Gladiator II Looks Even More Expensive Than It Actually Was (And It Was Insanely Expensive)

The Gladiator II trailer is upon us. Compared to the recent Beverly Hills Cop sequel (40 years since the original, 30 years since the last sequel) and the upcoming Beetlejuice Beetlejuice (36 years since the original), this return to ancient Rome is practically timely. It also has arguably better source material. The original, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, written by David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, was released in 2000, going on to win five Oscars (out of 12 nominations) and was the second-highest grossing film of that year (behind Mission Impossible 2).

Now the ageless Ridley Scott (okay fine, he’s 86) returns to direct Gladiator II, from a script by David Scarpa (Napoleon, All The Money In The World), with Paul Mescal in the lead. God, how refreshing is it to just have a number after the title?

Set to be released November 15th in the U.K. and a week later in the US, the first trailer just hit, clocking in at a supersized 3:09.

Reportedly budgeted at $250-$310 million, Gladiator II stars Mescal as Lucius, whom we learn in a flashback is actually the grown-up version of a character we met in the original— the precocious nephew (played by Spencer Treat Clark, who was 12 at the time and currently still working) of Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus, who also idolizes Russell Crowe’s Maximus. A former heir to the crown, Lucius has since been kidnapped and sold into slavery and is now fighting for his life and freedom in the gladiatorial pits. Life comes at you fast in ancient Rome.

The sequel certainly doesn’t lack for star power. In the role of the mentor, first played by Oliver Reed (who died in Malta while filming the first one, allegedly after challenging a crew of British sailors to a drinking contest, according to David Franzoni, who says he still has the bar tab), we now have Denzel Washington, who’s actually eight years older than Reed was, though you’d never guess it. Washington looks great in guyliner and leopard fur, and the trailer seems to tease an expanded role for his character, compared to Reed’s Proximo in the original.

Pedro Pascal plays Marcus Acacius, a protégé of Maximus who seems to be neither full villain nor hero, based on the trailer. Connie Nielsen reprises her role as Lucius’s mother, though she has apparently been estranged from him for all the intervening years. And of course it wouldn’t be Gladiator without shitty little nepo-boy rulers, in this case Geta and Caracella (based on real guys, brothers who co-ruled Rome from 209-211), played by Joseph Quinn and Fred Hechinger, who was so brilliant as the weird brother in the first season of White Lotus.

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