By Phil Contrino
Casual fans of The Mummy franchise may be in for a surprise when they catch the latest installment of the franchise on August 1st.
While Stephen Sommers, the man behind both The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, is serving only as a producer and has been replaced in the director's chair by Rob Cohen ( The Fast and the Furious, Stealth ), there is going to be another member of the original creative team whose absence will be more noticeable.
Rachel Weisz, who played the role of Evelyn O'Connell (the wife of Brendan Fraser's Rick O'Connell) in both the first and second films has been replaced by Maria Bello. The character remains the same, only the actresses have changed.
Universal seems to have intentionally shied away from advertising the change, particularly in the theatrical trailer which understandably plays up Brendan Fraser and franchise newcomer Jet Li.
Switching actresses in blockbuster sequels is not exactly new. Look no further than The Dark Knight and you'll find Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over for Katie Holmes in the crucial role of Rachel Dawes. Many critics applauded the switch and it certainly hasn't hurt the film's box office.
The same can be said about 2001's Hannibal in which Julianne Moore took over the role of Clarice Starling that earned Jodie Foster an Academy Award in The Silence of the Lambs. Yet with Anthony Hopkins still around for Hannibal, audiences weren't deterred because of the Starling switch. The film went on to gross $349 million worldwide.
Jenelle Riley, the National Film & Television Editor for Back Stage magazine doesn't think the casting change in Mummy will have any impact either.
"I don't think it's going to matter in the least bit" said Riley, "The people who were fans of Rachel Weisz from her Oscar-winning turn in The Constant Gardener aren't exactly the people who are going to demand she be in The Mummy. I think the people who go to see The Mummy movies maybe are not so interested in the acting."
Besides, after delivering powerful supporting turns in A History of Violence and World Trade Center, Bello is a very well respected actress.
"Maria Bello is a pretty terrific actress and I don't think they'll miss a step at all," added Riley, "In fact, I was really glad when they first announced she was taking over. I was afraid they might change the story so that now [Brendan Fraser] has a new love interest or something and I was so happy to see that [Bello is] just playing Rachel Weisz's character."