The original version of The Rocketeer was a commercial disappointment, yet remains a well-loved delight of a movie. The Joe Johnston-helmed film starred Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton, and Alan Arkin.
It followed a stunt pilot in 1938 California who comes into possession of a prototype rocket pack from aviation magnate Howard Hughes, and find himself tangling with both Feds and Nazi spies as the battle for aerial supremacy ahead of World War II kicks up a gear.
A sequel has been planned for Disney+ for a while now. It is known that it will follow a retired Tuskegee airman who takes up the mantle of the Rocketeer and finds himself fighting some more of America’s most nefarious enemies.
J.D. Dillard was initially attached to direct the movie but stepped away a year ago before Eugene Ashe came aboard as writer/director. British actor David Oyelowo was set for the lead role.
The Book of Clarence, Role Play, and Solitary are all shot and completed, and Lawman Bass Reeves is finishing up, so the actor has a gap in his schedule. He gave an interview with The Wrap where he confirmed The Return of the Rocketeer, as it will be called, is very much still happening:
“We have forward momentum. I know you guys hear this stuff all the time, but we are in the script development stage and if you’re going to reinvigorate that beloved franchise, you better come with the goods. And so Eugene Ashe is currently writing away and we were talking about it only this week. We’re all very committed to that. But it’s going to have to be great and we will not rest until it is.”
The project will be heading to Disney+, and when asked why he wanted the role, Oyelowo had this to say:
“Well, I loved the original film. I remember seeing it, and again, not unlike the cowboy genre, there was something about it, the aspirational, inspirational, heroic quality of it. I also liked that it was sort of a bit more DIY and do-it-yourself in terms of the pack. It wasn’t superpowers. It was a guy. It just felt more grounded somehow.”
No filming or release date for the project has yet been set.
From the beginning of the process of making The Rocketeer, creator Dave Stevens and screenwriters Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo envisioned it as the first entry of a trilogy. Disney, in particular, hoped the film would carry a vein similar to the Indiana Jones franchise. Both Campbell and Connelly were contracted for sequels, Campbell for two more and Connelly for only one. However, with the film’s disappointing box office performance, plans for a sequel were halted in July 1991.
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