Back in 2000, Gladiator had a game-changing impact on Russell Crowe's career, landing him a Best Actor Oscar and sending him to the top of every leading man hunt going on in Hollywood. But beyond just the acclaim for Crowe's own performances, the Ridley Scott flick itself took home the year's Best Picture prize.
Over two decades later and years into the age of legacy sequels, especially following the success of Top Gun: Maverick, Scott is finally setting the course for his long-discussed and rumored Gladiator sequel. Recent reports confirmed the search for a lead is on with plans to film as soon as this summer.
Now, that leading man has been founded to replace Crowe - following the death of his character in Gladiator - and one MCU star has unfortunately lost out.
MCU Actor Loses Gladiator 2 Starring Role
Deadline broke the news that Normal People's Paul Mescal is in talks to play the lead in Ridley Scott's Gladiator 2 - the sequel to his 2000 historical epic that starred Russel Crowe as the Roman general-turned-Gladiator Maximus. Following the death of Crowe's Maximus, Mescal will play the grown-up Lucius Verus - whose thirteen-year-old counterpart was played by Spencer Treat Clark.
The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit followed the news by naming several other stars who were either pursuing the part or being pursued for the role in a process that included meetings and auditions. Among that group was Richard Madden - who played Ikaris in Eternals - along with Top Gun: Maverick's Miles Teller, Elvis' Austin Butler, and Dune's Timothée Chalamet.
Deadline added in its report that Scott delivered the final draft in November, which was quickly followed by meetings for the role, which actually started with Mescal. Despite the director continuing to meet with other actors, seemingly including Eternals' Madden, the Normal People star continued to be the top choice.
Justin Kroll - the writer behind the original Deadline report - responded to Borys Kit's sharing of other considered actors on Twitter. He noted that Butler did not meet with Scott as he was looking to take a break from acting after just shooting three movies - including Dune: Part Two - back-to-back.
Kroll added that the decision ultimately came between Mescal, Teller, and Chalamet - making no mention of Madden, indicating he didn't make it very far in the casting process. Mescal ultimately landed the role as Scott was searching for an actor yet to become a major star, which the others clearly already have.
Gladiator 2 Strives for Awards Success
The actors listed as either pursuing or being pursued to play Gladiator 2's adult Lucius range wildly in age, body type, and nationality, but the entire list has plenty of talent and acclaim already behind them. Paul Mescal comes as the youngest of the bunch at just 26, while Richard Madden stands the oldest at 36.
Gladiator took home both the Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars in 2001 and continues to be regarded as one of the greatest movies of this generation. Ridley Scott will be hoping to replicate that success as he takes his second dip into the legacy sequel trend after executive-producing Blade Runner 2099.
Following the success of the 2000 blockbuster will undeniably be a tough task for Scott as he aims to bring his Roman world up to modern visual standards. Beyond just that, Mescal will have no easy job in living up to Russell Crowe's award-winning performance which continues to be discussed to this day.
Nonetheless, the Irish star certainly has the talent to pull it off, having already taken home a BAFTA award for Best Leading Actor in Normal People. This will certainly have led to immense disappointment for plenty of actors in Hollywood based on how sought-after this role appears to have been.
With regard to Madden, he looks to have reached something of a stand-still at the moment after his Russo Brother-created series Citadel wrapped production in June 2022. As of now, he has no projects publically on the cards, and Ikaris was already killed off in Eternals - but there are several ways he could still return to the MCU.
Gladiator 2 has yet to set an official release date, although the casting of a lead actor indicates development is heating up. Some reports have previously claimed Scott may be eyeing to begin production in May, likely for a 2024 or 2025 release.