It turns out our readers aren't the only ones concerned about The Mummy reboot that Len Wiseman is directing, following his Total Recall remake (which proved a disappointment, both in terms of box office and quality). Universal is determined to keep the 80-year old horror-adventure film franchise going as a cash cow, which is why the studio is taking additional steps to guarantee a decent script.
Jon Spaihts - who penned the Aliens: Engineers script that eventually morphed into Prometheus - was hired to write the new Mummy installment in April of 2012. However, we're now hearing that Billy Ray (who did credited work on The Hunger Games) is developing a competing script - providing Universal with an alternative choice, in case the studio heads don't like Spaihts' version.
Vulture is reporting that Universal wants The Mummy reboot to begin shooting by either late this Summer or early Fall, so it can arrive by Summer 2014. The idea is that by having two different scripts in the works, the studio is "effectively doubling its chances" of a successful outcome; not to mention, taking extra precaution, seeing how Spaihts' screenwriting resume doesn't inspire a lot of confidence (case in point: he also penned the critical and financial sci-fi dud The Darkest Hour).
Similarly, by revitalizing the profitable Mummy property, Universal is keeping with its announced intent to focus on live-action franchise building. Hence, long stalled or nearly-forgotten projects like a Mummy remake, Jurassic Park IV and a third Conan installment featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger (titled The Legend of Conan) are preparing to start production before the year is out.
Warner Bros. used a similar "competitive screenwriting" approach two years ago, when it hired Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Footloose (2011)) and Adam Cozad (Jack Ryan) to write competing Tarzan scripts; there, it helped, once Brewer's proposed version failed to come together - and the studio instead attached Harry Potter director David Yates to Cozad's script, without having to completely start from scratch. Universal should likewise benefit from hedging its bets this way, as a Vulture source puts it:
“My suspicion is that one of them will be a ‘structure-and-body’ man, and one’s going to be a ‘character-and-dialogue’ man — and that they’ll then just gang-bang them together into one script, crediting both writers,” explains our insider, adding that this competitive screenwriting process is rarely used “because credit arbitration is usually a nightmare.”
Indeed, Ray's known for crafting intelligent drama-thrillers that are very dialogue-and-character oriented (see: Shattered Glass, Breach, State of Play). Meanwhile, Spaights clearly have a talent for devising new spins on old ideas, but he's not yet proven so great at the execution. In other words, the pair have complimentary strengths and weaknesses, so combining their scripts sounds like a wise decision - and shouldn't be too difficult, seeing how both versions take place in a modern setting.
More on The Mummy reboot as the story develops.