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Will Lethal Weapon 5 Ever Happen?

It was 1987, and a baby faced Shane Black shocked the world with a script that combined that unlikeliest of duos: a cop who plays by the book, and his loose cannon partner who does things his own way. Riggs and Murtaugh came to define a generation of action films with Lethal Weapon, a franchise which would grow to include three sequels over more than a decade, retaining its lead characters and director Richard Donner the entire time and somehow never falling into the era-specific trap of and naming your sequel something terrible — we're looking at you, Die Harder.

Since the last hurrah of Lethal Weapon's stalwart LAPD power couple, their story has been retooled and repackaged as a three-season Fox television show, and was reportedly set for a recast soft reboot back in 2011. But what would normally be a requisite, nostalgia-laden sequel has failed to coalesce. But what's repeatedly failed to coalesce is a nostalgia-laden, 20-years-later sequel, a la your Die Hards and your Rambo 5s. When last we checked in on our heroes, Riggs was newly married and a proud papa, while Murtaugh had just become a grandfather — does Warner Bros expect us to believe that the kids didn't grow up to be a crime fighting duo that turns the genre on its head and brings Lethal Weapon into the modern age?In an age replete with Creeds and multiple Star Wars, a new chapter in the Lethal Weapon series seems like guaranteed money in the bank. So what's keeping Warner Bros. from one last ride?

Between aging actors and studio bureaucracy, the answer, it seems, is: a lot.

Director Richard Donner has said he's in for Lethal Weapon 5

Producer and director Richard Donner — who's held those roles for all four movies thus far — is apparently still ready and willing to start making a fifth Lethal Weapon movie whenever the opportunity arises, despite now being a verified nonagenarian at 90-years-old. "I'm ready to do five. It's called Lethal Finale," Donner said on the Maltin on Movies podcast back in early 2018.

Three years later, what's kept the sequel from coming to life? According to Donner, the studio is the culprit. "...They have these people in the legal department who do the negotiating in the most counter-productive way. They should be sent to a studio and work with the producers and directors and actors, and learn what makes a film, and then negotiate. But it's just embarrassing. And it's too bad, because there's a wonderful writer named Channing Gibson, who wrote 4 for me, and we have a really great story." Unfortunately, Donner's outlook on the odds of finishing out the series only got grimmer from there. "It is dark, but I wanted to end it on an emotional note, and I don't think it's gonna happen. It's heartbreaking."

Still, hope springs eternal and — as recently as last month — Donner has continued to talk enthusiastically about a potential capper to the series. In an interview with The Telegraph from December 2020, he raved about his proposed Lethal Finale story, saying "This is the final one. It's both my privilege and duty to put it to bed. It's exciting, actually." While that sort of guaranteed finality doesn't bode well for Riggs and Murtaugh, it certainly gives fans something to look forward to.

Ultimately, Lethal Weapon 5 is still up in the air

While Donner may be up to the task of keeping things working behind the scenes, ultimately, the ability to make Lethal Weapon 5 will rely on the talent in front of the camera. At first blush, the biggest issue the project might face would appear to be time's unforgiving march. It's been nearly a quarter century since the last entry in the series; that's right, Lethal Weapon 4 came out in 1998. 

Danny Glover, who was notably too old for this sh*t back in 1987, has made the classic celebrity blunder of continuing to age in the three and a half decades since. He's in his 70s now, and his voice is in its early 200s. Then there's Mel Gibson, who is currently on the general public's bad side as a result of — sorry, just checking some notes here — oh yeah, pretty much everything. 

Which isn't to say that there isn't vocal interest there as well, with a decent amount of boosting from Gibson on the subject of a potential sequel. In November 2020, he made an appearance on Good Morning America to promote Fatman, the realization of "The Night the Reindeer Died" from the opening act of Scrooged. Asked whether Lethal Weapon 5 was still in the cards, Gibson replied with a vigorous "Yeah, no, absolutely," before going on to reiterate that Donner is hard at work on the pre-production end.

The rest of the gang seem like touch-and-go propositions. Joe Pesci has largely been in retirement for the last twenty years, with the notable exceptions of a Scorsese comeback in The Irishman and a 2011 Snickers commercial. Rene Russo is probably available, and Chris Rock would probably swing by the lot for a cameo, but Steve Kahan, who played Captain Murphy in all four of the original movies, is now 90 years old and hasn't appeared in a movie since 2006.

In short, the future of the Lethal Weapon story seems very much up in the air. For now, fans will simply have to remain patient, breathe easily, and go back to wondering whether there'll ever be a Rush Hour 4.