To Die Hard or not to die at all, that is the question facing Bruce Willis.
Willis is reportedly being wooed big-time by 20th Century Fox to take on the terrorists one more time in a fourth installment of the lucrative Die Hard franchise.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, it all boils down to movie titles.
Willis' next project, an action drama directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), was originally called Tears of the Sun. In the film, the former barkeep and Moonlighting vet stars as a special-ops commander charged with rescuing a doctor (Italian babe Monica Bellucci) in the jungles of Nigeria.
But apparently feeling that Tears of the Sun sounds a bit too much like some three-hanky melodrama, the suits at Revolution Studios and the film's producers decided to change the title to Hostile Rescue and then to Man of War.
Enter Fox, which owns the rights to a property with the Man of War moniker.
The studio reportedly offered to fork over the War title. In return, producer Arnold Rifkin's Cheyenne Enterprises would have to agree to devise yet another Die Hard scenario for Willis.
The trade paper reports that Willis is "near a deal" for the sequel to the franchise that made his movie career. His reps refused to comment on the supposedly pending pact, but if Willis does sign, it would represent a huge about-face for the 47-year-old action hero. While on the talk-show circuit promoting 1995's Die Hard with a Vengeance, Willis vowed that it would be his final go-round as wisecracking New York cop and trouble magnet John McClane, saying he felt he had taken the character as far as he could go.
No word yet on what Die Hard 4 will be about (although we can probably rule out a hostage situation in a supermarket à la The Ben Stiller Show's infamous parody in which McClane's trademark "yippee-ki-yay" became "yabba-dabba-doo, yabba-dabba-dabba?"). Cheyenne will likely start searching for a writer soon.
Ironically, back in 1997, Hollywood was abuzz with rumors of a fourth Die Hard installment that was supposed to be based on the Tears of the Sun script. The screenplay, penned by Chris Gerolmo (who wrote and directed HBO's Citizen X), would be modified to fit the franchise. As it turned out, Willis did eventually star in the film, though it was never transformed into another Die Hard.
The Die Hard series has been a mega cash cow for Fox. The 1988 original, directed by John McTiernan, was a surprise hit at the box office, taking in $137 million in worldwide ticket sales and making Willis a bona fide star.
Renny Harlin's 1991 sequel, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, surpassed its predecessor, netting $117.5 million in the U.S. and $237.7 million worldwide, while Die Hard with a Vengeance (with McTiernan back in the director's chair) grossed $100 million domestically and a massive $354 million worldwide. The films have also continued to prosper on video and DVD.