Denzel Washington’s Gladiator 2 Character Explained

Who is Denzel Washington playing in Gladiator II?


Gladiator 2 introduces Denzel Washington as Macrinus, an arms dealer with a potential villainous streak. The film centers on Paul Mescal’s Lucius, bringing a mix of new and historical characters into a narrative filled with intrigue and power struggles.


  • New Characters: Denzel Washington as Macrinus, an arms dealer.
  • Main Plot: Paul Mescal’s Lucius is forced back to Rome.
  • Historical Basis: Possible connections to the historical figure who assassinated Emperor Caracalla.

Plot Beats

  • Lucius, once a young boy in Gladiator, is now forced back to Rome after being captured by a general.
  • He encounters the reality of life in Rome following Commodus’ fall.
  • Macrinus, an opportunistic arms dealer, becomes a significant figure in Lucius’ journey.

Cast and Crew

Buzz and Highlights

  • Character Traits: Macrinus is described as a ruthless and intelligent businessman with various unsavory enterprises.
  • Ridley Scott’s Insight: Scott describes Macrinus as “pretty f***ing cruel” to his gladiators, adding a layer of complexity and potential moral ambiguity.
  • Historical Connections: Macrinus’ real-life counterpart was a praetorian prefect who assassinated Emperor Caracalla, hinting at significant plot developments.

Production Notes

  • Release Date: Gladiator 2 is set to release in theaters on November 22, 2024.
  • Character Development: Denzel Washington’s Macrinus is positioned as a significant new character with potential ties to the original film’s storyline.
  • Historical Basis: The real Macrinus was involved in the assassination of Emperor Caracalla and briefly ruled as emperor, suggesting a dramatic and pivotal role in the film.

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Denzel Washington’s Macrinus Is An Arms Dealer In Gladiator 2

Denzel Washington In Gladiator 2

Understandably, some details around Denzel Washington’s exact character arc are unclear. However, ahead of the movie’s release, it has been confirmed that Macrinus acts as a kind of Ancient Roman arms dealer, with interests in many unsavory businesses across the empire. An opportunistic businessman, he is characterized as having a ruthless streak while also possessing undoubted intelligence and ambition – evidenced by his various enterprises.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Ridley Scott confirmed some key details about Washington’s Macrinus. As the legendary director explained:

“Denzel is an arms dealer who supplies food for the armies in Europe, supplies wine and oil, makes steel, makes spears, weapons, cannons, and catapults. So he is a very wealthy man. Instead of having a stable of racehorses, he has a stable of gladiators. He’s beautiful. He drives a golden Ferrari. I got him a gold-plated chariot.”

This description indicates that Macrinus may be the latest addition to Denzel Washington’s growing list of villain roles. This theory is reinforced by Scott’s remark that he is “pretty f***ing cruel” to his roster of gladiators. However, there may also be room for some potential moral ambiguity, making Macrinus’ involvement in the story potentially fascinating.

Was Denzel Washington’s Macrinus In The First Gladiator Movie?

Given that Denzel Washington was not involved in the original Gladiator, it’s almost certain that Macrinus was not featured in the film either. However, while Macrinus was not mentioned by name, nor appeared on screen, this does not necessarily mean that he had no involvement in the story. Considering that some of Gladiator’s story took place in Zuccabar – geographically close to Lucius’ home in Numidia – it may be that Macrinus had a secret background role in Gladiator that went under the radar.

His obvious aptitude for business, interest in gladiators, and disdainful attitude toward their lives is not unlike Proximo from the original Gladiator, played by Oliver Reed.

However, even if Denzel Washington’s character had no involvement in Gladiator at all, there’s still a sense that aspects of his personality may have appeared in the franchise before. His obvious aptitude for business, interest in gladiators, and disdainful attitude toward their lives is not unlike Proximo from the original Gladiator, played by Oliver Reed. It may well be the case that Macrinus plays a similar role in Gladiator 2, potentially having a relationship of sorts with Lucius. If this does prove to be the case, Macrinus may represent a continuation of an arc already explored in the Gladiator movies.

Is Denzel Washington’s Macrinus Based On A Real Person?

From Ridley Scott’s description, it sounds as though Macrinus is an influential businessman with more of an interest in wealth accrual than politics. However, if history is anything to go by, this is a slightly misleading characterization. In real life, Macrinus was a praetorian prefect who served under the emperor Caracalla – who is also a key player in Gladiator 2. The real Macrinus was born in Mauretania (now Algeria), near Lucius’ home in Numidia – again suggesting that this is the person Washington’s character is based on.

What makes this link to the historical Macrinus so interesting is that Macrinus was the man directly responsible for organizing the assassination of the tyrannical Caracalla. After succeeding, he became emperor in 217 AD – a period that may align with events in Gladiator 2. However, despite his successful coup, Macrinus only ruled for a year before he was himself executed after an insurrection organized by Caracalla’s aunt. This bloody history indicates that Washington’s Macrinus may play a pivotal role in the drama that’s sure to unfold in Gladiator 2.

Closing Credits

With Gladiator 2, Ridley Scott brings back the grandeur and drama of ancient Rome, now with the added star power of Denzel Washington. As Macrinus, Washington promises a captivating performance, potentially elevating the film’s stakes and emotional impact. Gladiator 2 hits theaters on November 22, 2024. Keep an eye out for more updates and trailers as the release date approaches.

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