Tom Cruise Was To Pass The Torch In ‘Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol’

When Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol arrived in 2011 it was a turning point for the then-decade-long franchise. Under the direction of Brad Bird it took on a blockbuster-sized scope, and it was reflected in the box office. That was the first of the M:I films to surpass $600M worldwide and every film since has done so. But it was also nearly the end for Tom Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, as he was due to pass the torch to someone else.

Those who have been following these movies for a while probably remember when Jeremy Renner joined the Ghost Protocol cast it was speculated that he would be the new face of the franchise. That obviously never happened, and Renner’s William Brandt character would disappear after 2015’s Rogue Nation, but cinematographer Robert Elswit confirms plans were in place for Cruise to take a step back. He tells the Light the Fuse podcast…

“The original version of this movie was at the end of it Tom Cruise stops being Ethan Hunt, The Agent; and becomes Ethan Hunt, The Secretary. The whole version of this was they were gonna put another IMF Mission unit together with another actor—maybe it’s Jeremy Renner, who knows who it is—and they’re gonna go through this series of wild events, and at the end Tom gets to be the Secretary and a new agent takes over the franchise. Which I think seemed kind of nutty, but that was kind of the marching orders.”


So why didn’t it happen? The answer isn’t all that complicated. Cruise’s buddy Christopher McQuarrie came aboard halfway through and did a rewrite, and of course he wasn’t about to write his pal off…

“Chris came in and he kind of rewrote it, the last half, maybe more, and made it so that we had to change a few things that we shot at the beginning, like add lines, reshoot little pieces so that it all made sense. He tied the whole thing together and made it so that at the end of the movie, Tom ends up not becoming the Secretary but just goes on in his own lonely way.”

And McQuarrie hasn’t left since. He’s gone on to direct Cruise in Rogue Nation and last year’s Fallout, with two more M:I movies he’s shooting back-to-back for summer 2021 and 2022. By then Cruise will have stuck around for 8 M:I films in 26 years, an incredible number by any measure. What’re the chances McQuarrie and Cruise let Ethan Hunt ride off into the sunset then? I wouldn’t bet money on it.

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