Fact Check: Posts Claim Denzel Washington Is Playing Emperor of Rome in 'Gladiator II.' Here's the Truth

X user @Klaus_Arminius
X user @Klaus_Arminius

Claim:

Denzel Washington will play the emperor of Rome in "Gladiator II."

Rating:

Rating: False
Rating: False

In early July 2024, a rumor circulated on social media that Denzel Washington would be playing the emperor of Rome in the movie "Gladiator II," set to be released in November 2024.

"Meet Hollywood's Marcus Macrinus, Emperor of Rome. The bastardization and blackwashing of European history continues. This is a sick joke," one X post (archived) read, reaching more than 842,000 views and 13,000 likes as of this writing.

(X user @Klaus_Arminius)

"When they swap a fictional White character, their excuse is: 'it's just fiction, not real'. When they swap a historical White person, their excuse is: 'it's just acting'," one X user commented under the post. "Once again, we're seeing historical blackwashing with the casting of Macrinus, a Roman emperor of Numidian (Amazigh) descent, being portrayed by a black actor," another post claimed.

In short, Washington is not playing the emperor of Rome in "Gladiator II," but rather a character named Macrinus, a "dashing powerbroker" and arms dealer. Because of that, we have rated this claim "False."

"Gladiator II" is set to be released on Nov. 22, 2024. Vanity Fair published the photo of Washington used in the viral posts in a "first look" article about the movie, writing in a caption that "Denzel Washington's Macrinus is an arms dealer who lives lavishly and keeps a stable of gladiators for sport." The article went on to describe Washington's character:

Throughout Gladiator II, the reluctant hero encounters a number of other colorful and dubious characters. Denzel Washington plays a dashing powerbroker named Macrinus. "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," [director Ridley] Scott says. "He's beautiful. He drives a golden Ferrari. I got him a gold-plated chariot."

The rumor about Washington playing a Roman emperor may have arisen because there was, in fact, a Roman emperor named Macrinus in 217 and 218. However, he does not appear in the movie "Gladiator II." The Vanity Fair article noted that Fred Hechinger plays Emperor Caracalla and Joseph Quinn portrays Emperor Geta in "Gladiator II."

This isn't the first time we've looked at a claim regarding Washington. For instance, in June 2024, we fact-checked a rumor claiming he and Clint Eastwood joined forces to launch a "non-woke" movie production studio. In June 2023, we investigated whether Washington once said, "With so many things coming back in style, I can't wait until morals, respect, and intelligence become a trend again."

Sources:

Breznican, Anthony. "Paul Mescal vs. Pedro Pascal: A First Look at the Epic 'Gladiator II.'" Vanity Fair, 1 July 2024, https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/story/paul-mescal-pedro-pascal-gladiator-ii-first-look.

Dobrin, Nikki. "Denzel Washington and Clint Eastwood Joined Forces for 'Non-Woke' Movie Production Studio?" Snopes, 14 June 2024, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/denzel-washington-clint-eastwood/.

Gladiator II. Directed by Ridley Scott, Paramount Pictures, Scott Free Productions, Parkes/MacDonald Image Nation, 2024.

Liles, Jordan. "Did Denzel Washington Say He Hoped 'Morals, Respect, and Intelligence' Would 'Become a Trend Again'?" Snopes, 22 June 2023, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/denzel-washington-morals-respect-intelligence/.

Macrinus | Emperor, Roman Empire, Praetorian Guard | Britannica. 28 May 2024, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Macrinus.