator? Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

While we’re workshopping that, scroll on for everything to know about Gladiator II, including plot details, who’s in it, and when you can expect to see it in Australian cinemas.

Who is in Gladiator 2?

Paul Mescal (Normal People, Aftersun, All of Us Strangers) will be playing the lead role of a grown-up Lucius, the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and the nephew of the late Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Lucius grew up idolising the virtues and code of honour of Russell Crowe’s Maximus, which propels him to become a gladiator upon his return to Rome.

Pedro Pascal (Last of Us, Game of Thrones) will be playing General Marcus Acacius, a then junior office under Maximus (however Acacius was not in the first film).

Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, The Devil’s Advocate, Wonder Woman) will be reprising her role as noblewoman Lucilla, Lucius’ mother, and one of the few real-life figures in the otherwise fictional Gladitator storyline.

Denzel Washington (American Gangster, The Equaliser) will be playing wealthy powerbroker Macrinus. “[Macrinus] is an arms dealer who supplies food for the armies in Europe,” says Scott in an interview with Vanity Fair. “Instead of having a stable of racehorses, he has a stable of gladiators.”

Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things, A Quiet Place: Day One) Fred Hechinger (The White Lotus) will be playing co-Emperors Geta and Caracalla, respectively. The two are young brothers – who are just as sadistic rulers as Phoenix’s Commodus – will be challenged by Lucius for the throne. Quinn and Pascal will also star in Marvel’s Fantastic Four as Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) and Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic), respectively, which is set for release mid-2025.

From left to right: Denzel Washington as Marcinus, Pedro Pascal as General Marcus Acacius, Joseph Quinn as Emperor Geta. Image: courtesy of Paramount

What is Gladiator 2 about?

The film will pick up 20 years after the events of Gladiator where we find a grown-up Lucius (Mescal) with a wife and child living peacefully in Numidia, north-eastern Africa. In the first film, it was Numidia where Lucius was sent off as a child by his mother Lucilla (Nielsen), which was then just outside the reach of the Roman Empire. Unsure of his mother’s motives, this is a source of rancour for Lucius. Soon, conquerors, led by General Acacius (Pascal), arrive from his homeland and invade Numidia, bringing his life there to an end and captured as a prisoner of war. But as Scott revealed in an interview with Vanity Fair, POW with a well-built physique get sent off to the arena instead of rotting away. And it’s in his first match that Lucius locks eyes with his mother after two decades as she watches on from the stands, seated next to Acacius who she is romantically involved with.

Image: courtesy of Paramount

Who directed Gladiator 2?

Ridley Scott will be returning as director, with David Scarpa as the film’s screenwriter. Frequent collaborators, Scarpa also penned Ridley’s 2023 Napoleon, which starred Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role.

In the two and a half decades since Gladiator, Scott has had a successful career directing other sci-fi and historical dramas including House of Gucci (2021), The Last Duel (2021), and American Gangster (2007). And like any great director, always returning to the same company of talented actors to star in his films, which more or less deal with themes of power (and powerful men) gone wild. “That is what I find always so interesting in Ridley’s stories,” says Nielsen in an interview with Vanity Fair. “Inside of this travesty are human beings who are caught in this gamesmanship and power . . . He’s really showing the effect of power on people.”

Director Ridley Scott and Paul Mescal. Image: courtesy of Paramount

When will Gladiator 2 be released in Australia?

In the new official poster released by distributor Paramount, Gladiator 2 will be released in Australian cinemas on November 14.

Image: courtesy of Paramount


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