EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures is setting Len Wiseman to direct The Mummy, the reboot of a franchise whose most recent incarnation grossed $1.25 billion over three films. Jon Spaihts is writing the script and the studio is eyeing a potential summer 2014 release, so things are moving quickly, with Universal eager to ramp back up one of its most venerable franchises.
The film is being produced by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci through their Universal-based K/O Paper Products, alongside former partners Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks. Latter two produced the version launched by Steve Sommers which starred Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. That trilogy was based on the Karl Fruend-directed Boris Karloff starrer that the studio made in 1932.
I spoke to both Kurtzman and Wiseman, and they said the script Spaihts is writing puts the gauze-covered villain into a modern-day context.
“When I first heard Universal was relaunching this, that is the image that popped into my head, the period tale, the old monster, but when Bob and Alex pitched it, there was a great new take and approach, and a very different mummy as well,” Wiseman told me. “It’s a darker twist on the material, a scarier version.”
Kurtzman indicated that while they hope to stay in the four-quadrant audience zone same as the last trilogy, that can be accomplished with a darker tone. “We’re reaching into the deep roots of The Mummy, which at its beating heart is a horror movie and then an action movie, and putting it into a context that is real and emotional,” Kurtzman said. “It’s still a four-quadrant film but as a lot of recent movies have proven, audiences are hungry for more than they used to be. You can still have a family movie, an action movie that’s more grounded than these used to be. Without saying too much, we’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Michael Crichton’s books, and how he ground fantastical tales in modern-day science.”
Wiseman most recently directed Total Recall, and before that he launched the Underworld franchise and helped reinvigorate a franchise with Live Free Or Die Hard.
“A lot of the work with Len has been about creating mythology, and I remember seeing Underworld and finding it a beautiful advancement of the genre,” Kurtzman said. “It was presented in this fresh, incredibly cool concept, but it never gave up its reverence for the mythology and that is what inspired us to meet with Len.”
They have already figured out how to get around the reason I feel the original doesn’t really hold up so well. The bandaged title character moves so slowly than he is no more difficult to elude than a single zombie.
“One of the things that interested me with this mummy is, he’s still in essence a man,” Wiseman said. “They haven’t turned his brain into a monster brain. He still has a personality and is very cunning and calculating. He’s a true character in any form, and in creature form, even if he is that staggering creature, it becomes more important that he’s a thinking, calculating person.”
CAA and Behr Abramson rep Wiseman, while Kurtzman and Orci are repped by CAA, Michael Gendler and Kevin Kelly.