The Mummy 4 could be on the way, but why didn't it happen before?

Brendan Fraser has always said he'd be open to The Mummy 4 and recent rumours suggest Rachel Weisz might be persuaded to join him.

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz could return to their famous roles for The Mummy 4. (Universal/Alamy)
Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz could return to their famous roles for The Mummy 4. (Universal/Alamy)

Children of the 1990s, rejoice! It seems as if there's a chance that Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz could be on the verge of making The Mummy 4. The dynamic duo became one of the era's hottest screen couples with The Mummy in 1999 and its 2001 sequel The Mummy Returns.

Weisz left Fraser to go it alone for the poorly-received 2008 threequel The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and a fourth movie was abruptly halted in its tracks. We've since seen an ill-advised attempt to reinvent the franchise as the starting point for a shared universe of classic movie monsters — more on that later — but we could be about to come full circle.

There has been no official announcement yet, so we're taking it with a pinch of salt, but rumours are circulating on social media that Universal is working on The Mummy 4 and is very keen to reunite Fraser and Weisz. Both stars are very much in a purple patch, with Fraser's recent Oscar win and Weisz starring in the MCU as well as winning critical plaudits for The Favourite.

Fraser is certainly game, telling Entertainment Weekly earlier this month that his interactions with fans have made it clear there's appetite for dashing hero Rick O'Connell to return to the screen. But let's go back in time to establish why this movie doesn't already exist.

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz were a great team in the first two Mummy movies. (Universal/Alamy)
Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz were a great team in the first two Mummy movies. (Universal/Alamy)

The Mummy and The Mummy Returns were both bona fide success stories, earning strong reviews and more than $400m (£314m) each at the box office. This was a series in very good health indeed, so naturally thoughts turned to a third movie. This is where the trouble started.

The first domino to fall was director Stephen Sommers, who opted not to return for the simple reason that he felt third films were often tricky banana skins. The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen came in to bring his action experience to the table, with shooting planned for the second half of 2007.

Read more: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and how China came to Hollywood (Entertainment Weekly)

In April of that year, Fraser's return was confirmed, but Weisz dropped out. There were rumblings that she wasn't a fan of the script, but her representatives said she simply didn't want to spend months filming in China away from her son.

Cohen had a more sensational allegation, claiming to Heat that he'd got a call from Weisz — who was then 37 — declaring "she'll never play the mother of a 21-year-old". Seasoned character actor Maria Bello stepped in to play Evelyn in the film.

Watch: Trailer for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The third Mummy movie, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, did decent money at the box office, falling only just short of the previous two films. Critically, though, it took a bit of a pasting. According to aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, just 13% of reviews were positive.

Shortly after, Bello revealed that she had signed on for future films, along with Luke Ford, who played Rick and Evelyn's son Alex. However, Universal put a pin in the project, which reportedly would have been titled The Mummy: Rise of the Aztecs. Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was an expensive movie and they'd wanted more from it.

Read more: The Mummy at 20: Brendan Fraser reveals 5 things you didn't know, including how he almost died (Yahoo Entertainment)

By 2012, Universal had instead decided to reboot The Mummy as part of its Dark Universe. For those who don't remember that infamous 2017 cast photo, the Dark Universe was a star-studded plan to bring all of the classic Universal Monsters together as part of an ambitious shared franchise to rival the MCU. In the end, only one movie — fittingly, it was The Mummy — actually got made.

Sofia Boutella in 2017's version of The Mummy. (Universal)
Sofia Boutella in 2017's version of The Mummy. (Universal)

Tom Cruise led the film as a US military man who unwittingly released the malevolent form of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) upon the world. For my money, there's a lot to enjoy about its sheer silliness, but critics and audiences disagreed en masse, calling it one of the worst blockbusters ever.

When it lost around $60m (£47m) at the box office on top of all that, it put a stake through the heart of the fledgling universe. The next film in the planned series — a remake of Bride of Frankenstein starring Angelina Jolie — was consigned to the nearest skip.

Read more: Brendan Fraser weighs in on why Tom Cruise’s The Mummy reboot flopped (The Independent)

But with the Dark Universe dead and buried, the door could well be open for Fraser and Weisz to swagger back into our lives. Even Sommers could be involved, telling The Hollywood Reporter in May 2024, that he would "would work with all of those actors again", qualifying that by saying "it would have to be something really special".

If they were able to unite the golden trio of those early The Mummy movies, that would certainly be special enough for us.