Exclusive: The Rocketeer Reboot In The Works, Previous Remake Seems Cancelled

By Michileen Martin | Updated

the rocketeer
The Rocketeer (1991)

They already planned a reboot, but they’re going in a different direction now. Our trusted and proven sources tell us that Disney is rebooting 1991’s The Rocketeer–a reboot that was already in development but now with a revamped premise. Perhaps the biggest change from the original reboot plan is that, rather than featuring a Black man as the hero, the film will have a Black woman in the lead role.

In August 2021, Deadline reported that The Return of the Rocketeer was in development with David Oyelowo (Selma) and his wife Jessica producing. David Oyelowo was said to be “circling” the lead role at the time who, rather than the stunt pilot Cliff Secord of the 1991 feature, would be a retired Tuskegee airman. Edward Ricourt (Now You See Me) was named as the screenwriter and J.D. Dillard (Devotion) later agreed to direct.

We have exclusively learned The Rocketeer will be rebooted with a Black female character in the lead role, and set in the Cold War rather than World War II.

According to what our sources tell us, The Return of the Rocketeer‘s original conception has been abandoned. Azia Squire (The First Lady) — who was attached to The Return of the Rocketeer before Ricourt’s involvement — will be writing the new reboot. The hero will be a Black female pilot who tries to stop an evil rocket scientist from stealing jetpack technology during a pivotal moment in the Cold War.

We don’t know why Disney is shifting gears on rebooting The Rocketeer, but one possible, if not likely, contributing factor is Dillard leaving the project. Last November, Dillard told The Wrap he had exited both The Return of the Rocketeer and the pilot-centered Star Wars project he was working on for Disney. He said that after making last year’s Devotion — which stars Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell as Korean War era pilots — he wanted a break from “period aviation” filmmaking.

Another possible contributing factor is Disney’s changing strategies in terms of streaming. The Return of the Rocketeer was originally conceived specifically as a film to be released on Disney+. With almost all of the streamers cutting back on budgets for original films and series, it’s possible Disney wants something different to premiere in theaters rather than on their streaming platform.

The Original Film

Billy Campbell as the hero of The Rocketeer (1991)

The Rocketeer was based on the comic book character of the same name. Inspired by the heroes popularized by 1930s serials, the hero premiered in a backup feature in Pacific Comics’ Starslayer #2, from 1982. Billy Campbell plays the titular hero in the 1991 film, which was directed by Joe Johnston. Johnston would later help bring another World War II era hero to the big screen when he directed 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger.

The Rocketeer Animated Series

the rocketeer
Kit Secord in the The Rocketeer TV series

This won’t be the first time the hero has undergone a bit of a gender swap. In 2019, Disney Junior debuted The Rocketeer animated TV series with the young Kit Secord (Kitana Turnbull) as the great-granddaughter of the original jetpacking hero. Billy Campbell actually joined the voice cast to play Kit’s father, Dave.

Sadly, The Rocketeer animated series was canceled after only one season, but it’s available for streaming on Disney+.