From Vision to Film » Mission: Impossible 3


Welcome to the third edition of From Vision to Film series, courtesy of guest blogger Ted Saydalavong (to view the other two posts, click on the category name on the right sidebar). This movie’s been released over four years ago, but news of the fourth sequel being green-lit weeks ago makes this post quite timely. Last week, Screenrant reported that Tom Cruise is taking a salary cut to star. Don’t shed a tear for the megastar just yet though, he’s still getting “… a nice back-end after cash break-even” so if the movie makes money, he’ll still get paid a huge chunk of moolah. Anyway, here’s a history of how the Mission: Impossible: III um, exploded to the big screen:

With huge successes of the first two Mission: Impossible films (the first one made about $180 mil here in the States, while the second made around $215 mil), Paramount was rushing to deliver another installment of the adventure thriller. Not having worked with director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) before, Tom Cruise and Paramount invited him to come on board and develop a storyline for it. Fincher had just finished Panic Room with Jodie Foster and wanted to make an action film, so he agreed to come on board. This was in early 2002, Paramount scheduled M:I:3 for the summer 2004 release.

So while Cruise was filming The Last Samurai in New Zealand, Fincher and his team worked on the script and even story-boarded a few big action sequences for the film. One of the sequences was for the opening scene of the film in which we see an assassin killed some very important person with a sniper rifle and then we see this assassin running away after the kill; as he was running he peeled off his face and we see the main character Ethan Hunt (Cruise). The plot for this version involves some very powerful companies selling human body parts in Africa and the IMF team was assigned to stop them. Tom Cruise even went to South Africa to look for locations before they started filming.

Philip Seymour Hoffman ended up as the villain in M:I:3

Kenneth Branagh was cast as the main villain in this version and Carrie-Ann Moss (Trinity from The Matrix films) was also cast as the new team member and a love interest to Cruise’s character. In early 2003, Fincher delivered the script and described his vision to Cruise and studio executives. First, he told them that he wanted to make a very violent and bloody spy flick and he also envisioned how Ethan Hunt has aged through the years; rumor has it that Cruise was not too happy when he heard this. Well not surprisingly, Cruise and the executives told Fincher that they couldn’t green lit a hard R-rated Mission: Impossible film, which resulted in Fincher leaving the project.

After Fincher left, Cruise hired Joe Carnahan (Smoking Aces, The A-Team), hot off of his debut film Narc (which Cruise put his name on the film as Executive Producer after he saw and loved it). Carnahan decided to keep Fincher’s script but did some minor tweaks to it. He added another character to the film, the young protégé which was supposed to play by Scarlett Johansson but eventually went to Keri Russell in the final version. Carnahan wanted to make the story more geopolitics, which makes sense since the plot took place mostly in Africa. He also wanted to make a violent R-rated film and again the studio refused and a second director walked off the project.

Producer JJ Abrams with the Cruister

So by early 2004 the studio and Cruise were looking for another director to take over the project, apparently Cruise saw an episode of Alias and loved it and decided to offer J.J. Abrams the job. Abrams decided to scrap Fincher’s script and came up with his own version, which in my opinion was quite lame. Out of all three M:I films, I thought the third one was the weakest, no offense to those who love it. Abrams also recast everyone except Cruise and Ving Rhames of course. According to Carnahan, Carrie-Ann Moss had some very cool and complex action scenes in his version, and she had trained for three months or so to prepare for them. Carnahan said he felt bad for her and wished Abrams had kept her in the cast.

When the film finally opened in summer 2006, it didn’t perform as well as the studio had hoped. Now maybe Tom Cruise’s couch-jumping antics might have something to do with it. In any case, the fourth sequel was recently green-lit and scheduled to come out Christmas 2011. Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille) has signed on to direct, which will mark his live-action directorial debut.

Apparently Abrams again came up with the concept for the fourth one and Cruise loves it. That doesn’t sound promising to me since I didn’t care for the third one. I’m still hoping we’ll get to see Fincher’s version on the big screen someday.


Thoughts on the story? Are you a fan of MI:3?

8 thoughts on “From Vision to Film » Mission: Impossible 3

  1. Pingback: Hollywood News

  2. Ted S.

    I forgot to mention that after the third film came out and it didn’t make a lot of money, there were rumors that Brad Pitt was going to take over the franchise and bring back David Fincher. Of course no one will confirm or deny those rumors.

    1. I doubt Cruise would ever let another movie star take over his franchise. He probably will tell Pitt, ‘over my dead body!’ 🙂

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  4. nice background piece Ted, good work.
    Yeah, Fincher’s body parts storyline sounds intriguing, studio want to make money from their franchise though, so they were never gonna buy it.
    there are so many interesting things you can do with Ethan Hunt (make him the bad guy/kill him off) so its a shame that Abrams’ brainwave was ‘give him a wife’, which was just an extension from John Woo’s ‘give him Thandie Newton’ in the previous film.
    I really hated M:I 3 on release but on a few repeat viewings it has some excellent action sequences. the bit in the Vatican is good too. its a good deal better than M:I 2, which is a dreadful mess – fun in parts, but a mess.
    Series needs to recapture the ‘spyness’ of the first movie, rather than just have shit blow up.
    I dont need Hunt to have a love interest to be personally invested in him – thats a real easy option – just give him an interesting mission and surround him with some terrific characters.

    1. Ted S.

      “I dont need Hunt to have a love interest to be personally invested in him – thats a real easy option – just give him an interesting mission and surround him with some terrific characters.”

      100% agree with you, that’s why I didn’t really care for the third film, lets bring back the coolness of the first film and not the crazy over the top action of the second one. Hopefully Brad Bird can bring us a cool action film like he did with The Incredibles.

  5. Pingback: Six Un-produced Scripts I’d Love to See On the Big Screen

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