Actress Rachel Weisz didn't return to play adventurer Rick O'Connell's equally capable wife Evie in 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. That came as a big surprise to many people at the time, as playing Evie in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns is what launched Weisz's career from mostly unknown into the Hollywood A-list. She's since gone on to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA for her work and become one of the most recognizable actresses around. Here's the Rachel Weisz The Mummy recast explained.

It's not that Rachel Weisz had become averse to starring in popcorn blockbusters either: her career since leaving The Mummy behind has seen a healthy mix of mainstream projects and prestige dramas. In 2021, she joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Black Widow. Weisz plays Melina Vostakoff, another graduate of the Black Widow Red Room spy training facility, and a surrogate mother figure to titular hero Natasha Romanoff.

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Over the years, several different stories have circulated about the Rachel Weisz The Mummy recast. The part of Evie was ultimately taken over by Maria Bello. Here's a look at the reasons for Weisz leaving the series, including what Weisz herself has said on the matter.

What The Mummy 3 Director Said About The Recast

The Mummy - Maria Bello and Rachel Weisz as Evie

One explanation [via Digital Spy] for Rachel Weisz's exit from the Evie role in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was given by the sequel's director, Rob Cohen. It wasn't very flattering, as Cohen suggested Weisz balked at the idea of playing a character with an adult son, as Evie and Rick's son was being aged up for the film. It was also reported at the time [via Cinema Blend] that the reason for Weisz's departure from The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was due to problems with the script. Apparently, Weisz felt it did a disservice to the Evie character, making her not want to return to the role. Universal denied these reports at the time, but Weisz kept silent.

What Rachel Weisz Said About Not Returning For The Mummy 3

Rachel Weisz in The Mummy

A representative of Rachel Weisz told Digital Spy that she stepped away from The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor as she had a newborn son and didn’t want to be away from him for an extended period to shoot the next movie in The Mummy franchise. However, she starred in two other films around the same time, which casts a bit of doubt on that theory. While it sometimes gets overlooked in hindsight, Weisz herself offered a more mundane explanation than any of the above reasons for her lack of participation in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. The U.K.-based ES Magazine had an interview with her in the Nov. 16 issue back in 2008. In it, Weisz said that she had never even read the script and that the scheduling of its production is what put her off the project. Shooting the movie would've entailed spending five months in China and required her to immediately begin filming right after production wrapped on director Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom. Of all the possible explanations for her not to return, scheduling conflicts would seem to be the most likely.

Why Alex Was Recast For The Mummy 3

The-Mummy Alex O Connell

The Rachel Weisz The Mummy recast wasn’t the only one in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, as Evie and Rick O'Connell's son, Alex, was also recast. In The Mummy Returns, Alex is a precocious eight-year-old in 1933, but The Mummy 3 jumps forward in time thirteen years to 1946, making Alex twenty-one years old. The rationale for the time jump was to set the film in a post-World War II China, with the villains resurrecting Jet Li’s Mummy Emperor to lead China out of the chaos. An additional reason was to make Alex O’Connell into a fully blown adventurer/explorer like his mother and father, similar to Indiana Jones. Freddie Boath played Alex in The Mummy Returns, but with there being only a seven-year gap in reality between the movies, he was too young to return. Alex was therefore recast, with the role going to Australian actor Luke Ford.

Related: The '90s Mummy & Jungle Book Movies Are A Shared Universe - Theory Explained

Will Rachel Weisz Return In The Mummy 4?

the mummy returns

If Rachel Weisz didn’t return for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor due to concerns over its quality, they proved prophetic, as the film received scathing reviews upon release. While the criticism was divided equally onto all aspects of the film, a lot was targeted on the recasting of Evie, and fans lamented Weisz’s absence. While Maria Bello is an accomplished actress, the relationship and chemistry with lead star Brendan Fraser in this movie is a shadow of what Weisz brought to the role. It was also the lowest-grossing movie in the trilogy (but still managed $400 million worldwide).

Universal Studios was considering continuing the franchise with The Mummy 4. Tentatively titled The Mummy: Rise of the Aztec, the movie would have seen The O’Connell family travel to South America to battle Antonio Banderas’s villain. Luke Ford stated back in 2008 [via Bloody Disgusting] that he was signed on for three Mummy movies, potentially being groomed to become the new lead for the series. Maria Bello was also contracted to return as Evie, meaning Rachel Weisz would not have returned for The Mummy 4 regardless. Universal ultimately decided to cancel development on The Mummy 4, and reboot the series in an attempt at a shared monster universe. Tom Cruise’s The Mummy was supposed to kick the Dark Universe off. However, when it bombed in the summer of 2017, the franchise once again stalled.

While Rachel Weisz has seemingly left the character of Evie behind, the current craze in Hollywood is the legacy sequel, with franchises being revisited decades later. When The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was released in 2008, it would have seemed fanciful to think that movie fans would have Han Solo, the original Ghostbusters, or Michel Keaton’s Batman back on the big screen. Despite suffering numerous injuries shooting the Mummy movies, Brendan Fraser has confirmed he’d happily return as Rick O’Connell. Combined with the prospect of Brendan Fraser’s renaissance, there is always the chance that Universal could choose to resurrect The Mummy franchise once again with Rachel Weisz back as Evie.

What Rachel Weisz Has Done Since The Mummy Movies

Melina Vostokoff turning to her left in Black Widow

The Rachel Weisz The Mummy recasting didn't go down well with people who watched the third movie, but her reasoning behind not returning was sound. If she were to do The Mummy 3, she would've had to spend five months filming in China, and she had recently wrapped up making The Brothers Bloom, a dramedy starring Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo. Prior to working on The Brothers Bloom, she starred in the Ryan Reynolds-led romcom Definitely, Maybe, as Summer Hartley. This would mean she already wrapped up two movies in 2008 prior to The Mummy 3, so she was rightfully exhausted. After her career took off, she starred in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, a twisting tale about a young girl who is kidnapped and murdered by their neighbor. She then went on to appear as Hester Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea and Dr. Marta Shearing in The Bourne Legacy. Weisz also starred in the 2015 drama/sci-fi film The Lobster alongside Colin Farrell. Most recently, she played the character Melina in Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow.

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The Rachel Weisz The Mummy recast has sparked an online petition for the actress to return to The Mummy 4. People across the internet are demanding a legacy sequel for the franchise and that the original crew return for one final ride. As of now, there are a little over 6,500 signatures on the petition, showing that the failed Tom Cruise reboot wasn't enough to completely tank the franchise. One last The Mummy movie would be welcomed with open arms by those with fond memories of the original – as long as Rachel Weisz and the original cast were to return. Hopefully, there won't be a repeat of the circumstances around The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and the actress will come back.

Next: What The Unmade Brendan Fraser The Mummy 4 Would Have Been About