Mission: Impossible - Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie reveals Jeremy Renner turned down a cameo appearance that would have seen his character, William Brandt, die in the opening sequence. There was a point in time when many believed the plan for the franchise was to have Brandt (introduced in 2011's Ghost Protocol) take over as lead for Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt. Obviously, that never came to pass, and Ethan remains the face of the series. As for Brandt, following a supporting role in Rogue Nation, he is nowhere to be seen in Fallout. He isn't even mentioned by name to address his absence.
While the recent Mission: Impossible movies have embraced some continuity in regard to the team members, Renner had to skip Fallout due to his commitment to Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 (which shot back to back). Since Fallout started production without a completed script, they couldn't provide Renner with a schedule for when he'd be needed. However, McQuarrie did toy with the possibility of a cameo, though Renner passed.
Speaking with Empire about the film, McQuarrie detailed what he had in mind for Brandt during Ethan's failed mission to obtain the plutonium spheres:
“So I said to Renner, ‘Hey listen, I have this idea for an opening sequence where you sacrifice yourself to save the team, and that the mission-gone-wrong not only involves losing the plutonium, but involves the death of a team member.’ And Jeremy was like, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ […] He was smart not to take the short paycheck for three days of work and getting blown up.”
Early in development, McQuarrie wanted to kill someone from Ethan's team in the first moments, but he removed Luther Stickell and Benji Dunn as possibilities. So when Renner turned it down, the sequence was reconfigured to just be a mission gone wrong where nobody died. While it would have been a shocking twist to start the movie with an IMF death (immediately putting the audience on the edge of their seat), Fallout turned out just fine the way it's currently constructed. Not only did critics hail it as the greatest action movie in recent memory, its strong opening weekend at the box office was the highest in the series' history. Arguably, Brandt's inclusion for a single scene wouldn't have had much impact on the overall reception.
Plus, keeping Brandt alive gives Ethan one more ally he can trust in a potential Mission: Impossible 7. Many fans would prefer to see him have a meaningful role in another sequel than be permanently eliminated in the first few minutes of a movie. It remains to be seen if such a followup comes into fruition, but hopefully there's a spot for Brandt in the lineup if Cruise chooses to accept another high-stakes mission.
- Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) release date: Jul 27, 2018