Prepare yourself, America: Your local multiplex may soon be flooded with more old faces than a Boca Raton early-bird screening of Cocoon. Hollywood is reaching deep into its vault for some classic franchise resuscitation. We’re talking the return of icons like Rocky, Rambo, Indiana Jones, and Det. John McClane. Why this sudden need to Swiffer these dusty properties? The answer, as always, is money. Most of the serialized movie moneymakers are showing their age (Mission: Impossible), nearing the end of their journey (Harry Potter), or being reduced to strictly straight-to-DVD material (American Pie). But in skilled hands, a seemingly dead film property can be vibrantly reborn to great success. Just look at Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, which grossed a cool $205 million last year. ”It isn’t so much recapturing the feel of the earlier films, but trying for a new structure,” says Terminator 4 screenwriter John Brancato. So, herewith, EW presents a look at some classic fellas getting a face-lift — or at least a healthy dose of Botox.
JURASSIC PARK IV
Franchise Gross to Date: $767 million
Contrary to popular belief, this prehistoric saga hasn’t been fossilized in amber. In fact, two of Hollywood’s most respected screenwriters have taken a whack at it. Hot scribe of the moment William Monahan (The Departed) submitted a screenplay for the film, but it’s unknown what, if any, of his draft will be used. Indie darling John Sayles (Lone Star) also cooked up a concept for the fourth installment, which was rumored to feature a team of dino-human crossbreeds trained to be a military force. (Yep, we’re talking about the man who brought you Passion Fish.) With Steven Spielberg almost certain to take on a producing role, Joe Johnston, who helmed Jurassic Park III, is expected to return for IV, since he just turned down the third Mummy film. That’s fine with us — CGI raptors are way cooler than toilet-paper-covered mummies anyway.
INDIANA JONES 4
Franchise Gross to Date: $622 million
Indy 4’s been in development since 1993(!), but unearthing a script that Spielberg, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford can agree on has proved more difficult than tracking down the Holy Grail. Not that major players haven’t tried. Chris Columbus (The Goonies) attempted to revive Jones, as did Last Crusade writer Jeffrey Boam. Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) gave Boam’s script a rewrite, but it was ultimately tossed. Then, Spielberg and Co. had collaborator Jeff Nathanson, a screenwriter on The Terminal and Catch Me if You Can, pen a draft. According to Spielberg’s spokesperson, all parties involved want the project to happen and have commissioned the help of David Koepp (War of the Worlds) . But with no start date, someone’s going to need to really crack Indy’s whip to get this much-delayed film going.
Franchise Gross to Date: $393 million
First, let’s take care of the question on everyone’s mind: We don’t know whether Claire Danes will be back. Seriously, though, it’s looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger will give this installment a pass for now; he has his hands full with that whole running-California thing. ”Terminator 3 kind of closed the book on Schwarzenegger, as did his gubernatorial career,” says T4 screenwriter Michael Ferris, who wrote T3 with Brancato. The Governator isn’t the only alum missing right now: Series producer Gale Anne Hurd is not involved and T3 director Jonathan Mostow has yet to sign on. As far as plot points, Ferris offers this tease: ”You will learn about Skynet and what that postapocalyptic future is like.”
LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
Franchise Gross to Date: $292 million
Bruce Willis’ Det. John McClane turns out to be harder to kill than a New York cockroach — he’s returning for the fourth Die Hard next June. Len Wiseman (Underworld) is directing the flick, currently shooting in L.A. and Baltimore. The film finds McClane battling techno terrorists attempting to disable U.S. computers. Justin Long (Accepted) plays Willis’ sidekick and Maggie Q (M:I-3) vamps it up as a villain. But will there be any Underworld-style vampires or werewolves? “We’re not finished with the third act yet,” laughs Wiseman. “It’s the fight I’m having with the studio.”
ROCKY BALBOA/RAMBO IV
Franchise Gross to Date: $488 million (Rocky); $250 million (Rambo)
After failed attempts at establishing acting street cred (Cop Land, Get Carter), Stallone has fallen back on his two most iconic characters. Rocky Balboa (Dec. 22), the sixth entry, finds the now-widowed boxer returning to the ring despite being old enough to be his competitors’ grandfather. “I started writing it about three years ago,” Stallone told EW this summer. “The people at MGM at that time were not interested on any level.” Stallone’s persistence also paid off with the next Rambo adventure. That one is set to begin shooting this coming January in Thailand, a country which has seen its share of drama in recent months. Hanging out in a spot that just had a military coup? Rambo wouldn’t have it any other way.