Paul Mescal on ‘Gladiator II’ and ‘Wicked’ Opening on the Same Day (Exclusive) – Viral News

The first trailer for Gladiator II has finally arrived and it gives fans a true glimpse into Ridley Scott‘s cinematic colosseum over two decades after the first film wowed audiences.

Scott’s long-awaited Gladiator II welcomes a host of famous faces including Paul MescalPedro PascalDenzel Washington, Connie Nielsen, Joseph Quinn, Fred Hechinger and more. The director’s new story in the same universe stars Mescal as Lucius Verus, the nephew of former Emperor Commodus, the patricidal traitor-turned-emperor played by Joaquin Phoenix in the first film. Lucius’ mother, Lucilla (Nielsen), sent him away to grow up in Numidia, a region in the northern coast of Africa, where he starts his own family and resents his mother and the empire.

When the Roman army (led by Pascal’s general Marcus Acacius) attacks, Lucius’ new home is destroyed and he’s captured and brought back to Rome to be a gladiator. The Rome he returns to is corrupt and cruel, led by two “sadistic” co-Emperors (Hechinger and Quinn), and Lucius finds his mother is involved with the very general who just destroyed his way of life in Numidia.

ET spoke with the film’s leading man about the new entry in the film’s iconic franchise, during which Mescal revealed what he’s most excited for fans to experience.

“I think the main thing that I’m excited about is the homage that it pays to the first one, but also the kind of new direction that the film takes,” he shares with ET. “I think it’s well balanced in that regard in terms of the physical action of the film and the balance of the kind of political aspects of the film as well.”

Paul Mescal stars as Lucius Verus in ‘Gladiator II’Paramount Pictures

While the film has plenty of action and battle scenes, it’s fiercest competition will be the highly anticipated film adaptation of the Broadway sensation Wicked, which will also arrive in theaters on Nov. 22, five days ahead of its initial Thanksgiving weekend release date of Nov. 27. 

Helmed by Jon M. Chu, Wicked stars Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo as its two main witches, Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West. The film follows how the duo went from foes to unlikely friends while together on the campus of Shiz University. The adaptation also stars Bridgerton‘s Jonathan Bailey as Fiyero — the love interest who finds himself caught between Elphaba and Glinda — Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh as headmistress Madame Morrible and Jeff Goldblum as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

‘Wicked’Universal

The dual release has already been likened to the rivalry between 2023’s biggest films: Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. Appropriately dubbed as “Barbenheimer,” the movie weekend was the biggest film event of 2023.

Gladiator II and Wicked are proving harder to mesh than Barbie and Oppenheimer, but so far fans have come up with Glicked and Wickdiator

Wickdiator doesn’t really roll off the tongue does it? I think my preference would probably be Glicked if it has a similar effect to what it did for Barbie and Oppenheimer,” Mescal tells ET. “It would be amazing ’cause I think the films couldn’t be more polar opposites and it worked in that context previously. So fingers crossed people come out and see both films on opening weekend.”

In an interview with Vanity Fair published on July 1, Scott shared that he was drawn to Mescal for the role of Lucius after seeing him on Hulu’s limited series, Normal People

“When I watch anything, I tend to be clocking who’s interesting. It’s just in my DNA. And so, watching a TV show that’s not really my kind of TV show almost four years ago, I said, ‘Who’s this guy?'” Scott said of Mescal drawing his attention in the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s 2018 best-selling book

Scott recalled arranging a Zoom with Mescal while the latter was performing A Streetcar Named Desire in London: “I met with him and he said, ‘Of course, I’d love to do it.’ And that was it. We were away and running with the ball. He was a special find. He was absolutely perfect.”

Mescal added that the conversation took “about 20 to 30 minutes.”

“I wanted to get a flavor from him about what the story was going to be about, so we spent about 15 minutes talking about that, and then we spent another 10 minutes talking about the sport that I played growing up — Gaelic football. Maybe that was something that helped with it, in that I’m used to being physical in my body,” he shared, adding that Scott later decided he didn’t need to do a camera test. “My memory of it is that probably two or three weeks later, the offer came in.”

Ridley Scott and Paul Mescal on the set of ‘Gladiator II’Paramount Pictures

Mescal calls his casting “an immense honor,” telling ET that the enormity of the role isn’t lost on him considering the film is “hugely important to a lot of people across the world.”

“And for the great Ridley Scott to pass the baton on to me is something that my drama school self, or even the version of myself that was 15 watching the film for the first time, could never have imagined,” he adds, laughing.

The Oscar-nominated actor stars alongside Washington, who plays a former slave-turned-wealthy arms dealer named Macrinus, Derek Jacobi as Senator Gracchus, Tim McInnerny as Thraex, and Alexander Karim as Ravi, alongside Lior Raz, Peter Mensah, Matt Lucas, May Calamawy and more.

“I am in scenes with the great Denzel Washington and have made great friends with Pedro and Joe and Connie and Fred,” Mescal marvels when talking about his co-stars. “I think for a lot of us, especially the younger cohort of the cast, we would easily say that it’s a job that changed our lives in the filming process and at the precipice of it coming out into the world. We’re kind of waiting with bated breath, but the thing that I keep coming back to is, we’ve done it. We’ve gone and made it and nobody can take that away from us. And we had the king that is Ridley Scott at the helm — like, it’s amazing.”

Paul Mescal and Pedro Pascal as Lucius and Marcus Acacius in ‘Gladiator II’Paramount Pictures

It’s especially a dream come true for Mescal, who confesses that he’s been a fan of the original film since he was a teen. 

“I probably saw it 10 years after the release cause I would’ve been only 4 or 5 when the film came out, and I remember watching it with my Dad and being absolutely blown away by it,” Mescal recalls, adding that Gladiator is a film “a lot of men my age” learn to “quote religiously.”

Noting that the film has been a popular figure in cultural zeitgeist for over 20 years, Mescal adds: “There [are] not a lot of films that have done that, especially in this genre, so there’s a healthy amount of pressure. But [there’s] also a healthy amount of confidence from the people that made the film. We are excited to add the next installment to a film that has been and will continue to be incredibly popular.”

Gladiator II hits theaters on Nov. 22.

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