We've got some encouraging, yet also surprising news for those who have been hoping to see The Expendables 4 happen. It appears as though we are getting a fourth entry in the franchise, but it will instead be a spin-off mostly centered around Jason Statham's character, Lee Christmas. Somewhat appropriately, the movie is said to be tentatively titled The Expendables: A Christmas Story.

According to a new report, this Jason Statham centered spin-off has been in the works for some time. We also know that The Expendables 4 has been kicking around as well, but this spin-off may be what came out of the development process. In any event, plot details are being kept under wraps, but it's said Sylvester Stallone's Barney Ross will appear. Though he will have less screen time his role will reportedly be "an emotional one." Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tony Jaa are also tentatively attached to the project, but are "waiting to see how the pieces come together." So while it may be billed as a spin-off, there will be room for appearances from other characters we've come to know in previous installments.

The screenplay was penned by Max Adams. As far as directors go, an offer was reportedly made to Duncan Jones (Moon, Warcraft) late last year but the negotiations didn't go anywhere. D.J. Caruso (xXx: The Return of Xander Cage) is also on the studios radar and an offer has been made. Interestingly, Caruso was also in the running to direct the original Expendables, so this could be something of a full circle move. We also know that D.J. Caruso is supposed to be filming xXx 4 at some point, so it's hard to know which project would go first, should Caruso sign on for the gig.

The Expendables launched in 2010 and, for all intents and purposes, it's like The Avengers for action movie stars. Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Steve Austin and more appeared in the original. Across all three entries, other action icons such as Harrison Ford, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, Bruce Willis and Antonia Banderas have appeared. Sylvester Stallone co-wrote and directed the first entry in the series, which went on to become a big financial success, taking in $268 million worldwide.

While the first sequel did even better, taking in $311 million, 2014's Expendables 3 took something of a nosedive, bringing in just $209 million. That is, in part, why it has taken so long to get a fourth entry in the series going. Plus, Sylvester Stallone has been busy with projects like Creed 2 and Rambo: Last Blood. Meanwhile, Jason Statham has been keeping quite busy, having appeared in last year's Fast & Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw, which was a massive financial success and set up a likely sequel. Maybe The Expendables: A Christmas Story will be the thing to get this franchise back on track. This news comes to us via The Illuminerdi.