It’s been more than two decades since the Ridley Scott blockbuster Gladiator became a cultural phenomenon. Now, a long-discussed sequel to the Roman epic, is finally coming to fruition. According to Variety, Gladiator 2 is set for November 22, 2024, and an appropriately insane cast is already taking shape. Paul Mescal was the first name attached, as the lead role, and now it’s being reported that acclaimed character actor Barry Keoghan as well as Denzel Washington are in talks to join as well.
Both Mescal and Keoghan were nominees at the 2023 Academy Awards, Mescal for Best Actor for Aftersun, and Keoghan as a Supporting Actor in The Banshees of Inisherin. Mescal is slated to star in Richard Linklater’s Merrily We Roll Along and Andrew Haigh’s Strangers, and Keoghan is rumored to be reprising his brief cameo as The Joker in the upcoming sequel to 2022’s The Batman, this time in a meatier capacity, and also has a role in Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn.
Washington, Deadline reports, is now also in talks to appear in the next Gladiator. He last worked with Scott in 2007, starring in the Frank Lucas crime biopic American Gangster.
Gangster also starred the OG Gladiator himself, Russell Crowe, as Maximus Decimus Meridius, who rises through the ranks of the Roman gladiator arena to avenge his family’s murder at the hands of the duplicitous Emperor Marcus Aurelius, played by Joaquin Phoenix.
Gladiator was one of the biggest films of the 2000s, winning five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor, and grossing more than $460 million. Rumors about a sequel followed almost immediately.
The new movie has been in the works since at least 2018, when Deadline reported that Scott would be directing a sequel that focuses on Lucius, son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and nephew of Joaquin Phoenix’s villain Commodus. The script was originally going to be written by Peter Craig (The Batman, The Town), but now will reportedly be handled by David Scarpa (The Day the Earth Stood Still, All the Money in the World). Several important behind-the-scenes figures from Gladiator will reportedly return, including cinematographer John Mathieson, production designer Arthur Max and costume designer Janty Yates, all of whom received Oscar nominations for their work (Yates won Best Costume Design).
Mescal will play Lucius, while Keoghan is in talks to star opposite him as the villainous Emperor Geta. Scott, 85, is in a prolific late-career period, having directed four feature films since 2017, with an upcoming historical epic about Napoleon Bonaparte slated for release in 2023.