Movies

Shirtless Paul Mescal and Pedro Pascal have bloody arena battle in ‘Gladiator II’ trailer

The trailer for Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated “Gladiator II” dropped on Tuesday, setting the stage for the return to ancient Rome.

Written by David Scarpa, the sequel to the Russell Crowe-led 2000 historical epic showcases the world 20-plus years later.

Paul Mescal as Lucius and Pedro Pascal as General Marcus Acacius in “Gladiator II” Aidan Monaghan / Paramount Pictures
Mescal stars in the sequel. Aidan Monaghan / Paramount Pictures

Paul Mescal now steps into the role of Lucius, whom Spencer Treat Clark portrayed in the original movie. Lucius is the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and nephew of Commodus, who was originally played by Joaquin Phoenix.

The plot follows Lucius, who as a child witnessed the death of Maximus (Crowe) at the hands of his uncle.

He was then sent by his mother as to live on the northern coast of Africa to shield him from the corruption and violence of Rome.?

The plot follows Lucius, who was sent by his mother as a child to live on the northern coast of Africa to shield him from the corruption and violence of Rome. Aidan Monaghan / Paramount Pictures
Lucius is forced into captivity when his home is invaded by General Marcus Acacius and his forces, making him fight in the Colosseum. Aidan Monaghan / Paramount Pictures

As an adult, he gets thrown back into Roman life and into captivity after his home is conquered by General Marcus Acacius (Pedro Pascal) and his forces, who lead Rome with an iron fist.?

Lucius is then made to battle in the Colosseum, where he must fight for the future of the Roman people.

The general invades Lucius’ home. Aidan Monaghan / Paramount Pictures
Lucius must fight for the future of the Roman people against tyrannical leaders. Paramount Pictures
Connie Nielsen returns as Lucilla, Lucius’ mother, in the sequel. Cuba Scott / Paramount Pictures

The trailer also introduces Denzel Washington as Macrinus, who is a wealthy arms dealer entangled in the spectacle of gladiators — and the film’s two main antagonists: twin Emperors Caracalla (Fred Hechinger) and Geta (Joseph Quinn).

Derek Jacobi is reprising his role as Gracchus, while May Calamawy, Lior Raz, Peter Mensah and Matt Lucas round out the star-studded cast.

Denzel Washington is also in the film. Paramount Pictures
Washington plays Macrinus, a wealthy arms dealer entangled in the spectacle of gladiators. Cuba Scott / Paramount Pictures

Scott, 86, returns to direct the follow-up to his award-winning “Gladiator.” And his seasoned team reprise their roles: cinematographer John Mathieson, production designer Arthur Max and costume designer Janty Yates are all back.

The original film won five Oscars and raked in $461 million worldwide, making it the second-highest-grossing film that year.

Ridley Scott returns to direct the follow-up to his award-winning “Gladiator.” Aidan Monaghan / Paramount Pictures

Mescal, 28, reflected on the legacy of “Gladiator” during an interview with “Entertainment Tonight.”?

“It’s an immense honor — it’s not lost on me,” he said. “That film is hugely important to a lot of people across the world. And for the great Ridley Scott to kind of pass the baton on to me is something that, like, my drama school self or even the version of myself that was 15 watching the film for the first time, could never have imagined.”

The “Normal People” actor said he took on the role as Lucius with a “great deal of pride.”

Mescal said he took on the role with a “great deal of pride.” Paramount Pictures

“There was a lot of work that went into it,” he said of his physical transformation. “Lots of lifting heavy things … lots of squatting, pushing, pulling. We didn’t kind of change the wheel with it, it was all kind of pretty standard in that regard, but I was keen for it not to look false or kind of overly aesthetic in any way.”

Pascal, 49, meanwhile, called his co-star “Brick Wall Paul.”

“It’s brutal, man,” he told Vanity Fair. “He got so strong. I would rather be thrown from a building than have to fight him again. To go up against somebody that fit and that talented and that much younger … Outside of Ridley being a total genius, Paul is a big reason as to why I would put my poor body through that experience.”

Fred Hechinger plays Emperor Caracalla in “Gladiator II.” Aidan Monaghan / Paramount Pictures

Mescal said the entire experience overall was a “pivotal” moment for him.

“I think for a lot of us, especially the younger cohort of the cast, we would easily say that it’s a job that changed our lives,” he marveled.

Joseph Quinn plays Emperor Geta in “Gladiator II.” Aidan Monaghan / Paramount Pictures

“We’re kind of waiting with bated breath, but the thing that I keep coming back to is, we’ve done it. We’ve gone and made it and nobody can take that away from us,” Mescal said. “And we had the king that is Ridley Scott at the helm — it’s amazing.”

The “All of Us Strangers” star said the “Roman” nose he hated all his life is also what helped him get the role.

“I think for a lot of us, especially the younger cohort of the cast, we would easily say that it’s a job that changed our lives,” Mescal said. Aidan Monaghan / Paramount Pictures

“My nose just is kind of Roman,” Mescal told Vanity Fair. “So it’s useful in this context. The nose that I absolutely hated when I was in secondary school — and used to get ribbed for — became very, very useful when Ridley needed somebody to be in ‘Gladiator II.'”

“I remember watching it with my dad and being absolutely blown away by it,” he told “ET” of his admiration for the original film.

Mescal went through intense training for the role. Paramount Pictures

“It’s been in the cultural zeitgeist for 20 years, and there’s not a lot of films that have done that, especially in this genre,” he added. “So there’s a healthy amount of pressure but also a healthy amount of confidence from the people that made the film. We are excited to kind of add the next installment to a film that has been and will continue to be incredibly popular.”

“Gladiator II” hits theaters Nov. 22.

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