Russell Crowe’s Gladiator Replacement Has Been Chosen

The Emmy-nominated Paul Mescal will be the lead of the upcoming Gladiator 2.

By Michileen Martin | Updated

russell crowe gladiator
Paul Mescal, who will play the lead in Gladiator 2

It’s been a little over two decades since Russell Crowe won his Best Actor Oscar for Gladiator, and now the long-awaited follow-up is finally on the way. Deadline reports that director Ridley Scott, who also helmed the original film, has tapped 26-year-old Paul Mescal to lead Gladiator 2.

Rather than replacing Russell Crowe as Maximus in Gladiator 2, Mescal will instead play Lucius; in the first film Lucius, played by Spencer Treat Clark, is the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and nephew of the unstable Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). When Maximus dies at the end of Gladiator, the young Lucius is the first character to volunteer to help the senator Gracchus (Derek Jacobi) carry the fallen general’s body.

Except for the fact that Paul Mescal will be playing Lucius, most of the plot remains under wraps about Gladiator 2. Deadline did note that part of the reason for the specific timing of choosing Russell Crowe’s Gladiator replacement was that the final draft of the sequel’s script had been delivered.

Paul Mescal is so far the only cast member of Gladiator 2 we know about. With the de-aging technology available, Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix could potentially reprise their Gladiator roles in flashback scenes. Otherwise, many of the stars of the first film either have passed away in real life, their characters died in the first film, or both.

russell crowe gladiator
Connie Nielsen in Gladiator (2000)

Connie Nielsen is perhaps one of the more likely candidates to make a return, considering that in the first film, as Lucilla, she plays the mother of Gladiator 2‘s hero. In the first film, the scheming Commodus uses Lucius against Lucilla, dropping subtle threats about the boy to keep his sister in line. Regardless, she proves to be a love interest to Russell Crowe’s gladiator hero and helps to orchestrate her brother’s eventual downfall.

Also still around is Derek Jacobi, who played the Roman senator Gracchus: Commodus’ biggest political enemy. Djimon Hounsou, who plays Maximus’ arena comrade Juba, is still very active. Most recently, he appeared as the Wizard in 2022’s Black Adam.

It will be interesting to see exactly what kind of story Ridley Scott has in store for Gladiator 2. Lucius is clearly shown to idolize Maximus in the first film, but he’s also a child of royalty and wealth. Will his character follow Russell Crowe’s Gladiator path to find the arena his only choice after being betrayed, or does Scott have some new way to turn the hero into a master at bloodsport?

Believe it or not, Russell Crowe originally wanted Maximus to come back to life for Gladiator 2, and he hired singer/songwriter Nick Cave to make it happen. Cave reportedly delivered one of the most beautifully insane scripts ever written. Cave’s Gladiator 2 would’ve — among other things — had Maximus resurrected by the Greco-Roman gods to be used as an assassin against another Greco-Roman god, cursed with immortality, and forced to fight in every single military conflict in history up to and including the Vietnam War.