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Here's Why Maria Bello Replaced Rachel Weisz In The Mummy Movies

Over a decade before Universal's attempted Dark Universe tarnished the mummy name in the eyes of many, their original efforts at bringing the classic monster back to the big screen were certified hits. The Mummy trilogy, which kicked off in 1999 and concluded with 2008's critically panned The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, killed it at the box office, raking in a collective $1.25 billion worldwide. For some time, it appeared as though the studio had a real heavyweight franchise on its hands.

A major reason for the success of the first two Mummy films was the solid cast, which helped revitalize the action-adventure genre by infusing it with both horror and comedy. They took what could've been a set of campy period films and made them appeal to a younger audience through witty dialogue and thrilling action. Most generally tout Brendan Fraser as Rick O'Connell as the centerpiece of The Mummy universe, but at-the-time-rising star Rachel Weisz's work as Evelyn "Evie" O'Connell proved just as integral. 

Weisz's performance in The Mummy turned out to be her big break. She signed on to do The Mummy Returns without question, but she's mysteriously absent from Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, in which Maria Bello played Evie instead. The reason for Weisz's departure from the project was actually laid to rest nearly 12 years ago, but hasn't necessarily become common knowledge.

Rachel Weisz didn't come back for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor due to scheduling conflicts

When talks of a third film in the Mummy continuity began to pick up steam back in 2007, so did discussions about why Rachel Weisz wasn't attached to the project. One common rumor ran rampant about her distaste for the script, which she reportedly felt went against Evie's character. Another was started by director Rob Cohen, who believed it had something to do with Rick and Evie's 27-year old son, Alex, whose inclusion would require Weisz to be aged up for the third movie. 

Weisz put the whole debacle to bed during an interview back in 2008, when she explained that she never got the chance to even look at the script. She'd also just finished on Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom and was about to begin work on another film immediately, so she wouldn't have a moment to spare. Couple that with her and Darren Aronofsky's newborn son waiting for her at home, there was no time for a trip to China for 5 months.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was a critical flop and prompted Universal to rethink their plans for a follow-up based around the Aztecs, which were eventually canned. Little did Weisz know back then that she couldn't have pulled out of the series at a better time.