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Lethal Weapon 5 May Be Moving Forward

Nancy Bilyeau

After the rumor mill put the planned film at a standstill, a Lethal Weapon 5 starring Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Joe Pesci may be finally headed for production, according to a recent media report.

Director Richard Donner in an interview with Movies in Focus said late last year, “I’m in the process of getting the fifth and final one written. I’ve hired a writer to deliver me a draft – as we speak.”

Donner said Gibson and Glover were “chafing at the bit” to do the movie, and Warner Bros was eager to relaunch the series. Gibson is 62, and Glover is 72.

Richard Donner. Photo by Tostie14 CC BY 2.0

Richard Donner. Photo by Tostie14 CC BY 2.0

The first action film, released in 1987, followed Glover, a veteran cop, when he was partnered with a younger, reckless officer, Gibson. The two officers, who were very different, go from disliking one another to becoming close friends.

Lethal Weapon, with a script written by Shane Black, was a blockbuster hit, and influenced the genre of buddy action films.

After four films the franchise was converted into a television series, created by Shane Black. It premiered in 2016, co-starring Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans. In May 2018, Crawford was fired and replaced as co-star by Seann William Scott.

Mel Gibson (right) on set of ‘Braveheart’ with 20th Century Fox executive Scott Neeson. Photo by Scott Neeson CC BY-SA 3.0

Mel Gibson (right) on set of ‘Braveheart’ with 20th Century Fox executive Scott Neeson. Photo by Scott Neeson CC BY-SA 3.0

Lethal Weapon 4 hit the big screen in 1998, starring Gibson, Glover, Joe Pesci, Renee Russo, Chris Rock and Jet Li. The four Lethal Weapon films have earned $955 million.

“As the Lethal Weapon film series progressed, each movie got more cartoonish and filled with physical hijinks, but evidently that won’t be an issue for the next installment,” according to Cinema Blend. “Calling it Lethal Finale, Richard Donner has said that Lethal Weapon 5 will be ‘very dark,’ as the director wants end things on an ’emotional note.’”

“This suggests that we’d be getting something more tonally similar to the first Lethal Weapon, where Riggs was suicidal and making reckless decisions while on the job, and the villains were nothing to laugh at,” added Cinema Blend.

Mel Gibson. Photo by Georges Biard CC BY-SA 3.0

Mel Gibson. Photo by Georges Biard CC BY-SA 3.0

In 2017, Donner was less optimistic about the fifth film, saying, “And we were all set to go and now Warner Bros. is doing their old-fashioned tricks. Not Warner Bros., there’s this guy who runs the studio who’s great but they have these people in the legal department who do the negotiating in the most counter-productive way. They should be sent to a studio and work with the producers and directors and actors, and learn what makes a film, and then negotiate.”

But now it seems these obstacles are being overcome. A media report in March 2019 said an announcement was imminent.

Back when the 1987 film was being cast, the part played by Mel Gibson was first offered to Bruce Willis, who turned it down.

Danny Glover. Photo by 5of7 CC BY-SA 2.0

Danny Glover. Photo by 5of7 CC BY-SA 2.0

Casting Director Marion Dougherty reportedly first suggested teaming Gibson and Glover. She arranged for Gibson to fly in from his home in Sydney, while Glover was flown in from Chicago, where he was appearing in a play, to read through the script.

After they were cast, Gibson and Glover prepared for two months before shooting officially began. In the early drafts of the script, Martin Riggs was even more mentally unstable. Donner insisted on more humor in the film and a slightly lighter approach.

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Glover says “I’m too old for this s–t” in the film. His character was 50; the actor was actually 40 years old. He is the one who speaks the title of the film when he says to Riggs, “I suppose we better register you as a Lethal Weapon.”


Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com