CinemaCon Is Definitely Entertained by ‘Gladiator II’ First Footage

Paul Mescal is the face of the new Roman Empire.

The Oscar-nominated actor leads Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator 2,” the sequel to the Academy Award-winning 2000 film, alongside an impressive cast that includes Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Joseph Quinn, and Connie Nielsen reprising her role from the original film.

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The footage screened at CinemaCon on Thursday was still unfinished, but Paramount debuted five minutes from the film. In it Mescal, who plays the nephew of Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus from the original film, is again a slave fighting in games inside the Colosseum. Quinn is the new Caesar deciding the fate of the warriors with a turn of his thumb, Pascal is a general who is being honored with a series of games, and Washington’s character is mysterious, working from behind the scenes to control the power dynamics of ancient Rome.

In the clip, we saw Mescal in the arena battling feral primates and even a warrior riding a rhino, with Mescal defeating him by tossing sand in the air and diving out of the way of the charging rhino before it collides with the arena wall. At the end we see him in an intense battle with Pescal.

“Gladiator 2” is set 20 years after the events of the first film, with Mescal playing Lucius, the nephew of since-deceased Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) who was killed by Russell Crowe’s Maximus. Lucius is the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and grandson of Marcus Aurelius, and originally played by Spencer Treat Clark in the 2000 feature.

In a taped message to the CinemaCon crowd, Scott said he thinks the new film is “worth the wait” and perhaps even more impressive than the original. Mescal also said that working with Scott on film was one of the “standout moments in my life to date.”

The estimated era for “Gladiator 2” is 200 B.C.E., with Lucius leading the next generation of the ruling Roman family.

The Paramount Pictures sequel is written by Scott’s “Napoleon” screenwriter David Scarpa. Original “Gladiator” collaborators, costume designer Janty Yates and production designer Arthur Max, are returning along with director-producer Scott. Scott Free President Michael Pruss, plus Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher via Red Wagon Entertainment, are also producing.

“Gladiator” Oscar winner Russell Crowe confirmed he is not part of the sequel since his character Maximus died in the original movie.

New “Gladiator” lead and “All of Us Strangers” actor Mescal previously told Esquire that he was “stressed” about “Gladiator 2” since it’s the “biggest” film he’s ever starred in.

“I can’t tell you how stressed I am talking about that film in particular, because it’s definitely the biggest one I’ve done,” Mescal said. “I feel really excited, but, like, it’s difficult to get away from the legacy of the film a bit. I think it’s really well written and it pays homage to the first one, but it’s very much something that I think I can step into and make comfortably my own.”

Mescal also previously told IndieWire, “​I love a blockbuster as much as the next person, but my only point is that we have to be careful about just leaving a bit more space for films like ‘Aftersun’ to break out… I really don’t think I’m snobby about it. It’s actually to do with just being worried that that space [for independent film] is being encroached upon. And if we don’t keep the ecosystem balanced, we’re just gonna have one kind of film.”

“Gladiator 2” premieres November 22 in theaters.

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