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Pedro Pascal, Paul Mescal face off in the arena in Vanity Fair first look at Gladiator II

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Vanity Fair just published an extensive first look at the anticipated sequel to Ridley Scott‘s Oscar-winning epic Gladiator II, complete with a dramatic photo of leads Paul Mescal and Pedro Pascal going mano a mano in the Colosseum.

Mescal plays Lucius, the now-grown son of Connie Nielsen‘s character, Lucilla, from the first film. The actress reprises in the November release. According to the magazine, in the years since Russell Crowe‘s Maximus gave his life to try to save the Roman republic, Lucilla sent Lucius to the northern coast of Africa, out of the reach of the Roman Empire.

He grows up resenting his mother for it.

Years later, the Romans decimate that region, Numidia, and he is enslaved. “The wrinkle is, when he gets to Rome … and has a first round in the arena, he sees his mother … in the royal box looking pretty good after 20 years. And she’s with the general who he came face-to-face with … in Numidia.”

That general is Pascal’s Marcus Acacius, a brutal general who trained under Crowe’s Maximus.

The arena face-off was intimidating for Pascal in real life. “He got so strong,” Pascal says of Mescal. “I would rather be thrown from a building than have to fight him again.”

The movie also features two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington as a wealthy arms dealer called Macrinus. “[H]e has a stable of gladiators,” Scott says. “He’s beautiful. He drives a golden Ferrari. I got him a gold-plated chariot.”

Scott mined “familiar” ground with today’s politics for his film, thanks to Rome’s sadistic sibling rulers: Joseph Quinn‘s Emperor Geta and Fred Hechinger‘s Emperor Caracalla.

“The people who are in charge are out of their minds, and everyone is too afraid to contradict,” Scott says. “That’s familiar ground right now.”

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