Denzel Washington is heading to ancient Rome.
The Oscar winner is in final negotiations to join Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” sequel, an individual with knowledge of the project told IndieWire. He will appear alongside lead star Paul Mescal and rumored co-star Barry Keoghan. Deadline first reported the casting news. This will be Washington’s next role following Antoine Fuqua’s “The Equalizer 3,” a new franchise installment.
“Gladiator 2” will mark Washington’s second collaboration with director-producer Scott 16 years after “American Gangster.” Scott revealed that the sequel to the Oscar-winning 2000 film will take place 20 years later, with Mescal’s role as part of the next generation of the ruling Roman family. The estimated era for the film is the year A.D. 200.
“Aftersun” Oscar nominee Mescal is set to star as lead character 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. Fellow 2023 Oscar nominee Keoghan is also reported to be cast as Emperor Geta.
Mescal recently said he is looking for the character to appear not as bulky as other warrior-type roles.
“With films like this and superhero films, there is sometimes a focus on that, which I don’t find that interesting,” Mescal told The Hollywood Reporter. “Of course, there’s a physical robustness required for the character, but past that, I’m not interested. This guy’s got to fight and got to be a beast. And whatever that looks and feels like is right for me, is what it’s going to be.”
“Gladiator 2” is written by Scott’s “Napoleon” screenwriter David Scarpa. “Top Gun: Maverick” scribe Peter Craig was previously attached as a screenwriter when “Gladiator 2” was still being developed by Paramount; the studio is no longer attached.
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.
“I’m already having [the next] ‘Gladiator’ written now,” Scott told Empire magazine in 2021. “So when I’ve done ‘Napoleon,’ ‘Gladiator’ will be ready to go.”
Scott’s “Napoleon” reunites the director with “Gladiator” alum Phoenix in the titular role of the French period piece.