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Paul Mescal in 'Gladiator II' (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures

Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator II’: Release Date, Trailer, Cast and more

Consider us entertained. The first trailer for Gladiator II, the long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic, has finally been unveiled. Set for cinematic release on 14 November 2024, the new instalment in the all-conquering franchise sees Paul Mescal step into the arena, and he’s got some big sandals to fill. The 28-year-old Irish star follows in the famous footsteps of Russell Crowe, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Maximus, the general turned slave who inspired a nation.

Paul Mescal in 'Gladiator II' (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures
Paul Mescal in ‘Gladiator II’ (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures

Plot & Storyline

In Gladiator II, Mescal plays Lucius, son of Lucilla and nephew to Joaquin Phoenix’s brutal villain, Commodus, from the original film. Inspired by the heroics of Maximus some years earlier, the enslaved Lucius vows to exact revenge in the name of justice by defeating Rome’s new overlords, Caracalla and Geta. His efforts to overthrow a vicious utilitarian regime are aided, in part, by slave owner Macrinus, played by screen legend Denzel Washington, but he is hardly a friend.

A cruel and unrelenting power broker, Macrinus’ status pries open a divide in the fabric of the great city, which he uses to leverage his burgeoning trade. Washington’s character has few endearing qualities, and his treatment of the gladiators under his command is reprehensible. Once Pedro Pascal’s foreboding general Marcus Acacius enters the picture, however, things get even worse.

Denzel Washington's Macrinus in 'Gladiator II' (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures
Denzel Washington’s Macrinus in ‘Gladiator II’ (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures

Framed as the story’s true villain, Acacius represents what Rome has become; a once proud land decayed into a rotten wasteland ruled by cruelty and subterfuge. From a viewer’s perspective, there is little doubt that Acacius and Lucius will inevitably lock horns, with the future of Rome almost certainly up for dispute, however, the trailer plays its cards close to the chest.

According to the official synopsis, Gladiator II continues the epic saga of power, intrigue, and vengeance set in Ancient Rome. “Years after witnessing the death of the revered hero Maximus at the hands of his uncle, Lucius (Paul Mescal) is forced to enter the Colosseum after his home is conquered by the tyrannical Emperors who now lead Rome with an iron fist,” it reads. “With rage in his heart and the future of the Empire at stake, Lucius must look to his past to find strength and honour to return the glory of Rome to its people.”

Gladiator II Trailer

The first official trailer for Gladiator II was released on 10 July 2024, giving fans a taste of what to expect. The three-minute clip shows Mescal’s warrior Lucius stepping into the Colosseum for the first time, with a series of incredible battle scenes foreshadowing the inevitable power struggles.

Gladiator II Cast

Sadly, Crowe does not reprise his role in the sequel, which makes sense given the original film’s ending, however, a few familiar faces pop up in the Gladiator II trailer. Connie Nielsen returns to play Lucilla, one of several real-life figures to appear in the otherwise fictional plot. Historically speaking, Lucilla was the daughter of the late emperor Marcus Aurelius and vehemently objected to the desecration of Rome following her father’s death.

In Gladiator II, Lucilla is an ageing mother struggling with the outcomes of choices she made decades earlier. According to the official logline, Lucilla sent Lucius away to Africa in fear of what the Roman army would do to him. Now that he has returned, she battles guilt for abandoning him but also worries about his future.

“There’s a lot of Sophie’s Choice going on here, where these are impossible situations that we are being forced to reckon with,” Nielsen told Vanity Fair. “There is an authoritarian power that is parading as if it were still somehow the vestiges of a Republican government. Inside of this travesty are human beings who are caught in this gamesmanship and power. That is what I find always so interesting in Ridley’s stories. He’s really showing the effect of power on people and what happens in a place where power is unrestrained.”

Connie Nielsen returns as Lucilla in 'Gladiator II' (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures
Connie Nielsen returns as Lucilla in ‘Gladiator II’ (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures

Additionally, newcomers Joseph Quinn (Netflix’s Stranger Things) and Fred Hechinger (The Fear Street Trilogy) make their franchise debuts in Gladiator II as the bumbling emperors Geta and Caracalla. The full Gladiator II cast includes:

  • Paul Mescal as Lucius Verus
  • Pedro Pascal as Marcus Acacius
  • Connie Nielsen as Lucilla
  • Denzel Washington as Macrinus
  • Derek Jacobi as Senator Gracchus
  • Joseph Quinn as Emperor Geta
  • Fred Hechinger as Emperor Caracalla
  • May Calamawy as Unnamed wife of Lucius Verus
  • Tim McInnerny as Thraex
  • Alexander Karim as Ravi
  • Rory McCann as Tegula

While the opening teaser trailer reveals little about the plot points, it does showcase a series of remarkable battle scenes, including one where Lucius faces off against a rhino. In an interview with Vanity Fair, star Pedro Pascal revealed that he found a number of the more rigid and brutal battle scenes difficult to film, purely due to the sheer strength and size of co-star Paul Mescal. The Normal People actor bulked up significantly to play the role of Lucius, earning him the nickname ‘Brick Wall Paul’.

“It’s brutal, man. I call him Brick Wall Paul,” Pascal told Vanity Fair in July. “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.”

Gladiator 2 trailer
Pedro Pascal’s Marcus Acacius in ‘Gladiator II’ (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures

Gladiator II Release Date and Production Updates

The Gladiator II trailer reveal comes after months of disruptions and setbacks for the Ridley Scott-helmed sequel. Filming reportedly began last June; however, the actors’ strike put a halt to proceedings and delayed progress by at least six months. Paramount Pictures has outlined the Gladiator II release date as 14 November in Australia, in line with other major global markets.

Directed and co-produced by Ridley Scott, the upcoming historical epic serves as a direct sequel to the Academy Award-winning smash Gladiator. It stars Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal, Connie Nielsen, May Calamawy and Denzel Washington.

Paul Mescal in 'Gladiator II' (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures
Paul Mescal in ‘Gladiator II’ (2024) | Image: Paramount Pictures