US-based film production company Nu Image/Millennium Films have acquired the film rights to the Rambo film franchise from Miramax/Dimension Films, with principal shooting for Rambo IV to begin in Sofia, Bulgaria in January 2006, with filming locations in India and the USA.
Sylvester Stallone, the Italian-American film actor who played the titular role in the Rambo film trilogy, signed with Nu Image/Millennium Films to begin Rambo IV in May 2005, stating that the production company had optioned a book for the new Rambo, for which he has adapted a complete script, likening it to vengeance films like Deliverance and Straw Dogs. According to Stallone, the new plotline sees the character of Rambo as having "assimilated into the tapestry of America," living with his family in relative peace for the past fifteen years but still working for the military, when work pressures force him to move his family to the American outback. The Navajo-Indian former Green Beret and his family are then subject to an attack by white-supremacists, and Rambo has to risk life-and-limb in rescuing his 10-year old daughter from being held hostage. Commentators have noted that the premise of the film is similar to one touted by Stallone in 1997, following the Oklahoma bombings, and comparisons have been drawn with the US federal government's attack at Ruby Ridge in 1991, including the role played by former Green Beret Colonel James "Bo" Gritz.
Nu Image Films, the owners of the film rights for Rambo, was established in 1992 by Avi Lerner, a veteran film producer from Israel, and has annually produced 15 to 18 low-budget and foreign-sale films. In 1996, Nu Image formed Millennium Films to address the market's growing need for quality art films and higher budget action features. Since 1999, Nu Image has filmed 40 films at their studios in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Millennium Films now has titles on its slate with budgets of up to $68 million. These include Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, starring Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett and Hilary Swank, Edison, a film starring Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and Justin Timberlake, 16 Blocks starring Bruce Willis and the remake of the 1973 thriller The Wicker Man, starring Nicolas Cage. Nu Image/Millennium Films had a co-production deal with Miramax/Dimension Films, which had been in place till the Weinstein Brothers left both companies. Nu Image/Millennium Films acquired the rights to the "Rambo" film franchise, with their chairman, Lerner, stating that Stallone is "one of the smartest guys I know." Having persuaded Stallone to co-star with a younger actor in Rambo IV, Lerner is confident about the film's future success. "It's a franchise," he says. "If No. 4 works, then you have a No. 5." Nu Image recently announced plans to produce Poe, a film about the life and works of gothic author, Edgar Allen Poe, to the screen with Stallone helming the director's chair for the first time since 1985's smash-hit, Rocky IV, and scheduled to begin production prior to Rambo IV.
The international scale of Alpha1Media's "Holy War" treatment has been envisaged as a plausible future instalment for the franchise, with several elements being utilised for Rambo IV, including the return to Rambo's Navajo roots and domestication for the super-soldier with wife and family. Miramax Films received the first draft of "Rambo IV: Holy War" in October 2003, during which the Rambo film saga was still in development hell. In October 2004, Alpha1Media released an early draft of the film treatment on the internet, drawing global fervour and controversy, and reviving interest in the film franchise for producers and audiences alike.
Many of the films released in April and May 2005 have themes and references which featured in the "Holy War" treatment from October 2003. Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter was set and filmed at the United Nations Building in New York, the scene for much of the action in early drafts of "Holy War". Lee Tamahori's XXX: State of the Union, about a radical splinter group of American military dissenters attempting to overthrow the United States government shared many thematic concerns as the controversial treatment. Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven is a sweeping epic set during the Crusades, concerned with a medieval 'Clash of Civilisations' in contrast to "Holy War"'s contemporary reading. Alpha1Media have been in discussions with Nu Image for a new and revised script treatment for the "Rambo" film franchise since March 2005.
Acclaimed Indian film actor, Amitabh Bachchan, who had the role of UN Secretary-General Amit Talian in "Holy War" written specially for him, was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in New York in April 2005. "I feel greatly honoured that UNICEF has chosen me to be a Goodwill Ambassador, and to be able to propagate the issues that UNICEF is associated with, in India and elsewhere," said Mr. Bachchan. Nu Image is also scouting for film locations for Rambo IV in Mumbai and Nagpur, further enhancing speculation that Indian film actor, Hrithik Roshan, will assume the role of Rambo's Afghani-American step-son, Hamid, as intended in the "Holy War" treatment.