Mission: Impossible - Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie explains the rewriting work he did on the fourth entry Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. While it’s hard to believe now, the original Mission: Impossible was considered a bold move for Tom Cruise, who rarely appeared in straightforward action movies at that time. The movie was directed with slick style by Brian DePalma (Scarface), and the franchise has attempted to set itself apart by choosing auteur filmmakers for each sequel.
John Woo brought his kinetic action and love of slow-motion to Mission: Impossible 2, while J.J. Abrams made his movie directing debut with the third entry. Brad Bird directed Ghost Protocol, while Tom Cruise’s regular collaborator Christopher McQuarrie broke the mold by helming both Rogue Nation and Fallout. Fallout, in particular, was acclaimed as not only the best entry in the franchise to date, but one of 2018’s best movies in general.
While McQuarrie is still mulling over the idea of directing Mission: Impossible 7, he recently revealed to Light The Fuse (via JoBlo) the extent of his rewrite work on Ghost Protocol. McQuarrie was dropped into the production around the midway point to help smooth out narrative concerns, but it turns out his contributions had a big impact on the final product.
When I read the script, the big things were, you didn’t know what was in the suitcase, you didn’t know what was in the envelope, you didn’t know what the villain was doing - this was all a mystery in the movie - and Michelle Monaghan was dead, Julia’s character was really dead. I came on board and I said, ‘Look, there are two things going on. One, emotionally if Julia’s dead, no matter how this story turns out, I’m sad.’
One major fix McQuarrie brought was to merge the storyline of Jeremy Renner’s Brandt with that of Ethan Hunt’s ‘dead’ wife Julia. Brandt originally felt guilty over the deaths of two unnamed agents he failed to save, but McQuarrie felt this was too disconnected from the rest of the movie.
I said, first of all, let’s try to integrate Tom’s story with Jeremy’s story so that Jeremy’ story is actually relevant to the movie, right now it feels like there are two movies happening. And again, no matter how you resolve Jeremy’s story, even at a hundred you were at ninety because he still hesitated and these two guys were still dead. Whereas, if we integrate the stories to say that Jeremy feels responsible for the death of Julia and at the end of the story we found out Julia’s not dead and Jeremy finds out that Julia’s not dead, you get to use that emotional engine, but then you get to let the audience off the hook at the end of it.
McQuarrie also removed the ‘mystery box’ elements, with the story originally being vague on key details like the motivations of the villain. Tom Cruise himself feels the writer’s work helped save the movie, which led to him directing Rogue Nation. Christopher McQuarrie has proven to be a great fit for the franchise’s blend of labyrinthine plotting and crazy action sequences. Ghost Protocol also feels like the movie where Mission: Impossible solidified its formula, by aping the episodic structure of the original TV series and making the IMF team a bigger part of the story.
McQuarrie, unfortunately, found himself facing the ire of some fans over the decision to not let Henry Cavill shave off his Mission: Impossible - Fallout mustache for Justice League reshoots, with the two productions filming at the same time. The studio was forced to use CGI on Cavill’s upper lip instead, leading to less than convincing results. It turns out McQuarrie was open to the idea, suggesting Warner Bros pay for the cost of shutting Fallout down by shaving Cavill’s facial hair, but Paramount shot that idea down. Either way, McQuarrie is clearly someone with Mission: Impossible's best interests at heart, as he's been showing since Ghost Protocol.