Irish actor Paul Mescal, who is red-hot on the heels of Aftersun, is nearing a deal to star in Ridley Scott‘s Gladiator sequel, which is heating up at Paramount.
David Scarpa wrote the script, which will find Mescal playing Lucius, who was played in the original film by Spencer Treat Clark. The character was the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and the nephew of Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) in the original film. It was Commodus who killed his father, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, seized his throne, and went head-to-head with Russell Crowe‘s Maximus in the gladiator ring, where both men perished, though Maximus left a strong impression on the young Lucius, who has obviously grown into a man in the sequel, which I imagine takes place 10-15 years later.
Scott will produce the Gladiator sequel under his Scott Free banner along with Michael Pruss, as well as Red Wagon’s Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher. Janty Yates and Arthur Max, who worked on the original film, will return to serve as costume designer and production designer, respectively.
Deadline broke the news, and according to the trade, Universal actually has the right to partner with Paramount on the sequel, having co-produced the first film with DreamWorks, which isn’t involved in the new project. We’ll see whether the studio opts in down the line.
Mescal was one of the first actors to sit down with Scott, and he beat out stiff competition for the lead in the Gladiator sequel, which was understandably chased by every young leading man in Hollywood given how the first film launched Crowe to stardom and also brought the actor an Oscar for Best Actor. Much like Crowe put on a lot of muscle for the role, I imagine that Mescal will look to bulk up, too. He already has the physique of a fighter, and judging by his work in Aftersun and the Hulu series Normal People, which brought him an Emmy nomination, he can carry himself outside of the gladiator ring as well.
The Gladiator sequel has long been a passion project for Scott, who has been developing it for years, though it began building steam in 2018 when Paramount came aboard. Scott began to get serious about the project as he finished up his upcoming Apple TV+ movie Napoleon, which reunites him with Phoenix, who plays the French military leader, and Scarpa delivered a final draft of the script in November. Paramount is high on the project, as the first film grossed $460 million worldwide and was nominated for 12 Oscars, winning five, including Best Picture.
Mescal is currently in contention to land an Oscar nomination for A24’s Aftersun, and he also starred in another A24 movie this year — God’s Creatures, which paired him with Emily Watson. He’ll soon be seen opposite Saoirse Ronan in Garth Davis‘ next movie Foe. Mescal is represented by CAA and the Curtis Brown Group.