Richard Donner, the director of "Lethal Weapon 4," has already suffered through opening-weekend jitters three times with his 11-year-old "Lethal" franchise. Still, it doesn't get any easier. "It's terribly nerve-racking," Donner told EW Online. "The film is almost a year of your life's work, the studio trusted you with a lot of money, and the actors and crew are depending on it being good. It's your ego on the line, and you want it to be a success. I get out of town before a film opens, and I carry three pairs of pants with me."
Happily for Donner, "Lethal 4" topped the weekend box office with a $34.4 million take, the biggest opening ever for a "Lethal" installment. Still, the film will be closely scrutinized in the coming weeks to see if it continues to surpass its brethren. The first installment earned a healthy $65 million in 1987, the second took in $147 million in 1989, and the third grossed $144 million in 1992. "Lethal 4" needs to make good on its large budget, which has been estimated at $150 million. (Warner Bros., however, maintains that the studio spent less than $100 million.)
Adding to the pressure, Warner Bros. has a poor recent track record with high-priced blockbusters -- namely, "The Postman," "Sphere," and "Batman & Robin." "Every studio has its ups and downs," says Donner, 67. "Warner has been on top for so many years, they're getting their moment of comeuppance, I guess. As a director, there's so much pressure when you make a movie, you really don't have time to think about anything but your film and your moment."