Russell Crowe is not attached to return for Gladiator 2 at this stage, but the original script included Maximus' return. Before the current interaction of the Gladiator sequel took shape with writer David Scarpa, Scott worked with writer Nick Cave to develop a potential follow-up. The now infamous Gladiator 2 script called for Maximus to return after being resurrected by the Roman gods and sent to Earth with a mission to kill Jesus Christ. The wild and unexpected direction for the franchise did not move forward, as Cave's Gladiator 2 story was scrapped in favor of going in a new direction.
Although Maximus would have played a lead role in the original Gladiator 2 script, Russell Crowe notably did not support this development. He told Cave that he did not like the script, especially the ending - which saw Maximus fighting on behalf of the Roman gods through World War II and the present day. While Gladiator 2's story has taken a new direction since then, that does not appear to have changed the status of its franchise star's involvement. As of 2020, Russell Crowe confirmed he is not returning in Gladiator 2, and there are no signs to indicate otherwise.
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How Russell Crowe’s Maximus Can Return In Gladiator 2
There are ways for Russell Crowe's Maximus to return in Gladiator 2 that do not involve a resurrection by the Roman gods to kill Jesus Christ. The sequel could confirm the long-standing belief that Maximus is Lucius' father. The original Gladiator confirms Maximus and Lucilla's prior romantic relationship, but it stops short of revealing who Lucius' father is. Confirming that Maximus is his dad could help bring Russell Crowe back for Gladiator 2, even if it is only for a small role.
Flashbacks could be incorporated into Gladiator 2 to have Maximus appear in a brief scene that details his and Lucilla's romance. It could even reveal if Maximus ever knew that Lucius is his son. If Gladiator 2 confirms the connection between Maximus and Lucius, Paul Mescal's older version of the character could even have conversations with Russell Crowe in his imagination. This would allow Maximus to help still guide his son even though he is no longer around.