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Who’s Who in History Behind Gladiator 2?

The official trailer release of “Gladiator 2” finally gives fans a sneak peek at the new and returning characters in Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited sequel. Returning from the 2000 film are Lucilla, played by Connie Nielsen, and Gracchus, portrayed by Derek Jacobi.

Lucilla’s character is grounded in historical fact, as she was the sister of Emperor Commodus, played by Joaquin Phoenix in the original movie. She was married to Lucius Verus, who co-ruled with her and Commodus’ father, Marcus Aurelius, until Verus’s death. The element of Verus’s rule was briefly mentioned in the first film but underplayed compared to historical accuracy.

Gracchus, on the other hand, is a blend of historical figures Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, both of whom were known as champions for the common people.

The sequel introduces new characters, including the young co-emperors Geta and Caracalla, played by Joseph Quinn and Fred Hechinger, respectively. Ridley Scott has stylistically referred to these characters as twins, though historically, Geta and Caracalla were brothers and not twins. Their father was Emperor Septimius Severus, who served under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. When Severus died, he entrusted the empire to his sons as co-rulers.

In the trailer, Geta and Caracalla are depicted as capricious and erratic. Historically, they were at odds from the start, avoiding each other even on the long journey from Britain to Rome. Upon becoming co-emperors, they divided the imperial palace and only met with their mother Julia Domna, each fearful of the other’s potential assassination plans. The idea of splitting the empire in two halves was also floated but rejected by their mother.

Pedro Pascal joins the cast as General Acacius, a fictional character created for the sequel. Acacius is described as a general who trained under Maximus (Russell Crowe), linking the sequel to the original film. Pascal described Acacius as a warrior shaped by Maximus’s legacy, although he’s a distinct character with his own motivations and capabilities.

In the movie, Acacius faces conflict with Lucius, portrayed by Paul Mescal. As the film opens with a Roman fleet raiding Numidia, Lucius, who was sent to Numidia by his mother Lucilla to keep him out of the Roman Empire’s reach, becomes the target of Lucius’s anger.

Mescal’s character Lucius appeared in the original movie, albeit briefly. Historically, Lucius died before Commodus became emperor. The trailer hints at a more evolved storyline for Lucius, who is now captured during the raid on Numidia and brought to Rome as a prisoner.

The trailer reveals a gripping scene where Lucius arrives in Rome and finds himself in the arena. In a twist, his first fight is witnessed by his mother, Lucilla, who he hadn’t seen in 20 years. The emotional moment highlights their strong familial bond amidst intense surroundings.

Another heavyweight addition to the cast is Denzel Washington, who plays the historical figure Macrinus. In real life, Macrinus went on to become Marcus Opellius Macrinus, the first Roman emperor not from the senatorial class, though his reign was short-lived.

In “Gladiator 2”, Macrinus is fictionalized as a wealthy arms dealer and powerbroker. Scott elaborates that Macrinus supplies weapons and essentials to the Roman army, showcasing his vast wealth and influence. One scene in the trailer depicts Macrinus mentoring Lucius in the arena, further establishing his pivotal role in the film.

The movie also takes creative liberties with historical timelines and characters. Lucius interacts with Pedro Pascal’s Acacius, revealing intense rivalries and powerful alliances. Their relationship, initially hinted at as antagonistic, evolves through the plot, setting the stage for dramatic confrontations.

The trailer concludes with several compelling sequences, including Lucius shooting an arrow that finds its mark between the heads of the co-emperors and the general. Lucius is seen challenging Rome’s mistreatment of its heroes, foreshadowing ideological clashes that could shape the film’s climax.

The trailer leaves viewers questioning character fates and historical accuracies. Scott’s reimagining allows room for artistic interpretation, making the film both an exciting historical retelling and an imaginative sequel.

Fans eagerly await the film’s release on November 15, looking forward to how these characters’ stories unfold. Whether in the grand spectacle of the Colosseum or the shadowy intrigues of Roman politics, “Gladiator 2” promises a rich narrative woven with historical threads and creative reimaginings.

Source: Vanity Fair