Denzel Washington joins Gladiator sequel

Washington joins Paul Mescal and Barry Keoghan more than a decade after first collaborating with Ridley Scott on “American Gangster.”

Denzel Washington is heading to ancient Rome.

The Oscar winner is in final talks to join Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” sequel, a person familiar with the project told IndieWire. She will appear alongside lead actor Paul Mescal and rumored co-star Barry Keoghan. Deadline first reported the casting news. This will be Washington’s next role after Antoine Fuqua’s new installment in the franchise, “The Equalizer 3.”

Gladiator 2 will be Washington’s second collaboration with director-producer Scott, 16 years after American Gangster. Scott revealed that the sequel to the 2000 Oscar-winning film will be set 20 years later, with Mescal as a member of the next generation of the ruling Roman family. The estimated era of the film is 200 AD.

“Aftersun” Oscar nominee Mescal will star as Lucius, the nephew of the since-deceased Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), who was killed by Russell Crowe’s Maximus. Lucius is the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and the grandson of Marcus Aurelius. 2023 Oscar nominee Keoghan is also reportedly set to play Emperor Geta.

Mescal recently said that he was looking for the character to not look as bulky as other warrior-type roles.

“With movies like this and superhero movies, sometimes there’s an emphasis on that, which I don’t find so interesting,” Mescal told The Hollywood Reporter. “Of course, the character needs physical robustness, but beyond that I’m not interested anymore. This guy needs to fight and be a beast. And whatever looks and feels right for me, will be.”

“Gladiator 2” was written by Scott’s “Napoleon” screenwriter David Scarpa. “Top Gun: Maverick” scribe Peter Craig previously worked as a screenwriter when “Gladiator 2” was still in development at Paramount; the studio is no longer attached.

Original Gladiator collaborators costume designer Janty Yates and production designer Arthur Max return along with director-producer Scott. Scott Free President, Michael Pruss, and Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher are also producing through Red Wagon Entertainment.

“I’m already writing (the next) ‘Gladiator,'” Scott said Empire magazine in 2021. “So when I get Napoleon done, Gladiator is ready to go.”

Scott’s “Napoleon” reunites the director with “Gladiator” alum Phoenix in the title role of the French period piece.

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