One of the biggest surprises of last year's Mission: Impossible – Fallout was the long-awaited return to the franchise of Michelle Monaghan - yet a crucial decision from years earlier almost made her comeback impossible.
Mission: Impossible writer/director Christopher McQuarrie lifts the lid on reinvigorating the series on the latest episode of the Light the Fuse podcast, and one of his most intriguing stories has to do with 2011's Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.
McQuarrie did an uncredited rewrite on director Brad Bird's screenplay, and suggested some crucial changes - one of those was reversing a decision to kill off Ethan Hunt's wife Julia (Monaghan).
"When I read the script, the big things were, you didn’t know what was in the suitcase," he explained. "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. #1, emotionally if Julia’s dead, no matter how this story turns out, I’m sad. 100 means you’re at 90, because no matter how well Ethan wins, he’s carrying this failure that you’ve alluded to the entire movie'.
"You’ve got to let the audience off the hook tonally in Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible."
McQuarrie also lobbied for key changes to the backstory of Jeremy Renner's character William Brandt, who was originally supposed to have caused a nebulous international incident.
"The other thing that was going on was that Jeremy Renner had a different backstory," the director explained. "His character of Brandt, he was still the agent that was now an analyst, but the reason that he couldn’t go back into the field was that he had hesitated and his hesitation had led to the death of two nameless agents.
"And in this event, I think they referred to it as White River… it become the code for this unhealed scar in his past.
"I said, first of all, let’s try to integrate Tom [Cruise]’s story with Jeremy’s story so that Jeremy’s 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  you were at 90 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's vision ultimately won out, and he would later take over as director of both Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
While there's no official news on Mission: Impossible 7 just yet, Tom Cruise did recently promise that he's been coming up with some "world-topping shit" for the movie.
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