Crowe played the Roman hero in the 2000 original film, but his fate for the forthcoming follow-up remains a mystery.
Seeing as Crowe's Maximus perished to close Ridley Scott's Gladiator, Gladiator 2 will focus on a new cast of characters starring the likes of Paul Mescal, Denzel Washington, Joseph Quinn, and Pedro Pascal.
Is Russell Crowe In Gladiator 2?
At the time of writing, there is no official confirmation of Russell Crowe appearing in Gladiator 2.
That has not stopped the speculation machine from roaring to life though.
Despite Crowe's Maximus succumbing to his wounds following a fierce battle with Joaquin Phoenix's Commodus to end the first movie, rumors have been swirling about the actor having a potential role in the sequel.
According to Crowe (via Variety), he is not part of the Gladiator 2 cast and has "nothing to do with [the movie]:"
"They should be fucking paying me for the amount of questions I am asked about a film I am not even in. It has nothing to do with me. In that world, I am dead. Six feet under. But I do admit to a certain tinge of jealousy, because it reminds me of when I was younger and what it meant for me, in my life."
Despite these sorts of comments, Crowe was seen in Malta during production, seemingly taking in the sights amid filming.
He told Deadline that visiting the Gladiator 2 set felt like "a time warp" but offered nothing in terms of his potential role:
"I looked across to Fort Ricasoli, and the Colosseum’s been built there again, just like it was in 1999. I tell you, man, it was like a time warp — for a couple of seconds there, I was like, 'What year is this? Where are we?' I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting that they would rebuild the Colosseum in the exact same place."
There is always the possibility Crowe was on set for a cameo in the film, but it seems more likely he was there on set as an honorary member of the Gladiator legacy.
Russell Crowe's Gladiator 2 That Never Happened
At one point, Crowe was set to return in a potential Gladiator 2, but a lot has changed since then.
Whispers of the sequel first started to permeate in 2003, with director Ridley Scott and Crowe supposedly set to return to the Roman world.
The follow-up was reportedly going to focus on Maximus' secret son Lucius and could have featured supernatural elements to bring Crowe's fallen hero back from the dead.
This early purgatory-focused draft of Gladiator 2 was penned by musician Nick Cave but came from a pitch from Ridley Scott himself.
In a 2023 appearance on the ReelBlend Podcast, Scott described the movie which would have "[brought Maximus] back through a portal" to "the real world," traversing the realm of the Roman gods as well as a true-to-life ancient Rome:
"Nick Cave wrote the script, but I had the idea. I knew how to bring him back through a portal, back to the real world. I'm not going tell you what it is, because somebody will steal it... I talked to Nick every other day for about a month as he was writing it. And so I said, 'We can bring him back this way.' And what I want to do is start the film in Styx, on the edge of the ocean, and you see him, this warrior, wandering in armor. Then, it’s Maximus wandering, looking for where he's going to go next. That's Scene One."
This version of the Gladiator 2 story was scrapped following the shuttering of Dreamworks Pictures' live-action film division in 2006 and the studio's live-action IP being sold to Paramount.
It would end up being more than ten years before the sequel would be publicly talked about again.
The film was picked back up in 2019, with Scott on board as director and David Scarpa penning a script that was seemingly void of Russell Crowe's Maximus.
This was the draft of the sequel that would eventually get in front of cameras in 2023, with Paul Mescal set to star as Lucius Verus, the son of Roman Empress Lucilla and Lucius Verus and the nephew of Gladiator villain Roman Emperor Commodus.
Fans will likely have to wait until Gladiator 2 makes its way into theaters to get official confirmation whether Crowe is in the movie or not.
Gladiator 2 is set to hit theaters on November 22.