Unique: It’s been almost 16 years since Denzel Washington and Ridley Scott charmed audiences with their hit crime drama American Gangster, And now it looks like the two A-listers are ready to get back together in a big way. Sources tell Deadline that Washington is in final talks to co-star in the sequel to Scott’s Oscar Best Picture winner the Gladiator for Paramount.
Paul Mescal is on board to star opposite Washington, with Scott returning to the director’s chair.
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Scott will also produce through Red Wagon Entertainment with Scott Free president Michael Prause as well as Doug Vick and Lucy Fisher. David Scarpa wrote the screenplay. Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are executive producers.
Also returning from the original film are costume designer Jaunty Yates and production designer Arthur Max.
The first film was a co-production between Universal and DreamWorks, and while DreamWorks will not be involved in the sequel, Universal has the rights to partner again if the project is packaged.
Once Mescal was turned off for the projectScott and Paramount Pictures President and CEO Brian Robbins and co-presidents Daria Sercek and Michael Ireland scouted hard for a star to play the other lead in the film and took a shot with two-time Oscar winner Washington. When the proposal was first presented there it was unknown whether he would actually do so; Washington is known for his great taste in projects and doesn’t just sign up for anything. But after reading the script, sources close to the project said he was excited to take on the bad-ass role of Scott, which he had written in mind.
A meeting with Scott soon followed, and after the director delivered his pitch, Washington was fully on board.
New film follows 2000 blockbuster the GladiatorIt grossed over $460 million at the worldwide box office and was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning five including Best Picture.
The role of Maximus, the Roman general turned gladiator, was a career-changer for Russell Crowe, not only earning him a Best Actor Oscar but launching him to the top of every leading-man list. Once it was clear last year that a sequel would be Scott’s next film, every male actor in town who fit the profile went hunting for the part.
Mescal will not be replacing Crowe’s Maximus, whose character met his end in the original film. Instead he plays Lucius, the son of Lucilla (connie nielsen), as an older man, the story takes place years after the first film ends. Lucius was also a nephew of Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), son of the Roman leader Marcus Aurelius who murdered his father and usurped the throne. Commodus enters the gladiator ring with Maximus, though mortally wounded, skewering the emperor before vanishing into the great beyond to reunite with his slain wife and son. Maximus rescues Lucius and Lucilla, avenging his own family, and makes a strong impression on the young boy.
Washington’s role is being kept secret.
Washington has always had a strong relationship not only with Ridley but with the Scott family as well, starring in several of his films before the death of Ridley’s late brother Tony in 2012. after working on the Tony Scott thriller like Crimson Tide And Jwala Man, Washington finally teamed up with Ridley Scott in the 2007 crime thriller American Gangster (Ironically, Crowe was also in that film). It was a box office hit, and for years Washington and Scott were looking for the next big thing to team up on.
Washington was last seen in an Oscar-nominated role in Apple and A24’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. they can be seen in the next third equalizer The film for Sony that bows later this year. It has been reprized by WME.
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