By Ava Gilchrist

Our Roman Empire: Everything You Need To Know About Paul Mescal’s Colossal ‘Gladiator II’

If you're not entertained by now, you will be after watching the trailer!
Paul Mescal plays Lucius in Gladiator II. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Ridley Scott threw down the gauntlet in 2000 with his entry into the canon of historical epics. Gladiator, the original ancient drama helmed by Russel Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, was an instant box-office sensation and eventually became the second-highest-grossing film of the millennium year. Now, 24 years later and an upstart Paul Mescal in the lead, the Academy Award-winning story returns to the eternal city (and the silver screen) with the highly-anticipated subsequent instalment: Gladiator II.

Picking up in antiquity where Maximus left us, Scott’s sequel will bring us back to the world of colossal conquests, a battle against tyrannical rule and the fight of a lifetime. Despite the Italian setting, this isn’t the film that will leave you craving an Aperol Spritz and Cacio e Pepe, one of the four traditional Roman dishes. (If that piques your interest, perhaps try Stanley Tucci’s Searching For Italy or Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name?)

Since the first images of the Normal People breakout star training to become an arena champion were released (see below), the film veritable became our collective Roman Empire. And with an impending release date, Gladiator II will soon be the cinematic sensation taking over the zeitgeist, at least for cinephiles and netizens.

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Suddenly we’re really interested in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Credit: Instagram/@pascalispunk

As Crowe’s protagonist asked from the Colosseum floor in the first film: “Are you not entertained?” If you aren’t swayed by now, you will be after watching the trailer, which was released by Paramount Pictures. Ahead, is everything you need to know about the impending blockbuster, including the plot, cast and release date for Gladiator II.

Watch the trailer for Gladiator II below:

What Is The Plot Of Gladiator II?

As per the official synopsis: “Gladiator II continues the epic saga of power, intrigue, and vengeance set in Ancient Rome.” 

Decades after witnessing the death of the revered hero Maximus (Russell Crowe) at the hands of his uncle, the immoral Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), Lucius (Paul Mescal) comes to age out of reach of the corrupt Republic’s iron first in Northern Africa. Haunted by the memory of, as Lucuius reveals in the trailer, “a slave take revenge against an Emperor” as the Roman Empire encroaches on the peaceful life he built for himself,  he soon becomes a prisoner of war and sent into the arena. 

But disillusioned with the state his former home has descended into, does Lucius fight to save Rome? For revenge and rebellion? Or, for his own glory?

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Paul Mescal and Pedro Pascal in Gladiator II. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Who Stars In Gladiator II?

Leading the film is Oscar nominee Paul Mescal. It’s a far departure from the sensitive roles we’ve seen him as a troubled, albeit well-meaning, father in Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun or haunted lover in Andrew Haigh’s All Of Us Stranger, but according to Scott, it’s these types of performances that first caught his attention.

“Watching a TV show that’s not really my kind of TV show almost four years ago, I said, ‘Who’s this guy?’,” Scott told Vanity Fair about seeing Mescal as Connell Waldron in the TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s sophomore novel. Mescal was offered the role during his run as Stanley Kowalski (the role made famous by Marlon Brando) in the West End production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire in early 2023. 

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Paul Mescal and Director Ridley Scott on the set of Gladiator II. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Pedro Pascal serves as the fictional Roman general Acacius, whose character is the tether connecting the first and second films. Acacius was trained under Maximus’ rule, whose resolve and strong will imparted his worldview. This internal struggle between obligation and virtue is a source of tension throughout the film, especially as he is ruled by twin Emperors Caracalla (Fred Hechinger) and Geta (Joseph Quinn) who are described as  “damaged goods from birth” and almost a “replay of Romulus and Remus”.

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Pedro Pascal as Marcus Acacius in Gladiator II Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Denzel Washington is another counterpoint for Mescal’s Lucius. Portraying an arms dealer named Macrinus, Washington’s character uses Mescal’s as an “instrument” to grope power with. Connie Nielsen rounds out the cast and reprises her role from the original film.

What Is The Release Date For Gladiator II?

Gladiator II will be released in Australian cinemas on November 14, a whole week before it opens in international cinemas. For those in the US, you can enjoy a theatrical double theatre with both Gladiator II and Wicked released on November 22.

Is There A Trailer For Gladiator II?

Yes, the trailer for  Gladiator II has now been released. You can watch it here or at the top of this article. 

Paul Mescal in Gladiator II. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This story first appeared on GRAZIA International.