Gladiator II Denzel Washington Macrinus
Denzel Washington as Macrinus in Gladiator II

If you’ve gotten a glimpse of Ridley Scott’s upcoming Gladiator II, you may be curious to learn more about the real life man behind Denzel Washington’s character, Macrinus.

First, we should note that the movie may not necessarily cover the real history of the Roman empire, since it’s fictionalized, so we don’t intend to give any spoilers here. We’ll just tell you about the true history behind the inspiration for Washington’s character.

Macrinus was the emperor of Rome from April 217 to June 218 AD. He reigned jointly with his young son Diadumenianus. They were of Berber origin, an ethnic group that was descended from the Stone Age tribes of North Africa. They pre-dated the arrival of Arabs in that region, and spoke Afro-Asiatic languages like Amazigh, which is related to ancient Egyptian.

The original Gladiator takes place from 180 to 192 AD, and Gladiator II picks up multiple years after Gladiator ends. So at the start of the sequel, Macrinus is not yet the emperor of Rome — but he is a powerful presence.

“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,” Scott told Vanity Fair of Macrinus. “He’s beautiful. He drives a golden Ferrari. I got him a gold-plated chariot.”

Washington’s Macrinus and Mescal’s gladiator character, Lucius, have an important relationship in the new movie.

“You will be my instrument,” Washington says to Mescal in the trailer, which you can watch below. “You have something. I knew it from the start. That rage is your gift.”

Who Was Denzel Washington’s Macrinus in Real Life?

The real-life Macrinus was the first Roman emperor who wasn’t from the senatorial class. He never got to visit Rome during his reign, though, which was another first.

Before he became the emperor of Rome, Macrinus was a praetorian prefect under Emperor Caracalla, who is played by Fred Hechinger in Gladiator II. This is perhaps where the timeline of the real life Macrinus and the Denzel Washington version of him intersect: During this time in his life, he was in charge of the civil affairs of Rome.

But things between Macrinus and Caracalla got a little sticky later on, when Macrinus conspired against him (classic Roman empire stuff, ya know?) and carried out a murder plot. Macrinus then took over as emperor after Caracalla’s death. It’s not clear how much of that history Gladiator II will touch on.

Also Read: Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan Adopt American Accents as Futuristic Farm-Dwellers in Foe Trailer (Video)

The sequel film follows Paul Mescal as Lucius Verus, the grandson of Marcus Aurelius — played by Richard Harris in the original Gladiator — who is bumped out of the line of succession and is no longer heir to the Roman empire.

Like Russell Crowe’s Maximus Decimus Meridius, Lucius becomes a gladiator after his home is invaded by the Roman army. The army is commanded by general Marcus Acacius (Pedro Pascal), and the rulers during this timeline are the aforementioned Caracalla and his co-emperor, Geta (Joseph Quinn).

“It’s brutal, man. I call him Brick Wall Paul,” Pascal told Vanity Fair of Mescal’s performance as Lucius. “He got so strong. I would rather be thrown from a building than have to fight him again. To go up against somebody that fit and that talented and that much younger…. Outside of Ridley being a total genius, Paul is a big reason as to why I would put my poor body through that experience.”

Watch the Trailer for Gladiator II

To see all of these gladiators in action, you can watch the trailer for Gladiator II below.

Gladiator II arrives in theaters on November 22.

Main Image: Denzel Washington as Macrinus in Gladiator II, Paramount

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