Paul Mescal Got Ripped For ‘Gladiator 2’ By Breaking All The Hollywood Rules

“I just wanted to look like somebody who can cause a bit of damage."

Paul Mescal Got Ripped For ‘Gladiator 2’ By Breaking All The Hollywood Rules

Image: Paramount

Paul Mescal’s priorities for Gladiator 2 training have resulted in an impressive rig, as well as an authentic and compelling portrayal of Lucius.

The Gladiator 2 hype is really beginning to build to a fever pitch and with some killer celebrity transformations gracing our screens in recent months — think Joel Kinnaman on ‘Vitamin T’ or Zac Efron in The Iron Claw — you can understand why Paul Mescal’s physical embodiment of the infamous Lucius is already causing something of a stir among fans young and old…

Authenticity Over Aesthetic

Paul Mescal’s journey from the sensitive Connell Waldron in Normal People to the fierce Lucius in Gladiator 2 has defied typical Hollywood training norms. The tale is as old as time: actors transforming into action heroes undergo gruelling gym workouts designed to achieve a chiselled, muscle-heavy and ultimately “sexy” appearance. However, Mescal took a different route this time around, focusing instead on fight choreography that prioritised functionality and filmic authenticity over aesthetics…

Ridley Scott, the director of Gladiator 2, discovered Mescal while watching Normal People: “When I watch anything, I tend to be clocking who’s interesting,” Scott said. Captivated by Mescal’s raw talent and undeniable physicality, Scott arranged a Zoom meeting with him while Mescal was performing A Streetcar Named Desire in London.

Paul Mescal in Gladiator 2
Image: Vanity Fair

The meeting was brief, but Scott was impressed by Mescal’s background in Gaelic football, a sport demanding physicality and toughness in equal measure, and saw these traits as perfect for Lucius. This emphasis on genuine physicality over superficial looks set Mescal’s preparation for “Gladiator 2” apart from typical Hollywood transformations.

A Warrior’s Regimen

Mescal’s training was centred around mastering fight choreography rather than achieving a stereotypical action-hero physique. “I just wanted to be big and strong and look like somebody who can cause a bit of damage when shit hits the fan,” Mescal said.

His regimen included sword training and combat drills designed to make his movements on screen as realistic as possible. This approach aimed to build a body that looked capable of actual combat, not just a body that looked good on camera. Reflecting on his preparation, Mescal describes how striving for a “perfect look” often results in an appearance more akin to an underwear model than a warrior.

Paul Mescal and Pedro Pascal in Gladiator 2
Image: Vanity Fair

“I wanted to do as much of the stunts as humanly possible,” he said, adding that while insurance constraints prevented him from doing a few of the more high-octane sequences, he aimed to be front and centre in the action scenes wherever possible. This ensured his portrayal of Lucius was as convincing as possible, both in terms of physical prowess and emotional depth.

The narrative of Gladiator 2 picks up decades after Russell Crowe’s Maximus gave his life, focusing on Lucius, last seen as the young son of Lucilla, played by Connie Nielsen. Lucius has grown up far from Rome, sent to the northern coast of Africa.

Paul Mescal in Gladiator 2
Looking good, buddy! Image: Vanity Fair

By focusing on functional strength and practical skills, Mescal ended up with a physique that, while undeniably impressive, wasn’t the result of a typical Hollywood workout plan. Instead, it is the natural outcome of rigorous training aimed at making him a believable warrior.

All of this bears well for this long-awaited sequel which may set itself apart from other action movies where aesthetics often take precedence over realism…