Millennium Films is pressing ahead with The ExpendaBelles, which is being sold as the feminine counterpart to the macho throwback that is the studio's Expendables franchise. A screenplay has been in development for the past year, but it now looks as though the action/comedy spinoff is being prepped to being shooting this year in Bulgaria, which is where Expendables 3 was filmed back in 2013.
ExpendaBelles is being co-written by Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith, whose resume includes the lucrative (and fairly well-liked) cheeky Reese Witherspoon rom-com Legally Blonde, in addition to the not-so-beloved (yet profitable) raunchy Katherine Heigl rom-com The Ugly Truth. The project has now found a director in Robert Luketic, who (by no coincidence) called the shots on both Legally Blonde and Ugly Truth, in addition to films like 21 and last year's corporate espionage thriller bust, Paranoia.
Here is the film's logline, courtesy of Deadline:
When America’s Navy SEALs are wiped out trying to penetrate the island lair of a deadly despot who has captured one of the world’s top nuclear scientists, it becomes clear that there is no such thing as the right man for the job and that this is a mission so impossible that only women can handle it. The only way in: some of the world’s deadliest female operatives must pose as high-class call-girls shipped in by private plane to satisfy a dictator–and instead save the scientist and the day.
That plot summary brings to mind something like the Charlie's Angels movies from the aughts, which also toed that line between intentional self-parody and exploitative action movie that the Expendables franchise prefers to walk (though, more successfully than the Angels movies ever did, arguably).
Producer Avi Lerner previously said that discussions were ongoing to cast people like Charlie's Angels alum Cameron Diaz and Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich - along with Meryl Streep in a different capacity (i.e. maybe a supervisor to the ExpendaBelles team) - though, as of yet, no actresses have officially committed to the project.
Luketic has worked on action/comedy genre territory before, on the 2010 critical dud Killers (also starring Heigl); by comparison, the closest that McCullah and Smith have come to an action-driven project before was their adaptation of the whimsical fairy tale novel Ella Enchanted, where a pre-Oscar Anne Hathaway performed Matrix-style martial arts maneuvers.
Of course, that doesn't mean it's impossible for this screenwriting/director team to pull an about-face and deliver a hard-hitting, tongue-in-cheek action ride; the Russo brothers worked pretty much exclusively in comedy before they made Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which looks to be something quite special. Thing is, though, it's not so much the content of Luketic and his writers' previous output as it is the quality that makes it difficult to muster much excitement for their ExpendaBelles collaboration (for me, anyway).
For those who aren't so intrigued by the way ExpendaBelles is shaping up, there's also that "all-women Expendables" project that producer Adi Shankar (Dredd, Lone Survivor) is developing, with Katee Sackhoff (Riddick) and Gina Carano (Fast & Furious 6) very loosely attached. Hopefully, the latter project will eventually come together, even though ExpendaBelles looks to arrive on the scene first.
We'll keep you posted on The ExpendaBelles' development as more information is made available.