Why Next 'Mission: Impossible' Story Was Split in Two

Mission Impossible - Fallout (2018) Tom Cruise - Photofest-H 2020
Paramount Pictures/Photofest
Appearing on the podcast 'Light the Fuse,' Christopher McQuarrie, Simon Pegg and franchise newcomer Hayley Atwell pulled back the curtain on the new installments: "I just want the movie to have more feeling across the board."

Though their mission has been delayed, the team behind Mission: Impossible is still hard at work planning the next two installments of the Tom Cruise-led franchise — and revealing new details about what's in store. Mission: Impossible 7 was days away from filming in Venice when it shut down production Feb. 24 due to the coronavirus. The team moved to Rome, but that, too, was shut down, along with the rest of the filmmaking world. Now, filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie is spending his days on Zoom calls with department heads for M:I 7, which Paramount pushed back to Nov. 19, 2021, with the eighth installment following in 2022.

McQuarrie took a break from those Zoom meetings to appear on the Mission Impossible-focused podcast Light the Fuse's 100th episode, which also included actor Simon Pegg, franchise newcomer Hayley Atwell and composer Lorne Balfe.

"We're going to take this opportunity to make the movie better in prep than we've ever had a chance to do before," said McQuarrie, who confirmed a number of key players will be returning, including Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby and Balfe.

McQuarrie also noted that there is one major casting that is still unknown, even to Atwell.

"There is someone we were talking to before the world blew up," he said. "An actor I was very excited about. I don't know where that is, because we had talked days before [the shutdown] and it was an incredibly exciting casting coup."

The filmmaker, who did an uncredited rewrite on Ghost Protocol (2011) and penned and directed Rogue Nation (2015) and Fallout (2018), also elaborated on dividing the next adventure into two films.

"When we went into making Fallout, I said to Tom, 'I really want to make this more of an emotional journey for [Cruise's character Ethan Hunt],'" recalled McQuarrie. "Going into this, I said, 'I want to take what we learned from Fallout and apply it to every character in the movie. I want everyone to have an emotional arc. ... I just want the movie to have more feeling across the board."

In the end, he and Cruise had planned "this sprawling movie" that they were feeling good about, but which also felt too long.

"We realized we had a movie that was two hours, 40 minutes long. And every scene in it was necessary," said McQuarrie.

The filmmaker thinks of Mission: Impossible movies as being divided into 20-minute segments, and he eventually removed two of those segments from his M:I 7 story. Then, things just clicked.

"The ending of the first movie snapped into place. We knew what the ending was and we knew what the beginning was," said McQuarrie. "And now I had these two sequences, which means, I've got 40 minutes of Mission: Impossible 8 figured out."

Atwell noted that she was unable to say much about her character, not for fear of revealing spoilers, but because of the way McQuarrie and Cruise work. The duo famously began shooting Fallout without a completed script, and prefer to let actors and their physical abilities inform the characters, rather than a strict adherence to the page.

"I loved that," said Atwell, whose audition involved several hours of physical tests. "It's the complete opposite way of how I usually would work, which is to get a script, to get a character, know where my mark is and have an interpretation of what's on the page."

McQuarrie noted of Atwell's mystery character: "In this [film], we've found something really, really great for the core team. What I can tell you is that they then encounter this other destructive force of nature in the form of Hayley."

This next Mission: Impossible movie will also find Henry Czerny back as Eugene Kittridge for the first time since the 1996 original.

"Any character, dead or alive, is fair game to return," said McQuarrie, who added that he has already cut a flashback with a deceased character that just didn't work for the movie.

McQuarrie also touched on headlines from last week, when it was reported Cruise would be filming a movie in space. The filmmaker, speaking carefully, denied having foreknowledge of such a project when he read the headlines.

"Am I involved in that movie? There's absolutely nothing I can tell you about that movie," he said, adding that such a thing was "inevitable" given Cruise's penchant for one-upping himself. McQuarrie also said Mission: Impossible would not be going to space.

"What is happening in 7 and 8 is so insane that we don't need to go to space," he asserted.

McQuarrie also worked with Cruise as a screenwriter on Top Gun: Maverick, and the duo have an idea separate from the Mission sequels they are working on.

"Tom and I have another project for down the road that we've been planning with this fantasy of having a movie where the screenplay is actually finished before we start making the movie," said McQuarrie.

There's a lot more in the two-hour-plus podcast episode over at Light the Fuse's website.