Paul Mescal Admitted He’s “Greatly” Scared That “Numbers Of Instagram Followers” Will Become A “Factor” In Hollywood Casting Decisions And Said He’s Not “Being Snobby”

“I’ll have an answer next year, but if [the film] impacts my life in that way, I’ll be in a bad spot,” he said in a recent interview about the upcoming Gladiator sequel.

When an actor lands a huge role, the fanfare that comes with it is often part of the excitement. For Paul Mescal, however, that is not the case.

A closeup of Paul Mescal

Since his star turn in Normal People back in 2020, 27-year-old Paul has risen to become one of the buzziest actors in Hollywood today, earning his first Oscar nomination for Aftersun in 2022.

Paul Mescal sitting onstage for a panel interview

And as well as bringing him global notoriety, Normal People also caught the attention of director Ridley Scott, who was so blown away by Paul’s performance in the drama that he felt compelled to cast him as the lead in his highly anticipated Gladiator sequel.

As far as we know, Paul will be playing the part of Lucius, the nephew of Emperor Commodus, played by Joaquin Phoenix in the original 2000 film. Pedro Pascal, Denzel Washington, Joseph Quinn, and Connie Nielsen are also set to star, and the current release date is Nov. 22.

A closeup of Pedro Pascal smiling

Since his casting was announced in January 2023, Paul has been pretty cautious about discussing the film at length, noting that there’s a lot of pressure that comes with trying to replicate the magic of the original, which, of course, starred Russell Crowe.

Russel Crowe yielding a sword in a scene from Gladiator

“I feel really excited, but, like, it’s difficult to get away from the legacy of the film a bit,” he told Esquire UK in August last year. “I think it’s really well written and it pays homage to the first one, but it’s very much something that I think I can step into and make comfortably my own.”

And now, with filming for the movie back underway following the SAG-AFTRA strike, Paul is looking ahead to how his life might change once Gladiator 2 hits theaters.

Speaking with The Times in a recent interview, Paul confessed he’ll become “profoundly depressed” if his starring role in the film makes him more famous than he already is.

“I don’t know what the difference will be,” he considered. “Maybe that’s naive? Is it just that more people will stop you in the street? I’d get profoundly depressed if that’s so and hope it isn’t true.”

“I’ll have an answer next year, but if [the film] impacts my life in that way, I’ll be in a bad spot,” he added, before joking that he’d have to counteract the fanfare by doing an “obtuse play nobody wants to see.”

Speaking more broadly about Hollywood, Paul said he takes his job as an actor “very seriously,” in spite of how the industry is evolving with the online sphere.

Zendaya and Paul Mescal presenting an award

“It scares me greatly,” he said of the prospect that a performer’s social media presence should impact casting decisions. “Acting should never be reduced to numbers of Instagram followers.”

“Over the last few years people have been talking about films and TV shows as content,” he added. “That’s a filthy word. It’s not ‘content’, it’s fucking work.”

Defending his stance, Paul continued: “I’m not being snobby, but there are two concurrent industries. One that works with a lack of care and artistic integrity. Go nuts, make stuff with Instagram followers as a factor, whatever … But the other is what’s always been there, the craft of film-making, directing, lighting and production design.”

“That keeps artists alive. And audiences want to be challenged,” he said.

Paul hasn’t shied away from discussing the downsides that come with the work he feels so passionately about — namely, a “devastating” lack of privacy, which seemingly prompted him to make his Instagram account private last year.

“The stuff that hurts is the personal stuff,” he told Harper’s Bazaar last year, expressing his frustration with fans’ sense of “entitlement to information” about his personal life. “It’s nobody else’s business and should never be commented on because it’s indecent. And it’s unkind.”

You can read Paul’s full interview with The Times here.

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