The Pitch Meeting for The Mummy

Sometimes you see a movie and think, “How did this get made?” Fortunately, we have listening devices planted in the offices of every major Hollywood studio — a must for any serious entertainment journalist — and are able to bring you the behind-the-scenes story until the court order arrives.


The Pitch Meeting for The Mummy

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Good morning, gentlemen!

PRODUCER #1: Some of us are ladies.

UNIVERSAL EXEC: No time for that, there’s urgent news! The bosses upstairs want us to take characters that Universal already owns and develop a franchise centered on growling, subhuman monsters unbound by the laws of physics.

PRODUCER #2: Besides Fast and the Furious?

UNIVERSAL EXEC’S ASSISTANT: They want something more realistic.

PRODUCER #3: So why are we talking about it here? Why didn’t this get sent to the reboot department?

PRODUCER #2: Yeah, this is usually a meeting for fresh, new ideas, like “What if there were a spy named Jason Bourne?” or “What if we made a cartoon?”

UNIVERSAL EXEC: I know, but this is important and the head honchos want their best men on it.

PRODUCER #1: And women.

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Time permitting, yes. Anyway, it won’t be difficult. The idea they gave us can’t miss. Think of the hottest, hippest, scariest monsters in our culture today.

PRODUCER #2: The Babadook?

PRODUCER #3: Eric Trump?

PRODUCER #1: People who say “fam”?


PRODUCER #2: Slenderman?

PRODUCER #3: The lady behind the dumpster in Mulholland Drive?

PRODUCER #1: The electoral college?

UNIVERSAL EXEC: No! You’re not thinking big enough. Think: “most famous monsters OF ALL TIME!” Think: “legendary Universal Pictures films from the golden age of Hollyw–”




UNIVERSAL EXEC: That’s right! We’re going back to the Universal monsters of the ’30s and ’40s!




UNIVERSAL EXEC: Come on, you Danny Downers! What’s the problem here?

PRODUCER #1: It’s Debbie Downer.

UNIVERSAL EXEC: I don’t see gender. The Universal monsters are loved by everyone, across all demographics. I’ve talked to 80-year-olds who love them; I’ve talked to 100-year-olds who love them.

UNIVERSAL EXEC’S ASSISTANT: It’s true. “Please make another Frankenstein movie” is one of the most common last requests of people in late-stage dementia.

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Nursing homes are thick with the anguished cries of the dying: “If only I’d lived long enough to see one more Dracula!”

PRODUCER #1: Fine, but what about young people? I understand young people are going to the movies now too.

UNIVERSAL EXEC’S ASSISTANT: Yes, and we’ll lure them in by promising to deliver what they love: a prefabricated franchise where the titles and release dates are announced before any story ideas have been conceived.

UNIVERSAL EXEC: That’s what today’s youth crave! It’s all fidget spinners and franchises now.

UNIVERSAL EXEC’S ASSISTANT: Teens won’t pay attention to a movie unless they know in advance that there will be at least three more movies exactly like it but of increasingly lesser quality.

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Now, I’m thinking we should kick things off with the most terrifying and iconic of the Universal monsters…

PRODUCER #1: Frankenstein?

PRODUCER #2: Dracula?

PRODUCER #3: The Wolf Man?

PRODUCER #1: The Invisible Man?

PRODUCER #2: The Semi-Visible Man?

PRODUCER #3: Norman Bates?

PRODUCER #1: Bride of Chucky?

PRODUCER #2: Bridget Jones?


PRODUCER #1: Oh. Sure, OK.

PRODUCER #3: I know for a fact that Brendan Fraser is available.

UNIVERSAL EXEC: We’re getting Tom Cruise.

PRODUCER #2: Tom Cruise!

UNIVERSAL EXEC: His only stipulation was that we let him run from things, be in zero gravity, and have a scene where he gets to hold his breath underwater.

UNIVERSAL EXEC’S ASSISTANT: We might have told him it’s a Mission: Impossible movie.

PRODUCER #1: How’d you distract him from the truth?

UNIVERSAL EXEC’S ASSISTANT: We held the meeting next to a big pile of money and a pool boy.

PRODUCER #1: Ah, yes. The Travolta stratagem.

PRODUCER #3: Well, could Brendan Fraser stop by the set sometime, just to say hi? I’m asking for Brendan Fraser.

PRODUCER #2: Wouldn’t The Mummy have to be set in Egypt? That sounds … you know … ethnic.

UNIVERSAL EXEC: No problem. The plane carrying the mummy crashes in England so the movie can still be about white people.

PRODUCER #3: That’s the best idea I’ve heard since “What if we made a second cartoon?”

UNIVERSAL EXEC: I’ve got another twist, too. The mummy? She’s a woman.

PRODUCER #2: A female woman??

PRODUCER #3: I hear women are also going to the movies now!

PRODUCER #2: We’ll win the Oscar for Most Woke!

PRODUCER #1: So who does Tom Cruise play?

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Tom Cruise plays the swaggering, adventure-seeking hero who finds the mummy — only instead of a hero he’s a reckless, dunder-headed, anti-intellectual a-hole who steals antiquities and cares only about himself.

PRODUCER #1: But at some point we establish he has a good heart?

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Nope. In fact, we keep making it clear that deep down inside he’s NOT a good person.

PRODUCER #1: But in the end he’s punished?

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Yes, if by “punished” you mean “given unlimited power.”

PRODUCER #1: Oh, I see. He has no moral compass, he’s awful, and he doesn’t get what he deserves, but it’s OK —

UNIVERSAL EXEC: — because he’s Tom Cruise. Exactly.

PRODUCER #2: We’ve always wanted to test the theory of whether people would see a movie just because Tom Cruise is in it.

PRODUCER #3: Uh, remember the Jack Reacher sequel?

PRODUCER #2: I do not.

PRODUCER #1: So an irredeemable moron who’s too young and flippant to be persuasively played by Tom Cruise wakes up an ancient mummy. And then what?

UNIVERSAL EXEC: The mummy spends the rest of the movie trying to hook up with him.

PRODUCER #1: So our badass female monster is just another woman who’s obsessed with a guy?


UNIVERSAL EXEC’S ASSISTANT: Who has better romantic chemistry than Tom Cruise and a beautiful woman 20 years his junior?

PRODUCER #1: Tom Cruise and L. Ron Hubbard?

PRODUCER #2: A block of cheese and a beautiful woman?

PRODUCER #3: A ferret and Liza Minnelli?

PRODUCER #1: So how does this tie in with the other Universal monsters? Let me guess — Dr. Jekyll goes around like Nick Fury, recruiting monster Avengers?

(All laugh at the idea.)

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Yes, exactly.

(PRODUCER #1 leaps through open window to her death.)

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Filming began yesterday, so we’d better get started on the screenplay.

UNIVERSAL EXEC’S ASSISTANT: Wake up the typewriter monkeys! We’ll need all one thousand of them to make this work.

UNIVERSAL EXEC: Oh, and the second or third sequel will probably need to have live-action Minions, so start preparing yourselves emotionally for that.

PRODUCER #2: I would quit this job, but I need the benefits.

PRODUCER #3: Me too. You can’t beat Universal healthcare.

Eric D. Snider lives in Portland, always likes to end with the dumbest joke. 

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Eric D. Snider has been a film critic since 1999, first for newspapers (when those were a thing) and then for the internet. He was born and raised in Southern California, lived in Utah in his 20s, then Portland, now Utah again. He is glad to meet you, probably.

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