Production Set to Begin on Lethal Weapon 4, Starring Mel Gibson, Danny

Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock and Jet Li for Joel Silver, Richard Donner and Warn Movie Will Open Nationwide July 10

Principal photography will begin Jan. 16 in Los Angeles on "Lethal Weapon 4," the newest adventure in the smash-hit action-adventure series starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as partnered police detectives Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh.

Richard Donner will direct from a screenplay by Channing Gibson, based on characters created by Shane Black. Joel Silver and Donner will produce the film and Steve Perry will executive produce. The announcement was made Wednesday by Bill Gerber and Lorenzo di Bonaventura, presidents of Worldwide Theatrical Production for Warner Bros., which will open "Lethal Weapon 4" nationwide July 10. The studio will release the picture worldwide over the ensuing months.

Also returning in starring roles are Joe Pesci and Rene Russo, while actor-comedian Chris Rock and Chinese action star Jet Li join the cast as a junior police detective named Lee Butters and an Asian crime lord, respectively. The story involves an Asian crime family that comes to Los Angeles to start a counterfeiting ring. Riggs and Murtaugh are drawn into the case, joined by Butters.

The blockbuster "Lethal Weapon" series, which has successfully blended action, suspense and humor, began in 1987 and built a worldwide following. "Lethal Weapon 3," the highest-grossing movie in the group, opened in 1992 and added Russo in a starring role as Martin Riggs' love interest and fellow daredevil detective. Since then, audiences have clamored for the return of Riggs, Murtaugh and company on-screen.

Gerber and di Bonaventura stated: "We are proud and pleased to be bringing the 'Lethal Weapon' team back to audiences everywhere with this latest movie. We waited a long time to be sure we had a story and a script that did justice to the franchise and to our filmmaking team of Dick Donner and Joel Silver. Now, however, we feel confident that our cast, which blends new characters with our popular heroes, Riggs and Murtaugh, will have plenty to work with.

"It also gives us great pleasure to welcome back Mel, Danny, Joe and Rene, and to welcome for the first time Chris Rock, who is one of today's most talented performers, and Jet Li, one of Asia's most powerful and highly esteemed action stars. We think this mixture of style, attitude, action and humor will ignite the screen."

Gibson most recently starred for Silver and Donner in last summer's "Conspiracy Theory" opposite Julia Roberts, and in the box-office hit thriller "Ransom," directed by Ron Howard. He previously collaborated with Silver and Donner on the worldwide blockbuster trilogy of "Lethal Weapon" films, and starred for Donner in the Western comedy "Maverick," which was jointly produced with Gibson's and Bruce Davey's own Icon Productions.

In 1995, Gibson produced, directed and starred in the Academy Award-winning Best Picture, "Braveheart," which also earned him 1996's Best Director Oscar.

Gibson's career began with George Miller's "Mad Max," which catapulted him to international stardom. His next two films, "Tim" and Peter Weir's "Gallipoli," each earned him Best Actor Awards from the Australian Film Institute. Gibson made his American film debut with "The River," followed by "Mrs. Soffel."

His other film credits include "Tequila Sunrise," "Bird on a Wire," "Air America," Franco Zeffirelli's "Hamlet" (which marked the first project from Icon Productions), "Forever Young," "The Bounty," "The Year of Living Dangerously," "The Road Warrior" and "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome." Gibson made his directing debut with "The Man Without a Face," in which he also starred.

Glover gained international status for his portrayal of Murtaugh in the "Lethal Weapon" trilogy. Glover's film credits also include "Silverado," "Places in the Heart," "Witness," "The Color Purple," "To Sleep With Anger," "Grand Canyon," "Bopha!," "Angels in the Outfield," "John Grisham's The Rainmaker," "Switchback" and "Buffalo Soldiers."

He received the NAACP Image Award and an ACE Award for his portrayal in the title role of HBO's "Mandela." He also received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the epic miniseries "Lonesome Dove." He also appeared in the television miniseries "Alex Haley's Queen" and narrated "Can't You Hear the Wind Howl? The Life & Music of Robert Johnson."

Pesci's performance as the explosive Tommy DeVito in Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas" won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He received his first Academy Award nomination in 1980 for his intense portrayal opposite Robert De Niro in Scorsese's "Raging Bull." Pesci's performance in "Raging Bull" also won awards from the New York Film Critics, The National Board of Review and The American Film Society.

His most arguably popular creation was Leo Getz, the fast- talking, scene-stealing mob accountant of "Lethal Weapon 2" and "Lethal Weapon 3."

Pesci's other film credits include "I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can," "Eureka," "Easy Money," Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America," "Backtrack," the smash hit "Home Alone" and its sequel, "Home Alone 2," Oliver Stone's "JFK," "The Super," "My Cousin Vinny," "The Public Eye," "With Honors," Barry Levinson's "Jimmy Hollywood" and Robert De Niro's directing debut, "A Bronx Tale."

In 1995 Pesci starred again for Scorsese in "Casino," followed by "8 Heads in a Duffel Bag" and "Gone Fishin'," in which he appeared with Glover.

After displaying her comic timing in the hit "Get Shorty," Russo starred in "Tin Cup." Earlier in 1996, Russo took on the role of a medical researcher fighting a catastrophic virus in the box-office hit "Outbreak."

Russo began her acting career in 1988, co-starring in the hit comedy "Major League." She followed this with starring roles in "Mr. Destiny," "Freejack" and "One Good Cop."

Russo's performance in "Lethal Weapon 3," opposite Gibson, first showed audiences her facility with both action and comedy. Wolfgang Petersen then cast her opposite Clint Eastwood in "In the Line of Fire." Russo starred opposite Gibson again in the smash hit suspense thriller "Ransom," directed by Ron Howard.

Comedian, writer and actor Rock made his feature-film debut in "Beverly Hills Cop II" with Eddie Murphy, then wrote, produced and starred in the rap comedy "CB4" in 1993. His other film credits include "Boomerang," "Panthers," directed by Mario Van Peebles; "New Jack City," also directed by Van Peebles and starring Wesley Snipes; and "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka!," for Keenen Ivory Wayans.

He also contributed his voice talents to the upcoming "Dr. Dolittle" and will begin work on Kevin Smith's film "Dogma" in the spring. In addition to his career on the big screen, Rock is known for his scathingly funny standup routines, which were brought to wide audience attention when he was a cast member of "Saturday Night Live" and a frequent guest on "In Living Color."

Currently Rock hosts the CableACE award-winning "The Chris Rock Show" on HBO. He received two Emmy Awards in 1997, for Outstanding Comedy or Variety Special and Outstanding Writing, for his special, "Bring On the Pain." In 1994 Rock won a CableACE Award for his HBO special "Chris Rock: Big Ass Jokes."

Over the past year Rock has, among other things, appeared on Comedy Central's "Politically Incorrect," hosted the MTV Music Awards, released the Grammy-nominated CD "Roll With the New" and wrote a best-selling book, Rock This.

Martial-arts expert and Chinese film star Li makes his English-speaking movie debut in "Lethal Weapon 4" after becoming the second-biggest Asian box-office draw (after Jackie Chan). A veteran of more than 25 Chinese films, Li began training at the Beijing Wushu Academy at the age of nine and was winning national martial-arts championships at the age of 11.

He made his film debut before he was 20, playing heroes and action stars in mainland China and, later, in Hong Kong. His role in "Lethal Weapon 4" will be his first as a villain.

Donner began his directing career in live television, first with theatrical adaptations and then with numerous successful series, including "The Twilight Zone," "The Fugitive," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "The Wild, Wild West," "The F.B.I." and "Cannon," as well as the pilots of "Wanted: Dead or Alive," "Kojak" and "Bronk."

His film-directing credits include the hit thriller "The Omen," "Superman," "Inside Moves," "The Toy," "Ladyhawke" and "The Goonies" (which he also produced, with Steven Spielberg), "Lethal Weapon," "Scrooged," "Lethal Weapon 2" (which outgrossed the first film), "Radio Flyer," "Lethal Weapon 3" (which outgrossed the previous two), "Maverick," which united Gibson with Jodie Foster and James Garner, and "Assassins."

Last summer he directed Gibson in "Conspiracy Theory," which he also produced with Silver.

Occasionally lending a directorial hand to the highly rated HBO series "Tales From the Crypt," Donner also serves as the show's executive producer, along with Silver, David Giler, Walter Hill and Robert Zemeckis. He also served as executive producer of Warner Bros.' "The Lost Boys" and Warner Bros.' "Free Willy," "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" and "Free Willy 3."

Silver is one of the most successful producers in the motion picture industry today, with the combined gross of his films at well over $2.5 billion. With last year's release of "Conspiracy Theory," starring Gibson and Roberts, 12 of Silver's films have each earned worldwide box-office totals of more than $100 million.

Silver began his career at Lawrence Gordon Productions, where he soon became president of motion pictures. He associate produced "The Warriors" and, with Gordon, produced "48 HRS.," "Streets of Fire" and "Brewster's Millions."

Silver's first independent production under his Silver Pictures banner was "Commando," followed by "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Predator." Silver then produced (with Donner) "Lethal Weapon," "Lethal Weapon 2" and "Lethal Weapon 3" (all directed by Donner), as well as "Die Hard," "Die Hard 2: Die Harder," "The Last Boy Scout," "Demolition Man," "The Hudsucker Proxy," "Richie Rich," and "Assassins" (with Donner, who also directed).

Silver also executive produced, with Donner, two "Tales From the Crypt" films: "Demon Knight" and "Bordello of Blood."

In 1997, Silver Pictures produced "Fathers' Day," starring Robin Williams and Billy Crystal and directed by Ivan Reitman; and "Conspiracy Theory," starring Gibson and Roberts and directed and produced by Donner.

Perry recently executive produced "Just Cause" and produced "Under Siege II: Dark Territory" for Warner Bros., and has worked with some of the film world's best-known talents.

He was an assistant director on the Academy Award-winning films "Rocky" and "Ordinary People" and was honored for his work on both by the Director's Guild of America. Perry worked with Eastwood as the associate producer of "Firefox" and "Sudden Impact" and, as executive producer, on "Honkytonk Man."

"Lethal Weapon" marked the beginning of Perry's association with Silver and Donner. He was associate producer on "Lethal Weapon," co-producer on "Lethal Weapon 2," producer on "Lethal Weapon 3" and second-unit director on all three.

With director Tony Scott, Perry produced both "True Romance" and "The Last Boy Scout." He also served as Robert Redford's second- unit director on "A River Runs Through It." Perry was also co-producer/second-unit director on "Die Hard II: Die Harder" and producer on "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane," both for producer Silver.

Contact Info: