A Ripped Paul Mescal Fights a Warrior Riding a Rhino in CinemaCon's Thrilling First Look at “Gladiator 2”

Ahead of the Nov. 22 release of director Ridley Scott's 'Gladiator 2,' CinemaCon got a sneak peek of footage

Taylor Hill/WireImage; Dreamworks/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock  (Left-right:) Paul Mescal; Russell Crowe in "Gladiator"
Taylor Hill/WireImage; Dreamworks/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock (Left-right:) Paul Mescal; Russell Crowe in "Gladiator"

Gladiator 2, starring Paul Mescal and Denzel Washington, is finally stepping into the arena.

At Las Vegas’s CinemaCon 2024 on Thursday, April 11, filmmakers behind the Ridley Scott–directed epic unveiled the first look at the sequel to 2000’s Oscar-winning drama about the Roman empire, which starred Russell Crowe.

An unfinished trailer showed glimpses of Mescal, 28, as Lucius Verus, the nephew of the original film’s villain Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), who grows to idolize deceased gladiator Maximus (Crowe).

Related: Paul Mescal to Play Young William Shakespeare in New Film from Oscar-Winning Nomadland Director

Wearing Roman warrior garb, Mescal takes on a menagerie of foes in various grand arenas. In front of screaming crowds, Mescal fights angry baboons and a massive rhinoceros, the latter ridden by a towering man in armor. (He appears to best the rhino by blowing the arena's sand around him, causing the blinded animal to crash.)

One jaw-dropping moment in the footage involves an arena full of water, with warriors fighting to the death atop giant boats. When one is shot with an arrow and falls into the water, it becomes clear sharks prowl the aquatic arena, ready to feast.

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Denzel Washington in 2022
Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Denzel Washington in 2022

In addition to Mescal, and Washington, 69, who plays a former slave-turned-arms-dealer, the sequel also features Pedro Pascal, Joseph Quinn, Fred Hechinger and May Calamawy. Quinn plays Caracalla and Hechinger plays Geta, both co-emperors.

Reprising their roles in Gladiator and glimpsed in the teased footage are Connie Nielsen as Lucilla, mother to Mescal’s Lucius Verus, and Derek Jacobi as Roman Senator Gracchus.

Related: Russell Crowe Admits He's 'Slightly Jealous' About New 'Gladiator' Movie

A video message from Scott and many of the cast members promised an epic time at the theater, with Washington saying, "This is why people go to the movies."

Gladiator 2 is from distributor Paramount Pictures and screenwriter David Scarpa (of Napoleon, the 2023 historical epic also directed by Scott). As part of their CinemaCon presentation, Paramount also offered glimpses at upcoming movies IF, A Quiet Place: Day One, Transformers One and more.

When Mescal's casting was announced in early 2023, Mescal told The Hollywood Reporter he was "proud" to land the leading role — and that he did so after meeting with Scott, 86, personally, instead of auditioning.

"It's an intimidating feat,” admitted the Normal People star. “It's something I’m nervous about but something I feel like I can do."

He added that "there's a physical robustness required” for leading Gladiator 2. “This guy's got to fight and got to be a beast. And whatever that looks and feels like is right for me, is what it's going to be."

<p>Lionel Hahn/Getty</p> Paul Mescal in 2023

Lionel Hahn/Getty

Paul Mescal in 2023

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In a conversation with Variety, Paramount motion picture co-head Daria Cercek indicated that the reaction Mescal received during the West End revival of A Streetcar Named Desire influenced producers' decision to cast him as Lucius.

Gladiator 2 is in theaters Nov. 22.

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