Denzel Washington to Star in ‘Gladiator’ Sequel with Paul Mescal – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: Almost 16 years ago, Denzel Washington and Ridley Scott wowed audiences with their crime thriller american gangster, and now it looks like the two A-listers are ready to get back together in a big way. Sources tell Deadline that Washington is in final talks to star in Scott’s sequel to his Best Picture Oscar winner Gladiator for Paramount.

Paul Mescal is on board to star opposite Washington, with Scott returning to the director’s chair.

Scott will also produce alongside Scott Free president Michael Pruss as well as Doug Wick & Lucy Fisher via Red Wagon Entertainment. David Scarpa has written the screenplay. Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are executive producers.

Also returning from the original film are costume designer Janty Yates and production designer Arthur Max.

The first film was a co-production between Universal and DreamWorks, and while DreamWorks will not be involved in the sequel, Universal has the right to partner again once the project is wrapped.

Russell Crowe in 2000’s ‘Gladiator’

Everett collection

With Mescal locked into the project, Scott and Paramount Pictures president and CEO Brian Robbins and co-presidents Daria Cercek and Michael Ireland pushed hard to get a star for the other major role in the film and took a shot with Washington, the two -time Oscar wins. When the offer was first presented there, it was unknown whether he would actually do it; Washington is known for his great taste in projects and does not sign up for anything. But after reading the script, sources close to the project said he was excited about the badass role Scott had written with him in mind.

A meeting with Scott soon followed, and after the director made his bid, Washington was almost on board.

The new film follows the blockbuster from 2000 Gladiatorwhich grossed more than $460 million at the worldwide box office and was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning five including Best Picture.

The role of Maximus, the Roman general turned gladiator, was a career changer for Russell Crowe, which not only earned him an Oscar for Best Actor, but also launched him to the top of every chart. When it was made clear last year that the sequel would be Scott’s next film, every male actor in town who fit the profile began chasing the role.

Mescal will not replace Crowe’s Maximus, whose character met his end in the original film. Instead, he plays Lucius, son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), as a grown man, as the story takes place years after the first film ended. Lucius was also the nephew of Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), the son of the Roman leader Marcus Aurelius, who murdered his father and seized the throne. Commodus ended up in the gladiatorial ring with Maximus, who, though mortally wounded, impaled the emperor before disappearing into the great beyond to reunite with his slain wife and son. Maximus saved Lucius and Lucilla while avenging his own family, leaving a strong impression on the young boy.

Washington’s role is being kept secret.

‘American Gangster’


Washington has always had strong ties not only to Ridley but also the Scott family, appearing in several films by Ridley’s late brother Tony before his death in 2012. After working on Tony Scott thrillers such as Crimson Tide and Man on fire, Washington finally teamed up with Ridley Scott in the 2007 crime thriller American gangster (ironically, that film also starred Crowe). It was a box office hit, and for years Washington and Scott have been looking for the next big thing that they could do together.

Washington was last seen in her Oscar-nominated role in Apple and A24’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. He can be seen next in the third Equalizer film for Sony that bows later this year. He is represented by WME.

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