Tucker, Chan, Ratner return for sequel

New Line’s rushing to start “Rush Hour 3,” officially greenlighting the sequel with the aim of launching production in late summer and releasing it next summer.

The mini-major’s announcement Wednesday capped a lengthy and complicated effort to lock down the third version dating back to 2001, when “Rush Hour 2″ grossed close to $350 million worldwide. The 1998 original took in more than $240 million.

New Line signed Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, director Brett Ratner (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson last fall (Daily Variety, Nov. 21) to reunite for the sequel. It had the option to greenlight the pic by this week, triggering pay-or-play deals for the helmer and two stars.

Tucker will earn $20 million against 20% of gross along with a second-picture commitment for the same salary on a film to be determined later. Chan will get around $15 million against 15% of gross and own distribution rights in China and Hong Kong.

“Rush Hour 3″ will be set in Paris, where Tucker and Chan’s characters will battle a wing of the Chinese organized crime family, the Triads.

Budget’s expected to be in the low nine-figure range. The trickiest part of putting together “Rush Hour 3″ involved securing the services of Tucker, who’s limited his film appearances to two pics over the past eight years — “Rush Hour” and “Rush Hour 2.”

Arthur Sarkissian will produce with Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman and Jay Stern, Ratner’s Rat Entertainment partner.

New Line, which also is aiming “Hairspray” for summer 2007, hasn’t set a specific release date for “Rush Hour 3.” The original “Rush Hour” launched in September and “Rush Hour 2″ opened in early August.

“The first two ‘Rush Hour’ films have become pop-culture classics, and we are confident that the third one will deliver the trademark mix of great action and big laughs that made the previous films so successful,” said production prexy Toby Emmerich.

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