This morning, word arrived that relative unknown screenwriter Ben Trebilcook would be taking a crack at a sixth Die Hard film. According to a report by Total Film, Trebilcook was recruited by A Good Day to Die Hard consulting producer Larry D. Webster to pen a treatment for the film, tentatively titled Die Hardest. Bruce Willis' early hints that a sixth installment of his John McClane franchise looked more and more concrete.
20th Century Fox was quick to respond to the announcement, stating that there was no connection between the studio and the Trebilcook/Webster project. But if people were talking up a potential sequel in a formal interview setting, clearly something is brewing. To find out exactly what, Hollywood.com reached out to Trebilcook, who was able to clarify where Die Hardest stands in the fuzzy world of Hollywood development.
Trebilcook was unable to comment on whether his Die Hard 6 movie was technically a "spec script," written outside of the studio system in hopes of attracting a talent and the studio, but he does say he has the support of a few unnamed individuals involved with the franchise. "It's a highly detailed treatment and there isn't yet a full script," Trebilcock says. "A couple of parties connected to the series have given it their thumbs up and are flying my flag, too, which is such a boost; this includes Larry. He knows full well that it has to reach King B (Bruce Willis) and Alex Young, at present. It wasn't THE Die Hard related project that I thought was going to be talked about, funny enough, but the Net is a funny place."
Webster, whose background is mainly in post-production and could not be reached for comment at the time of publication, met Trebilcook after the writer wrapped a sci-fi movie called Death Machine. The producer came on board Trebilcook's next movie, Knockout (which he says pays "brilliant homage to Bruce Lee's Game of Death and the fight he had with Abdul Kareem Jabbar"). Eventually, the duo started talking Die Hard — an obsession of Trebilcook's.
Trebilcook says that in 1998, he wrote several action spec scripts for Die Hard 4 (a title that eventually became Live Free or Die Hard). Being attracted to the original on a number of levels — Trebilcook describes his own father as a "a real-life version of" John McClane — his path diverted from the franchise when he caught the eye of Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner's production company. A Die Hard movie reentered his thinking when Webster connected him with people on A Good Day to Die Hard.
"Larry and an undisclosed colleague associated to the franchise and I discussed Die Hard 6 and another Die Hard project," Trebilcook says. "King B has publicly said he'd do another, so I said I'd pen a treatment and we'll see what and where we can go from there."
Trebilcook says he's gone through a number of story ideas for a sixth movie that have managed to circulate around the Internet. The main one involved a bridge in Indonesia that linked his proposed sixth film to the original. "It does fit the typical, but tired 'Die Hard on a...' mold," he says of the abandoned concept. "That one, if anyone remembers, from the first movie Joe Takagi of Nakatomi Corp briefly discusses a model of a bridge to Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber. I thought that'd be a very cool link and have relatives of Takagi take on the bridge building project in Indonesia. Whack in a bit of jungle, some hostiles, all on a bridge, but it just didn't make sense." He says that idea is long gone. As described in the Total Film article, his script may send McClane to Japan. "The one I've done makes just perfect and incredible sense."
And as far as the title Die Hardest? Trebilcook believes, after wrestling with a few ideas, it's the one that lives up to his concept. "I like 'Cross My Heart and Hope To Die Hard'. I think one draft I wrote was 'Die Hard 6 Feet Under'. 'Die Hardest' refers to exactly that. Doesn't mean it's the end, but should be for the time being at least," he says.
Is Die Hard 6 on the way? Trebilcook did not comment on Webster's influence over the direction of the franchise or whether the detailed treatment would wind up in front of the people who can pull the trigger and make it happen. What is true is that a die hard Die Hard fan is taking a stab at making a fourth sequel to Willis' big name franchise a reality. But for now, it's a dream on paper.
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Disney takes another whack at “Witch Mountain” having found success more than three decades ago with Escape to Witch Mountain and its sequel. Now the story has been contemporized and Bourne-ified to create what is essentially a nonstop breathless race across long winding roads and two worlds competing for superiority. As in the original two children with extraordinary powers seek to save Earth and their own planet from evil forces. They waste no time jumping into a hapless Las Vegas taxi driver’s cab ordering him to put the pedal to the metal. It soon becomes clear the secret to their quest lies somewhere in Witch Mountain a place where top-secret government activity has been going on for years. With their own alien military leaders in favor of a violent takeover and the U.S. leaders ready for confrontation these two teens Sara and Seth plus their cabbie Jack Bruno race against time to find a better solution for both of their worlds.
WHO’S IN IT?
Fast becoming Disney’s go-to guy Dwayne Johnson (formerly known as The Rock) follows up his hit football comedy The Game Plan with another family-oriented tale in which he again gets upstaged by kids. His Jack Bruno proves the perfect foil this time as he gets to be funny cynical commanding and heroic all in the course of about 97 minutes. As events careen out of his control Johnson grows increasingly exasperated and that’s part of the fun. As Sara a smart extraterrestrial teen Anna-Sophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia) is ideally cast bringing a nice believability to the role without falling into stereotypes. Seth is well played but with one-note earnestness by Alexander Ludwig who still comes off a little too robotic at times. As an astrophysicist who gets caught up in the trio’s predicament Carla Gugino is a delight. Lead among the antagonists is Irish actor Ciaran Hinds who is properly mean and heartless when it comes to aliens of any stripe. Director Garry Marshall has an amusing cameo as a self-styled UFO expert and there are brief but welcome appearances by the all-grown-up Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann who played the ‘70s incarnation of the alien kids in the earlier films. Richards’ face-to-face meeting with Robb is especially sweet.
The filmmakers wisely keep the retro tone of the book and earlier films while using state-of-the-art visual effects and movie magic. A lot of sci-fi movies have come along since Escape to Witch Mountain premiered in 1975 – see Star Wars Close Encounters and E.T. And while Witch Mountain circa 2009 won’t do anything to make us forget those classics it’s good fun -- like welcoming back an old friend.
There’s no complexity in sight and the story isn’t given a lot of time to breathe. We barely get to know Jack Bruno before the kids have hijacked his cab and the whirlwind begins. A little more exposition and plot development would have been welcomed for those with an attention span beyond two minutes.
There are lots of first-rate action set pieces including a collision with a train and a chase through a Vegas casino but the climactic spaceship battle can’t be topped. Kids are going to eat this sequence up.
After showing Jack her alien prowess for the first time by making various items in his cab float in mid-air Sara says “you humans don’t move objects because you don’t develop your full brain capacity”. Bruno replies “No I don’t do it because it’s kind of creepy.”
The movie tagline sort of sums it up: "Four guys from the suburbs hit the road...and the road hits back." The four middle-aged friends who like to jump on their motorcylces and go riding around once a week are: Doug (Tim Allen) a dentist embarrassed by his job; Bobby (Martin Lawrence) a henpecked husband who wants to break away from being a plumber; Dudley (William H. Macy) a mild-mannered computer programmer and resident geek; and finally Woody (John Travolta) an entrepreneur with seemingly the most going for him. In actuality Woody is about to hit rock bottom but rather than be honest with his friends he convinces them all to hit the open road with him--to feel the wind in their hair so to speak. And as they go looking for adventure they soon find that they’ve embarked on a journey they will never forget. Uh-huh. Who would have thought these four actors would make a movie together? Casting Wild Hogs looked like the best part about making the movie as the producers probably sat around coming up with different variations (wonder who else they considered--Tom Hanks? Steve Carell?) Comedy veterans Allen and Lawrence have fun riffing on one another doing their shtick here and there while Travolta (the only real biker of the bunch) and Macy easily keep up with the antics. For the most part these guys click but I’m sure everyone did this purely for the money—and the Harleys. Ray Liotta gets to play the menacing villain once again as the leader of a motorcycle gang who has it out for our hapless quartet. Of course this time Liotta plays it for laughs and does a nice job with it. Even Marisa Tomei makes an appearance as a small town denizen who falls for Macy’s Dudley as the boys end up defending the town from Liotta and his thugs Magnificent Seven-style. You can see every plot point coming a mile away plus a few director Walt Becker probably didn’t even know were in there. But honestly from the guy who directed Van Wilder what did you expect? Becker is handy with a camera and totally knows where the film’s bread is buttered focusing all his energy and attention on his four stars. Unfortunately in doing so Wild Hogs mostly misses out on the poignancy of say a City Slickers even though it tries real hard to get us to connect with these middle-aged men trying to recapture youth--or whatever. But listen this isn’t supposed to change the world; Wild Hogs is just pure dumb fun about a group of guys wearing leather and riding hogs. Period.
She's a hip-hoppin' be-boppin' mean ol' nanny who whips a mean stew and your butt for not doing your homework—and now she's back! Alas we don't speak of the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel but rather that of Big Momma a.k.a. FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence). Agent Warner has cut ties with the FBI at the behest of Sherry (Nia Long)—who as you no doubt recall is the granddaughter of the real Big Momma—since she's pregnant with Malcolm's baby. But wouldn't you know that he gets sucked back in after a former colleague is killed. Posing as Big Momma he's hired as a nanny to a suburban family the deadbeat dad of which is involved in the murder and a crime plot. She does it all—cooks cleans dances and even runs down bad guys but it's a race against time to stop the potential national security crisis. That is a race against the film's (mercifully) short running time. Although Lawrence's resume includes some of the dregs of comedy it's hard to argue that he is truly blessed when it comes to physical comedy and comedic timing. He continues both trends here this time without the help of the breakthrough actors of the past two years Paul Giamatti and Terrence Howard who yes both starred in the first Big Momma's House. That means Lawrence's urban mania is truly on its own and absurd and juvenile as the film may be even film snobs can't hold back a few laughs at his Big Momma outlandishness. Longreturns for no more than a select few scenes and to provide a minor conflict in the story. The notable newcomer is CSI's Emily Procter as the sterile mother who hires Big Momma. She does a serviceable job as a suburban Petite Momma. Might she be the next Giamatti or Howard to bolt to bigger and better things in time for the next sequel? No.
Big Momma's House 2 is right up director John Whitesell's alley. He's the guy behind such misses—though not necessarily financially—as Malibu's Most Wanted and See Spot Run and he's right at home here. Whitesell doesn't hold back in (literally and figuratively) pulling the robe off Big Momma but he clearly knows that nothing is to interrupt Lawrence's antics not even the thin story line. Aside from that he knows quite well how to execute thinly veiled rip-offs of the aforementioned Mrs. Doubtfire as well as countless other hidden-motive comedies (i.e. Kindergarten Cop Houseguest et al). Because while the main guise is the Big Momma fat suit Whitesell parades the film about as a feel-good/family flick.