Paramount shows 'Gladiator 2' as Disney goes R-rated

Andrew Marszal - Agence France-Presse
Paramount shows 'Gladiator 2' as Disney goes R-rated
First look of Ryan Reynold and Hugh Jackman in "Deadpool 3"
Deadpool via Twitter

LAS VEGAS, United States — Paramount Pictures unveiled gory first-look footage from "Gladiator 2" as Disney put on an unusually R-rated presentation for movie theater bosses at the final day of CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Thursday.

In an extended trailer for the long-awaited "Gladiator" sequel, star Paul Mescal does battle in a Colosseum filled with rhinos, bloodthirsty baboons, and even floating Roman warships, egged on by Denzel Washington's shadowy advisor.

"It is possibly more extraordinary than the first," said director Ridley Scott, speaking via video link.

The footage was met with an enthusiastic thumbs up at CinemaCon, an annual gathering at which Hollywood studios showcase their upcoming titles for movie theater owners and managers from around the world.

Ridley Scott's sequel will hit theaters in November, nearly 25 years after the release of the original, Oscar best picture-winning historical epic "Gladiator."

All this week, promotional marble statues for "Gladiator 2" have adorned the casino floors of Caesars Palace, the Ancient Rome-themed casino and hotel in Las Vegas where CinemaCon is held.

As the previous film's main characters, played by Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, were killed off, a new crop of actors step in.

Mescal portrays gladiator Lucius, the nephew of Phoenix's villainous emperor, who was seen briefly as a child in the original film.

Related: Reigning Hollywood studio Universal brings 'Wicked' to movie summit

Pedro Pascal plays a military general, while Denzel Washington's mysterious character is seen in the extended footage plotting to topple the Roman Empire.

"Rome must fall. I need only to give it a push," he says in one scene.

The lavish presentation raised cheers even as both Paramount and the wider big-screen industry face uncertain times.

The parent company of Paramount — one of Hollywood's oldest studios — is currently locked in merger talks with Skydance, a media company founded by the billionaire Ellison family.

Meanwhile overall Hollywood box office receipts are expected to fall in 2024, largely due to last year's actors and writer strikes, which shuttered and delayed film productions.

On Thursday, Paramount executives also showcased titles such as "A Quiet Place: Day One," "Smile 2," "Transformers One," and "IF" — a new comedy from John Krasinski and starring Ryan Reynolds.

Paramount film chief Brian Robbins even joked about the merger talks, suggesting one of his executives had launched a crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign to buy the studio.

R-rated Disney

Later on Thursday, Disney rounded off CinemaCon with its own star-studded presentation — which took an unexpectedly adult turn.

Related: Joaquin Phoenix, Lady Gaga stir trouble in 'Joker 2' trailer

The showcase included appearances from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson — promoting this November's "Moana 2" release — and Amy Poehler, who returns in "Inside Out 2" this June.

Oscar-winning "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins previewed his animated prequel "Mufasa: The Lion King," which hits theaters in December.

Disney unveiled footage of Harrison Ford making his Marvel superhero film debut in next year's "Captain America: Brave New World."

But the family-friendly studio's presentation departed from the usual script with a glimpse of "Deadpool & Wolverine," Disney's first R-rated superhero movie.

The film sees Reynolds' potty-mouthed antihero team up with Hugh Jackman's beloved "X-Men" star. Both characters were previously owned by 20th Century Fox.

But Disney bought that rival studio and its properties in 2019, and is now weaving them into its hugely popular Marvel film series.

That has resulted in a Disney superhero movie that features adult language, explicit sexual references, and several meta jokes about the studios themselves.

RELATED: Disney delays live-action 'Moana,' sets 2026 release for 'Toy Story 5,' 'Mandalorian'

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