8 Ways Paul Mescal’s Gladiator 2 Character Is Copying Russell Crowe’s Maximus


  • Lucius pays homage to Maximus by utilizing tactics like throwing dirt and leading other gladiators in battle.
  • Lucius seeks revenge against the Roman Empire, mirroring Maximus’ disdain for the emperors’ corruption.
  • Lucius, like Maximus, faces powerful adversaries, emphasizing other similarities between the two characters.

It is clear based on the information revealed ahead of the movie’s premiere that Paul Mescal’s Lucius in Gladiator 2 is heavily inspired by Russell Crowe’s Maximus. In Ridley Scott’s Best Picture-winning historical fiction epic, Lucius (played as a child by Spencer Treat Clark) looks up to Maximus and is moved by his victories in the Colosseum. Now — decades later in both the story and the real world — Lucius finds himself on the same path as Maximus that leads him back to the Colosseum and facing off against some of the most powerful people in Rome.

It has already been remarked that Mescal’s gladiator costume pays homage to Maximus, and that his goals of revenge mirror his predecessor’s. While Maximus was after the Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), Lucius’ primary target seems to be the Roman general Marcus Acacius (Pedro Pascal). New characters such as Denzel Washington’s Macrinus suggest additional parallels, while Connie Nielsen’s Lucilla — apparently the only member of Gladiator’s cast to return — will also prompt references to the original story. As Gladiator 2‘s release date draws closer, the handling of Maximus’ legacy through Lucius’ story becomes of greater interest.

8 Lucius Tosses Dirt Into His Opponent’s Face In The Gladiator 2 Trailer

Lucius’ Tactic Is A Homage To One Of Maximus’ Habits


The first Gladiator 2 trailer shows Lucius taking on an opponent by throwing dirt in their face to temporarily blind them, also making for an interesting callback to Gladiator. Lucius’ act can be interpreted as a homage to Maximus’ ritual of grabbing a handful of dirt from wherever he is and smelling it before every battle. Before each fight, Maximus possibly smells the dirt because it reminds him of his home and his work as a farmer. In Lucius’ case, it is a practical matter, but also possibly an emotional practice.

Aside from tossing the dirt into the face of a rhino, stills also show Lucius rubbing dirt into his hands. This might be another coincidentally similar personal ritual Lucius has taken up, alluding to some of the themes of the first movie that will likely carry over to the second. In Gladiator, Maximus tells Quintus (Tomas Arana): “Dirt cleans off a lot easier than blood.” If earth is representative of a simpler life away from warfare, Lucius might also be using it as a grounding technique before another bloody battle.

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7 Paul Mescal’s Lucius Goes From Slave To Gladiator, Just Like Maximus

After Loosing Everything, Lucius & Maximus Become Powerful Again As Gladiators


Gladiator leans into the themes of the power in the mob — “Rome is the mob,” multiple characters say — and how true influence comes from entertainment. The Roman public is enthralled by the gladiator who openly insults the emperor, proving that he is not untouchable. After losing everything, Maximus is just another slave who will likely die in one arena or another for others’ entertainment. However, he regains his acclaim and grasps a new kind of power through becoming a successful gladiator, thanks to his previous combat experience.

Likewise, Gladiator 2 sets Lucius up to have a parallel arc of nobleman to slave to adored gladiator. At the beginning of the movie, Lucius is living peacefully in a territory outside the Roman Empire with his family. However, a Roman invasion decimates his home and results in him being captured. After this, he works his way up through the ranks again until he is the top gladiator in Rome.

6 Denzel Washington’s Gladiator 2 Character Takes The Proximo Role

Macrinus Seems To Fulfill The Same Narrative Role As Proximo


After the attempt on his life and failing to reach home in time to save his family, Maximus is captured and sold into slavery. He is bought by businessman Proximo (Oliver Reed), who brutally trains gladiators and profits off the entertainment they provide to the Roman Empire. Proximo inhabits a weird position in Gladiator‘s story because, despite these circumstances, he forms a kind of alliance with Maximus. The narrative draws parallels between Proximo and Maximus because Proximo was also once a very popular gladiator, who was freed by Maximus’ close friend and father figure, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris).

However, Macrinus’ aspirations are perhaps even bigger than Proximo’s plans.

However, Proximo is hardly a moral figure, who puts many people through horrific experiences and hesitates to help Maximus overthrow Commodus because he is profiting from Commodus’ regime. All of these facets of Proximo’s character seem to have been passed on to the new figure of Macrinus. Macrinus is making a fortune the same way as Proximo: by buying potential gladiators and putting them through brutal training. Macrinus also appears to be Lucius’ ally, or at least someone Lucius is bargaining with, based on the instance from the Gladiator 2 trailer when Macrinus asks who Lucius wants dead.

However, Macrinus’ aspirations are perhaps even bigger than Proximo’s plans. Macrinus is apparently looking for ways to use his wealth and influence against the ruling brothers Emperor Geta (Joseph Quinn) and Emperor Caracalla (Fred Hechinger); Proximo doesn’t act to directly undermine Commodus until the last minute, and is killed shortly after. Gladiator 2 is hopefully building upon the character archetype established by Proximo through Macrinus, showcasing even more complicated economic and political dealings.

5 Lucius Instructing The Other Gladiators During Battle

Maximus Also Commands Other Gladiators In The Colosseum


In Gladiator‘s first action sequence that takes place in the Colosseum itself, Maximus quickly and deftly assumes command of the other gladiators surrounding him. He tells them all that they stand a better chance of survival if they work together. Maximus shouts commands at the others as they take on their opponents, and surprise everyone by winning the battle easily and technically ruining the historical reenactment (they were supposed to be reenacting a battle where they were playing the losing side). For the rest of the movie, the other gladiators look to Maximus as their leader and unofficial commander.

Likewise, the Gladiator 2 trailer shows Lucius commanding other gladiators, also in the context of trying to survive whatever is thrown at them in the Colosseum. This includes some scenarios that did not make their way into the first Gladiator movie, such as the Colosseum’s famous ability to be filled with water for naval battles. Thematically speaking, Gladiator 2 will probably also focus on Lucius becoming a leader among the gladiators and a symbol among the Roman people of how the empire could improve itself.

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4 Lucius Has A Personal Vendetta Against The Roman Empire

Lucius & Maximus Both Believe The Roman Empire Is Deeply Corrupt


Both Lucius and Maximus are on quests for revenge that are contextualized by broader anger towards the Roman Empire itself. In Gladiator, Marcus Aurelius names Maximus as his successor, at least until the senate rules again and the corruption in Rome has been resolved. However, Commodus refuses to accept this and kills his father, and orders Maximus to also be killed. Commodus then spurs forward the very vision of Rome that his father was trying to combat, based on bloody spectacle and the absolute power of the emperor. Commodus also plans to disband the senate.

Both Lucius and Maximus are on quests for revenge that are contextualized by broader anger towards the Roman Empire itself.

Maximus wants Commodus dead for personal reasons, but he also wants to end Commodus’ reign of terror. Meanwhile, Lucius seems to simply hate Rome itself even more than Maximus, who served Rome as a loyal general for years. After Acacius launches his devastating attack, Lucius says he wants the head of every soldier in the Roman army — but that he will settle for the general’s. His hatred extends to the spoiled brothers who are currently ruling the empire.

However, it has been revealed that Lucius’ straightforward plans for revenge and distaste for the empire in general will evolve into him questioning whether Rome could be better under better leadership. This, in essence, is the same character arc Maximus undergoes. When he first arrives in Rome, Maximus wants nothing to do with politics or helping Rome anymore, but is soon swayed by Lucilla and others. However, Lucius will find himself dealing with two emperors, as well as a skilled general.

3 Lucius Does Not Know If He Can Trust Lucilla

Maximus Is Initially Hostile Towards Lucilla Upon Arriving In Rome


Maximus and Lucilla’s first scene together in Gladiator is characterized by a polite coolness. It is implied that Maximus understands Lucilla is adept at political scheming and might not always be telling the truth, as she does what she must to protect herself and her son. When they meet again in Rome, Maximus is much more confrontational, as he does not know what part she has played in Commodus’ rise to power. Despite her insistence that she is terrified of her brother, Maximus casts her off, as well as her offer to introduce him to a possible ally.

Maximus and Lucilla become allies again later. However, her persona as a politician who cannot be fully trusted will also play into Lucius’ story. Lucius already resents his mother for sending him away from Rome, and when he returns, she is in a relationship with the very general he wants dead. Lucius and Lucilla are likely to have a complicated dynamic when the story has positioned them on opposite sides, meaning that it will take time for them to become allies again — if they do at all.

2 Lucius (Most Likely) Loses His Family Like Maximus

Lucius Has A Family Who Disappear From Gladiator 2’s Plot Early On


Plot information that has recently been revealed mentions that Lucius has a wife and child when he is living outside the Roman Empire, who seemingly disappear from the story once Lucius is on his way to becoming a gladiator. The most likely scenario is that they are killed in the opening battle, when Acacius launches his invasion. This would further motivate Lucius to destroy everyone in Rome, not just for upending his life but for killing his family; it would also draw another hard-to-miss parallel between him and Maximus.

Like Lucius, Maximus is married and has one child at the beginning of his story. Unlike Lucius, he has been away from them for years as he leads one of Rome’s campaigns. Maximus primarily wants Commodus dead to avenge his family’s deaths; everything else is secondary. As far as the story and family structures are concerned, this is one of the most obvious similarities between Lucius and Maximus.

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1 Lucius Fights Acacius In The Colosseum, Like Maximus Fighting Commodus

The Gladiator Movies Always See Powerful People Fighting In The Colosseum


Gladiator is not strictly historically accurate in many ways, and Gladiator 2 will likely be the same. Gladiator shows that many of the gladiators were slaves forced into combat. However, in Roman history, many free men also volunteered for a chance at glory (via history.com). Even then, combatants from the upper classes were rarer. Essentially, it would have been extremely rare for an emperor like Commodus or a decorated general like Acacius to actually fight in the Colosseum. The real Commodus did take to gladiatorial combat, although it was likely under controlled conditions.

The Gladiator movies would have audiences believe that powerful men like this were drawn into the arena by personal rivalries. Gladiator suggests that the story behind the emperor becoming a gladiator was that he personally wanted Maximus dead. Gladiator 2 seems to be on the same trajectory, with Acacius deciding that he needs to kill Lucius himself. Gladiator is speculative historical fiction, which proposes different ways forgotten people like Lucius and Maximus might have had the power to change the course of history.

Gladiator II 2024 New Film Poster Gladiator II Not Yet RatedActionDramaEpicHistoryAdventure

Gladiator 2 is the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s award-winning film Gladiator from 2000. Scott returns to direct the sequel, with Paul Mescal staring as Lucius, alongside Denzel Washington and Barry Keoghan as the villain Emperor Geta. Gladiator 2 had been stuck in development hell for years before a script written by David Scarpa finally moved forward.

Director Ridley Scott Release Date November 22, 2024 Studio(s) Paramount Pictures , Universal Pictures , Scott Free Productions , Red Wagon Entertainment Writers David Scarpa Cast Paul Mescal , Denzel Washington , Connie Nielsen , Derek Jacobi , Joseph Quinn , Fred Hechinger , Pedro Pascal prequel(s) Gladiator Expand

Source: Vanity Fair (Gladiator 2 plot details), history.com

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