Paul Mescal is already an Oscar-nominated actor with a diehard fanbase thanks to his roles in “Normal People,” “Aftersun,” “All of Us Strangers” and more, but his fame is surely going to explode this fall when Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator 2” opens in theaters. Mescal is headlining the sequel opposite a heavyweight supporting cast that includes Pedro Pascal and Denzel Washington. The original “Gladiator” made Russell Crowe one of the world’s most famous actors and won him the Oscar for best actor. Is Mescal ready for such worldwide attention?
“I don’t know what the difference will be,” Mescal recently told The Times UK when the prospect of his fame growing even bigger due to the sequel came up. “Maybe that’s naive? Is it just that more people will stop you in the street? I’d get profoundly depressed if that’s so and hope it isn’t true. I’ll have an answer next year, but if [the film] impacts my life in that way, I’ll be in a bad spot. I’d have to move on and do an obtuse play nobody wants to see.”
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Mescal told the publication he takes acting “very seriously” and is not in this profession for the clout, which is why he’s baffled that metrics like social media followers now plays a role in casting.
“What are we doing this for?” he said. “It scares me greatly. Acting should never be reduced to numbers of Instagram followers.”
“Over the last few years people have been talking about films and TV shows as content,” Mescal added. “That’s a filthy word. It’s not ‘content’, it’s fucking work. I’m not being snobby, but there are two concurrent industries. One that works with a lack of care and artistic integrity. Go nuts, make stuff with Instagram followers as a factor, whatever … But the other is what’s always been there, the craft of film-making, directing, lighting and production design. That keeps artists alive. And audiences want to be challenged.”
Mescal said in an interview with Esquire UK last year before the SAG-AFTRA strike that he never reached out to Crowe to discuss the “Gladiator” sequel since its storyline does not involve Crowe’s Maximus, who died at the end of the first film. Scott’s sequel stars Mescal as Lucius, the nephew of Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix in “Gladiator”).
“I don’t know what we would talk about,” Mescal said of never reaching out to Crowe. “Like, I’d love to hear his stories from filming, but the character is, like, totally separate.”
It would appear that Crowe never expected Mescal to contact him either. Crowe repeatedly said that neither Scott nor anyone involved with “Gladiator 2” reached out to him since the sequel has nothing to do with the character he played in the 2000 original. At the Karlovy Film Festival last July, Crowe even urged the press to stop asking him about the “Gladiator” sequel.
“They should be fucking paying me for the amount of questions I am asked about a film I am not even in,” Crowe said. “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.”
Paramount Pictures is set to open “Gladiator 2” in theaters Nov. 22, 2024.
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