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Paul Mescal Had One Very Specific Goal With His Gladiator 2 Body Transformation

Following the release of 2023's "Napoleon," all eyes are now on Ridley Scott's next historical epic: "Gladiator 2." Set decades after the original, the film focuses on Lucius (now played by Paul Mescal) stepping into the arena. Plot details for the sequel remain slim, but we do know that the follow-up features a massive cast which includes Denzel Washington and Pedro Pascal. Of course, everyone is focused on Mescal, who had to bulk up considerably to headline the blockbuster. In a chat with Vanity Fair, Mescal discussed how his body transformation reflected a workout routine that focused on fight choreography, not appearance. "I just wanted to be big and strong and look like somebody who can cause a bit of damage when s**t hits the fan," the Oscar nominee said.

Mescal continued by explaining that he needed Lucius' physique to be more in line with a warrior rather than an underwear model. But while the actor looks great, he wasn't trying to become more attractive for the sequel. "Muscles start to grow, and that can be deemed aesthetic in certain capacities, but there is something about feeling strong in your body that elicits just a different feeling," he added. The performer also noted that he began carrying himself differently once he realized that he had the physical chops to actually portray a gladiator.

The "Aftersun" star looks absolutely monstrous as Lucius, having completely transformed his body to step into the Coliseum. His physical pivot was so pronounced that he became a daunting figure for the co-star who had to battle him.

Pedro Pascal praises Paul Mescal's Gladiator 2 physique

While few concrete details about the sequel have been released, we do know that "Gladiator 2" doesn't feature a key survivor, Djimon Honsou's Juba, from the first flick. Instead of bringing back old favorites, Ridley Scott has opted to tap new actors, including "Last of Us" star Pedro Pascal, to headline the new pic. Pascal plays the scorned Marcus Acacius, who is forced to fight Lucius for our entertainment. Though he's not in the first film, Acacius is said to have trained under Russell Crowe's Maximus, which is what makes him such a beast in the arena. Pascal has tons of experience with action sequences thanks to his performances in projects like "Game of Thrones" and "The Equalizer 2," but fighting the beefed-up Mescal was a notable challenge.

"He got so strong. I would rather be thrown from a building than have to fight him again," Pascal told Vanity Fair about his battle sequences with the Lucius star. "To go up against somebody that fit and that talented and that much younger...It's brutal, man," the 49-year-old said. Pascal even came up with a cheeky nickname for Mescal, playfully dubbing him "Brick Wall Paul." Having to face off against Mescal was inspiring, and Pascal says seeing his co-star get so fit motivated him to keep up during production.

We may not fully know what happens in the upcoming sequel," but we do know what not to expect from it. Read Looper's breakdown of Nick Cave's abandoned "Gladiator 2" script, which featured Maximus in the afterlife.

"Gladiator 2" hits theaters on November 22.