Fans of the Mission: Impossible franchise might want to keep their fingers crossed for the success of Knight and Day this weekend. According to Deadline, Paramount will be keeping a close eye on the Cruise/Diaz rom-com action flick's box office gross in an attempt to gauge whether or not Tom Cruise is still a bankable action star.
The timing is particularly crucial because Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec have just delivered their script for Mission: Impossible IV and the studio now has to decide on a budget for the film. So if Knight and Day fails to meet expectations, what exactly would that mean for Ethan Hunt's latest adventure?
While there was some speculation that Knight and Day's failure could kill plans for Mission: Impossible IV altogether, this is extremely unlikely for several reasons. The first is that the film has already made an enormous amount of headway (including signing director Brad Bird) and a great deal of money has already been invested in it.
The second reason is that Paramount has a good (and profitable) relationship with producer J.J. Abrams and they're probably not in any hurry to risk damaging that partnership. Similarly, they've made plans with Cruise for a Tropic Thunder spin-off based on his Les Grossman character and having just recently repaired their strained relations with the actor, it would be a bad move to bury his biggest franchise.
Realistically, the studio would only ask for alterations to Mission: Impossible IV's script. It's possible that they would insist on scaling back certain elements in order to bring down the budget, but the more popular theory is that they'd want to beef up a subplot involving Ethan Hunt's protege. This would allow them to lure a popular young actor to play the part and split leading man duties with Cruise. It would also potentially mean having the new character carry on the franchise in future sequels.
From a strictly financial perspective I understand Paramount's concern - Mission: Impossible III made significantly less money than the previous two installments and many blamed it on the poor public image Cruise had attained with his couch-jumping, Ritalin-ranting shenanigans. His subsequent endeavors as a leading man were also met with disappointing results.
However, from a creative standpoint, studio meddling typically does very little to help a finished product. In fact, this news immediately brings to mind a similar strategy utilized in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Did anyone walk out of the theater hungry for the further adventures of Mutt Williams?
I haven't been shy about my disdain for the previous Mission: Impossible movies but I was genuinely intrigued by the way Mission: Impossible IV was shaping up. Cruise has become an easy target and somewhere along the way it became cool to hate him, but I still think he's a good actor. It's unfortunate that his real life persona has overshadowed that.
I'm not saying that we should feel sorry for Cruise or that the Mission: Impossible series wouldn't work without him. I just hope that if Knight and Day doesn't deliver that the ramifications for Mission: Impossible IV won't be too severe.
How would you feel about a diminished role for Cruise in Mission: Impossible IV? Would you follow the franchise with a new lead or would that be a bad decision on Paramount's part?