Paul Mescal transformed as he’s seen fighting for his life in Gladiator II trailer

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Paul Mescal is transformed in his latest role as a Roman warrior fighting for his life, in Gladiator II, the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning film.

Coming 24 years after the first movie, the official trailer for the sequel reveals footage of deadly sword fights and a rampaging rhinoceros in the Roman Colosseum in front of tens of thousands of blood-hungry spectators.

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(R-L) Mescal and Pedro Pascal fight it out. Pic: Paramount Pictures

It’s a world away from Mescal‘s breakout role playing Connell Waldron in Sally Rooney’s hit romantic drama Normal People, which launched him to stardom in 2020.

Playing Gaelic football in his youth, Mescal previously told Vanity Fair he trained for the film with his fight choreography in mind, wanting to avoid his body looking “more like an underwear model than a warrior”.

His co-star, Pedro Pascal is even said to have given the 28-year-old Irish actor the nickname “Brick wall Paul” thanks to his bulked-up appearance.

Set in ancient Rome, the movie follows the life of Lucius Verus, played by Mescal, a child character in the original movie, who saw his life saved by Maximus Decimus Meridius, played in the original by Russell Crowe.

The trailer begins with a bloodied Mescal, fresh from a fight, saying: “I remember that day. I never forgot it. That a slave could take revenge against an emperor.”

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The fast-moving three-minute video is set against the hip-hop track No Church In The Wild by Kanye West, showing us bloody and violent Rome where life is cheap.

West’s line, “Tears on the mausoleum floor, blood stains the Colosseum doors” ring out, as the camera soars above the epic amphitheatre in the heart of Rome.

Clearly a top choice for the role of the former heir to the empire, Mescal has said Scott offered him the role after an informal meeting of around half an hour.

The story begins with Lucius living with his wife and child in Numidia, North Africa, where his mother Lucilla sent him following the action of the first film.

He’s then brought to Rome as a prisoner and put to fight in the arena.

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Pic: Paramount Pictures

Other cast include The Last Of Us star Pascal plays Roman general Marcus Acacius, a fighter who trained under the watch of Maximus, and Denzel Washington, as rich tradesman Macrinus, who has made his fortune selling supplies to the armies of Europe.

In the trailer, Macrinus tells Lucius he intends to make him his “instrument”, adding “rage is your gift”.

Twin brothers, played by Fred Hechinger and Joseph Quinn, are the capricious emperors leading a brutal and corrupt Rome.

The trailer ends with a fierce sword battle between Mescal and Pascal, with Mescal bringing his two swords together on either side of Pascal’s neck, and the camera cutting away at the very last moment.

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Connie Nielsen. Pic: Paramount Pictures

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Denzel Washington. Pic: Paramount Pictures

Tim McInnerny, aka Darling from Blackadder Goes Forth, also features in the film, as do Connie Nielsen and Sir Derek Jacobi, who reprise their original roles nearly a quarter of a decade on.

Crowe, who won an Oscar for his performance in the 2000 film, does not return for the sequel.

When asked how he felt about the new movie, Crowe told Sky News in June: “I feel old. That’s how I feel about it,” he says. “That period of my life, you know, was a huge change. Everything just went kind of crazy for a while.

“I do have extremely fond memories of it. And, to be completely honest, there’s a tinge of jealousy because I certainly wish I was back at being, you know, 35, 36, in a certain way, so I could have that kind of experience again.”

Gladiator II comes to UK cinemas in November.

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