The Mummy reboot gets another writer?

The-Mummy-reboot Universal’s planned reboot of The Mummy franchise seems to have become slightly more complicated with the news that Billy Ray (The Hunger Games) has been drafted in to write an entirely separate version of the script. Vulture claim that the Len Wiseman directed project will then pit Ray’s script against another script written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus) in order to establish a stronger narrative.

Here’s a bit more on Universal’s slightly unusual approach:

Vulture has learned that Universal’s brass are so keen to make sure The Mummy doesn’t unravel before its hoped-for summer 2014 release that they’ve taken the unusual step of hiring two different screenwriters to work on dueling Mummy scripts. It was already known that Jon Spaihts, who co-wrote Prometheus for director Ridley Scott, is hammering away on an update of The Mummy set in the present day. But what wasn’t known is that The Hunger Games screenwriter Billy Ray has also been hired to craft a competitive Mummy draft, also set in contemporary society.

By hiring two screenwriters to work on competing Mummy projects at the same time, the studio believes it is effectively doubling its chances that it will at least have one Mummy script that’s camera-ready by the late summer or early fall. “Studios don’t shoot movies anymore,” explains one Universal insider. “They shoot release dates.”

But even if neither draft works out, the unusual approach might still bear fruit.

“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.”

Writing is usually a collaborative process, so this is definitely an unorthodox approach, but one that could pay off dividends if the competitive scenario inspires these writers to produce their best work.

The Mummy trilogy has grossed over $1 Billion worldwide and starred Brendan Fraser as the charismatic hero, Rick O’Connell, as he battled to overcome legions of the undead and ancient curses. The global success enjoyed by the first two movies also spurned a spin-off prequel called The Scorpion King, starring Dwayne Johnson.

The most recent instalment was 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and marked a drastic change in direction for the franchise. The narrative shifted from Egypt to China, and the primary undead antagonist, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), was replaced with the tyrannical Emperor Han (Jet Li). The film was critically panned but achieved huge commercial success, grossing $401 million worldwide.

The as-yet untitled reboot of The Mummy is scheduled for a 2014 release and it will be fascinating to see whether Universal’s scriptwriter gamble will ultimately pay off.