Fraser Returns for The Mummy 3

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Variety reports that Brendan Fraser has closed a rich deal to return in The Mummy 3, but Rachel Weisz is not coming back.

Rob Cohen will direct the film, which is expected to begin production late in the summer. It will be set in China and will introduce Jet Li as a villain.

Universal is planning a July 18, 2008 release. The franchise has earned more than $830 million worldwide. The Mummy was released in 1999 and The Mummy Returns in 2001.

Weisz has has dropped out of talks to reprise her role. She has several other projects coming up, including The Brothers Bloom and Phillip Noyce’s Outback drama Dirt Music, set to begin shooting in August.

The script is by “Smallville” creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, who will do another pass that will factor in the absence of Weisz. Universal is holding up a greenlight pending a final rewrite, but a late summer start date is still expected.