With Gladiator 2 Ridley Scott’s epic original is about to make its comeback according to sources in Hollywood. After years of speculation, Paramount gave the project the greenlight in 2018. Yet the British film producer and director of films such as ‘Prometheus’ only confirmed the breaking news in November of 2021.
In December 2022, filming was set for May 2023, and this January movie goers learned that the Normal People star Paul Mescal was in negotiations to star in the film.
Paul Mescal to star as Lucius
The 26 year-old Irish actor would not be reprising Russell Crowe‘s role of Maxim, however. Instead, he’d be playing Lucius, the son of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Lucille, sister of the anti-hero Commodus in the original production.
Scott had evidently made the decision long ago to focus the plot for the second film on Lucius’s life, for in 2021 he announced that he had already prepared the script. In a statement to the press, he said it was “a good, logical place to go”.
“There are enough components from the first to pick up the ball and continue,” he also emphasised.
Deadline was the first to reveal that Paramount was on board for the production of Gladiator 2 in 2018. Scott himself waited to confirm to convey his own interest until after filming the historical piece Napoleon.
As for Mescal, he has not yet signed on the dotted line. Nevertheless, reports of the “fantastic meeting” he had with the Blade Runner director seem to verify that he now stands at the top of the line.
The comeback of the film that changed cinematography
In 2000, the surprise box office hit starring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix rocked the cinematic world due to its contemporary approach to cinematography executed by Director of Photography John Mathieson.
“Gladiator was a big step up for me,” he said in an interview with American Cinematographer. “But I’ve been in those situations before. Having a wonderful crew was a great plus. They worked bloody hard and they got things done quickly.”
Scott praised his skills as well when discussing the critical reception they received. “Not all cameramen are artists, but John is” he stated. “He’s also extremely knowledgeable technically, partly because of his background in rock videos and commercials, where he could experiment. If anything, people making rock videos expect you to experiment; otherwise, the band isn’t interested. Each of these three- to four-minute pieces are essays of creativity [set] to music. John had been through a lot of that, and therefore is very inventive”.
One invention was the use of rapid filming techniques that made the battle scenes more visually visceral, and thus more alive, as the Scott noted at the time.
“For instance, I didn’t want to just shoot the battle sequences for Gladiator in a traditional manner,” he explained “so we adopted various styles, which John and I talked about, for the different stages. We used various techniques in terms of cameras and camera speeds.”
As the Hollywood filmmaker put it, “When you’ve got 2,000 soldiers in the field at any one time, and you’re planning to experiment, you’d better make sure you’re right, because you can’t go back and reshoot it. I like the fact that John had been down those [experimental] routes, whereas others, I think, might rather play it safe. John would go for it, and mostly, thank God, he was right.”
A new photographic style
In regards to the photographic style, which also established something new in pictures, the movie maker described it as a modern take.
“If anything, we shot it in a rather modern way. A lot of the battle scenes, of course, were done with handheld cameras. We employed a lot of techniques we learned from videos to enhance the speed and violence of certain sequences,” he remarked.
“When you’re dealing with a bunch of guys wearing muddy skirts and carrying swords and spears and they’re not on horseback and everything is flat it requires a lot of energy to get the footage you need; you have to use a lot of cuts to keep the action moving forward. We worked out a proper strategic battle plan in order to illustrate the formidable might of the Roman military machine.”
The opening scene in particular received accolades, with Entertainment Weekly calling it “a bravura sequence of flaming arrows, falling horses and mortal combat”.
The film hit the big screen on May 5, 2000, and earned $34.8 million its opening weekend. In total, it grossed $272.9 million in North America and $460 million world-wide. It won Best Motion Picture, Drama and Best Original Score at the 58th Golden Globe Awards Ceremony. It also garnered five Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound and Best Costume.
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