10 movie stars and the franchises they rely on

Career in the dumper? Need a fresh payday? Then it always helps to have a franchise you can fall back on if the fit hits the shan...

Die Hard: the finest action film on the planet?

When a movie star has had a run of bad luck at the box office, it’s common practice to return to a hit franchise that they keep in their back pocket to resurrect their fortunes. So what series can the stars rely on, and how useful have they proven to be? Let’s take a look…


The Franchise: Indiana JonesLast Time Used: Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Harrison Ford has lumbered around in the box office wilderness ever since What Lies Beneath nearly a decade ago. The likes of Hollywood Homicide and Firewall all came and bombed, and thus with his career needing an injection of life, back out came the hat and whip. And despite middling reviews, Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull – which is arguably now the only franchise that George Lucas could call upon too – has blasted its way to become the second biggest film of the year, all but guaranteeing a fifth movie should the key protagonists desire or require one. Whether Ford can build on this we won’t have to wait long to find out, as Wayne Kramer’s drama Crossing Over is out in December. Has Ford, at last, taken a risky role?

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The Franchise: Die HardLast Time Used: Die Hard 4.0

Interestingly, the last time Bruce Willis wheeled out a Die Hard film, he didn’t actually desperately need to. His box office hadn’t been great, but he was still picking up decent roles, and was unlikely to worry too much about where his career was. Die Hard 4.0‘s taking didn’t hurt him, though, and safely paved the way to a fifth if ever needed.  The time when he did need Die Hard though was in the mid-90s, when Die Hard With A Vengeance put his career back on track. Beforehand, he’d been struggling to hit with the likes of The Color Of Night, North and Striking Distance. Granted, Pulp Fiction had given him much-needed credibility back, but off the back of Die Hard 3, Willis hit a commercial and critical gold streak, delivering Twelve Monkeys, The Fifth Element, Armageddon and The Sixth Sense in the half decade that followed.


The Franchise: Men In Black/Bad BoysLast Time Used: Men In Black 2/Bad Boys 2

Arguably, no Hollywood lead actor has more potential chips in their back pocket than Will Smith, who could easily pull out follow-ups not just to Men In Black and Bad Boys, but also to films such as Hitch, Independence Day, I Robot and Hancock should he so desire. The last time he pulled the sequel card, he didn’t really need to. His back-to-back decision to make Men In Black 2 and Bad Boys 2 however will have softened the commercial hit he took by making Ali, and since then, he’s gone on to make another four major international hits. It’s all too easy…

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The Franchise: Beverly Hills CopLast Time Used: Beverly Hills Cop 3

When it was revealed that Eddie Murphy was to reprise the role of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop 4, eyebrows were raised for a number of reasons. Firstly, how did he get himself into a position where he needed to do it, just a year after he snared an Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls? And secondly, the last time Murphy tried to revive his career with a Beverly Hills Cop movie, things didn’t go to plan at all. BHC 3 came off the back of what was a promising mini-Murphy revival with Boomerang and The Distinguished Gentleman, but sent his career firmly back to the doldrums until he stumbled upon The Nutty Professor a few years’ later. Bluntly, there’s no guarantee that the Axel Foley card carries anywhere near the weight it just had, and BHC 4 can safely be classed as a gamble. But then, Murphy is surely fast running out of chips…


The Franchise: Austin PowersLast Time Used: Austin Powers In Goldmember

The luxury that Mike Myers has also enjoyed thus far is that he’s headed to the Austin Powers well only when he wants to. However, it’s always been widely accepted that should Myers’ career hit trouble, reviving his international man of mystery was always an option. And so its time may be now, given that Myers hasn’t carried a non-animated hit since 2003’s The Cat In The Hat (and even that underwhelmed), and especially in the light of the disastrous showing of this summer’s controversial The Love Guru. Myers may have a get-out clause, in that he’s attached to Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards, but given the large amounts of cash that Goldmember raked in, if he wants to get one of his own comedies off the ground, he may just need to take one for the team and head back to Austin.

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The Franchise: Lethal WeaponLast Time Used: Lethal Weapon 4

When 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4 ended with such a pat-happy ending and a clumsy bow wrapped around it, it was assumed that this really was the end of the franchise. The difference though was that back then, Lethal Weapon 4 wasn’t really a film anybody needed to make. Mel Gibson, remember, was still hot off the back of Braveheart and Ransom, although he would use LW4 to paper over the commercial cracks of Conspiracy Theory. But still, it was a film that he could more easily choose to make. The talk of reviving Lethal Weapon for a fifth time, possibly with Shane Black back involved on scribing duties, is likely to be far more tempting to Gibson, whose front-of-the-camera career has been non-existent since 2003’s The Singing Detective. Off-film troubles have been well documented, and while he’s currently filming his return to acting, Edge Of Darkness, if he wants box office success again, then Riggs is likely to have to come calling.


The Franchise: Rocky/RamboLast Time Used: Rocky Balboa/Rambo

Few stars have more overtly played the franchise card than Sylvester Stallone in the last few years. With his movie career seemingly all-but-dead, he went back to his two most popular roles, and has jolted it suddenly back into life. Rocky Balboa has been the main success, a critically welcomed and commercially successful closing chapter to the great sporting saga. That said, it’s also a film that all-but-closed (surely?) the Rocky franchise, leaving Stallone with just John Rambo to call on. But call on him he has, and while Rambo 4 seemingly didn’t set the box office alight, it did make a very tidy profit, and work has now started on a fifth film. Whether Stallone can ever deliver a hit outside of his two key franchises again is subject to debate, but we suspect that’s not going to bother him for some time to come…

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The Franchise: The TerminatorLast Used: Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines

One UK magazine (think it was Film Review) writer predicted in the aftermath of Terminator 2’s enormous box office success that Arnold Schwarzenegger would never again be able to draw in such numbers. It’s a prediction that’s been proven correct, too, and while Arnie is currently fulfilling his political ambitions, should he ever choose to return to movies, he’s likely to have more trouble than ever generating a hit. When he made Terminator 3, he hadn’t had a huge success in a long time, with the likes of End Of Days, Jingle All the Way, The 6th Day and Collateral Damage all delivering numbers far off the Austrian Oak’s best. T3 did, however, bring home the bacon, although it’s hard to assess its longer term impact for Arnie, given that he’s not headlined a film since. His most pressing problem may be though that the Terminator franchise is now going ahead without him, perhaps removing it as an option for him altogether. For while a Terminator film with Arnie is always likely to be more popular, he may no longer be vital to the series. And that could make Predator 3 all the more appealing…


The Franchise: The BodyguardLast Used: Never

Interesting one, this. Kevin Costner has never made a sequel to one of his films, but talk tends to surface from time to time about a sequel to his 1992 megahit The Bodyguard. Even in recent interviews, Costner has talked about further exploring the character of Frank Farmer (hopefully without the Houston though, eh?), although it hasn’t gone further than that. Costner’s box office performance however hasn’t been spectacular for some time, and while it’s arguable that the quality of his films compensates for that, if he ever needs some quick shekels, then The Bodyguard is surely the most potent card in his deck.

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The Franchise: Mission: ImpossibleLast Used: Mission: Impossible III

Cruise has played the balance of commercial and more diverse choices as savvy as anyone else in the game, knowing that he could always fall back on a Mission: Impossible flick when he needed to top up his star power. It worked supremely well when he followed Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia with MI2, which cleaned up across the globe. And his commercial star was still beaming when he chose to follow up War Of The Worlds with a third outing as Ethan Hunt. But his infamous Oprah interview and subsequent falling the wrong side of Paramount Pictures’ chief damaged his Mission: Impossible stock, to the point where the studio was believed to be investigating doing a fourth film without him. However, that’s not believed to be possible. That said, for a commercial ‘disappointment’, MI3 still brought in potloads of cash, and Cruise – should Valkyrie not prove worth the wait – could still call on his MI chums for a career injection.


The Franchise: Basic InstinctLast Used: Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction

Proof that it doesn’t always work. Sharon Stone hadn’t had a hit that she’d headlined pretty much ever from what we can work out, and so Basic Instinct 2 was the film she kept talking about, no doubt with an eye on resurrecting her commercial fortunes. Big mistake. A cast-iron bomb that destroyed not only any hope of a BI3, but also Sharon Stone’s leading star status, Basic Instinct 2 is a wise lesson in knowing which franchises can be redeployed and which, er, can’t. It’s unlikely her career will ever really get anywhere near where it was at the start of the 90s.

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