×

Jet-powered ‘Lethal’ pic ready to roll

NEW YORK — Warner Bros. has greenlit the fourth installment of its action franchise “Lethal Weapon” for a Jan. 8 start, and hired top Asian action star Jet Li to make his American debut in the role of a Chinese lethal weapon who squares off against Mel Gibson’s character.

Though WB had been proceeding on a breakneck course to get the film in production in early 1998 and in theaters by mid-July, everything was contingent upon director Richard Donner and producer Joel Silver getting a script that would be approved by Gibson and Donner.

Clutch save

Screenwriter Channing Gibson (no relation to Mel) came through in the clutch, and turned out a script they’ll start shooting throughout L.A. and on the Warner Bros. lot just after the New Year. It’s intended to provides a boon to a studio in great need of a blockbuster.

Hiring Li was the brainstorm of WB president Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who wanted a villain with some international box office punch for a movie series that has played well abroad. Though unknown on these shores, Li is a kung fu expert and star of 25 Asian action films. He’s emerged as the biggest Asian film star after Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat.

Li has played the hero in every one of his films, and “Lethal” will mark the first time he puts his fists and feet in the service of evil.

Li joins the returning “Lethal” force of Gibson, Danny Glover, Rene Russo and Joe Pesci. Chris Rock also stars.

Li is repped by ICM’s Steve Chasman and Rowena Li of Fortune Media.

While the notion of putting a big-budget blockbuster film into theaters just six months after beginning principal photography seems daunting, sources said that the “Lethal” gang did it in a similar fashion with the second and third installments of the film, and they’re confident they can pull it off.

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

  • Climate Mobilization

    Marshall Herskovitz: Why the Climate Crisis Needs Movie Marketing-Style Muscle

     I’ve lived inside the climate-communications conundrum for 20 years, working with scientists, academics and activists to find ways to convince Americans that something they couldn’t see or feel was nevertheless a looming catastrophe worth upending their lives to fight. Now the climate crisis is undeniable, and we are finally seeing the beginnings of concerted action. [...]

  • Renée Zellweger, Adam Driver Gain Oscar

    Telluride: Oscar Buzz Builds For Renée Zellweger, Adam Driver and 'The Two Popes'

    This year’s Telluride Film Festival began on Thursday with the Guest/Patron Brunch on a private estate about a 30-minute drive from the center of town. Eggs, bacon and fruit salad were being served as the sun was shining on Martin Scorsese, Adam Driver, Noah Baumbach, Laura Dern, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Ken Burns, Ric Burns, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content