After a decade, the Terminator is back, and it looks like Indiana Jones is right behind him.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed to reprise his role as the cyborg in “Terminator 3,” skedded for a spring 2001 start in Los Angeles for a summer 2002 release.
Meanwhile, M. Night Shyamalan is talking with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford about scripting a fourth installment of the “Indiana Jones” series.
The third installment of the blockbuster “Terminator” franchise will be produced by Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna.
Sources close to James Cameron said Schwarzenegger is talking with the writer-director to bring him back into the fold, but that he is currently not attached to the project.
“T3” will be produced through Kassar and Vajna’s C-2 Pictures and is slated for a late spring 2001 start. VCL and Toho-Towa have signed on as co-financiers, but no domestic distribution is in place.
Spielberg, Lucas and Ford are in the process of drafting “Sixth Sense” writer-director M. Night Shyamalan to write an “Indiana Jones” script that they hope to shoot in 2002.
Spielberg is expected to return as director. Paramount, which distributed the first three films in the series, is expected to be involved as well.
No deal is in place, but sources said indications are strong that Shyamalan will start writing in January, once he completes “Unbreakable,” a script for which he was paid $10 million by Disney to write and direct, with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson starring.
Last fall, Kassar and Vajna baptized their C-2 banner by formalizing plans to simultaneously develop the third and fourth installments of the “Terminator” film series.
The producers said they planned to make the films with or without Schwarzenegger, who starred in the first two installments, and despite the fact that Cameron previously stated he had no intention of revisiting the property, which he created with Gale Anne Hurd.
C-2 has always said it would move forward on “T3” by spring 2001 whether or not the film had a domestic distributor in place. However, no Schwarzenegger film has had to troll for domestic distribution since the days of “Pumping Iron,” so it seems highly unlikely that a studio will be able to resist.
But which studio? Cameron created the franchise, co-writing and directing “The Terminator” (1984) and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991). Sources close to Cameron say that the only way he will direct “T3” is if Fox handles the film, thanks to the bonding experience they shared during “Titanic.”
Cameron and Schwarzenegger were interested in reteaming on a third film at Fox until Kassar and Vajna swooped in to pay $8 million for the underlying rights of the “Terminator” franchise in the 1997 Carolco Pictures bankruptcy auction.
The move came as a blow to Cameron; sources close to the helmer said he had created a very clear vision for “T3” and was planning to make it his next picture but would not do the film as long as Vajna and Kassar controlled the property.
Vajna and Kassar nearly closed a deal to sell the “Terminator” rights to 20th Century Fox in early 1999, but Fox fell out of “T3” because C-2 brought in Toho-Towa (and later, VCL) to partner, thereby diluting the value of any deal.
‘True Lies 2’
Now that Schwarzenegger has embraced “T3” and is wooing Cameron, it seems conceivable that Fox might sign up for another go. Cameron is planning to produce “True Lies 2” at Fox, again with Schwarzenegger in the lead.
Still, Fox would have to swallow some tough “T3” terms: Toho-Towa and VCL are equity partners in the property, each slated to receive a 25% slice of worldwide revenues from all future “Terminator” product as well as all distribution rights for Japan and German-speaking territories, respectively.
Given the performance of the two previous “Terminator” titles, however, there could be enough coin to make everybody happy. C-2 also expects to broaden the franchise with deals involving Internet and interactive companies.
C-2 senior veep James Middleton is spearheading the development of “T3” and overseeing the writing by Tedi Sarafian, who wrote the MGM film “Tank Girl.”
Last fall, Kassar and Vajna announced their intent to produce “T3” and “T4” back to back, but that plan has been adjusted somewhat. While Sarafian’s “T3” script is ready to go, “T4” is still in development and being written by David Wilson (MGM’s “Rollerball” remake).
“We’ve been working long and hard to bring ‘Terminator’ back to the screen and to have Arnold aboard,” Vajna and Kassar said in a statement. “This project reunites a team that has had fantastic success, and we look forward to working together again on this much anticipated project.”
“My big wish is that Jim Cameron and I will work together again (on T3),” Schwarzenegger said. The actor is repped by Robert Stein at the William Morris Agency.
He is negotiating to star in Castle Rock’s “Doc Savage” for producers Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont, with Darabont in discussions to direct.
‘Indy’s’ long trek
As for “Indiana Jones,” the effort to mount a sequel has been long and fruitless since the trio agreed to make a fourth pic (Daily Variety, Sept. 23, 1993).
The third installment of the series, the Spielberg-directed “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” hit theaters in 1989.
The three decided at the time to only do a film if all were involved and mutually approved the concept and script. Numerous scripts have been written, and Spielberg, Lucas and Ford have often been preoccupied with other things.
The campaign to draft the inventive Shyamalan indicates the trio is serious about putting the film into production sometime in 2002. Shyamalan is repped by UTA and managed by Barry Mendel.
The B.O. returns on “Mission: Impossible 2” have reinforced the value of audience-tested characters, and studios all over town are trying to overcome creative and financial obstacles to put together sequels to smash hit films. Columbia and Amblin turned a corner recently in the ongoing attempt to reteam Barry Sonnenfeld with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in “Men in Black” when a script by Robert Gordon was delivered.
Warner Bros. has been equally aggressive on continuing its “Superman” saga. Now armed with a script by William Wisher (“Terminator 2”), WB has been meeting with prospective directors, including Ralph Zondag (“Dinosaur”).
No actor has driven more franchises than Ford, counting “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones” and the Jack Ryan series. However, Par suffered a setback recently when Ford nixed plans for a fourth appearance as Ryan in “The Sum of All Fears,” which was to have been directed by Phillip Noyce.
Par is back to the drawing board on that pic. Meanwhile, it looks likely that when Ford next reprises a franchise character, he’ll be wearing his signature Stetson and cracking a bullwhip as the death-defying archaeologist Indiana Jones.