Tom Cruise has a lot of enemies. Every day, he does battle with jealous actors, tabloid photographers and other assorted haters hoping to take down one of the biggest names in Hollywood. “Mission: Impossible III” director J.J. Abrams, however, prefers to daydream about an enemy Cruise has yet to face.
“What would happen?” Abrams wondered aloud of a hypothetical battle between “M:I” agent Ethan Hunt and Abrams’ beloved Sydney Bristow, the “Alias” agent played by Jennifer Garner. “Ethan and Sydney would start fighting, and it would be vicious, and there would be a lot of broken glass. People would get thrown into walls and thrown through things. It would span a bunch of different sets.”
Getting a laugh out of the concept, Cruise is all too eager to enter into battle once again for Abrams, whoever the enemy may be. “When I met J.J. I said, ‘Here is a guy that I can be creative with,’ ” Cruise said of his director, who also co-created “Lost.” “I don’t do it by myself. I depend on people … my guys that I work with that help out J.J. and the whole cast.”
In addition to a new director, this third “Mission” has Cruise’s Hunt getting a new fiancee (Michelle Monaghan), a new villain (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and a whole new set of problems. The main element that had to be maintained, Cruise insisted, was the sense that everyone involved with the movie were little kids, getting to play with a big-budget toy box.
“Blowing cars up?” Cruise said with a grin. “I love that.
“I love action in movies,” he continued. “I’m gripped on the edge of my seat. And doing a stunt, I enjoy doing that, but really it’s also a performance. It’s a character that I’m playing, and when I’m doing it, we can put the camera right in there and the audience can have more of a subjective reality. … You’re locked in there with the character.”
” ‘Mission: Impossible’ is his baby,” Abrams said of Cruise, the star and producer of the decade-old series. “It’s his franchise.”
“But he let me make my movie,” the 39-year-old TV veteran said of his first flick, for which he also received a shiny new toy: Hollywood’s most desirable action figure. “He said from the beginning: ‘I want this movie to be J.J.’s “Mission: Impossible III.” I am your actor.’ I was like, ‘What is going on?’ I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Every day I was like, ‘Well, maybe today he is just going to be a crazy guy and be angry.’ ”
Movie fans know that comedies like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Old School” owe a great deal to the obvious behind-the-scenes camaraderie of the cast. According to Cruise, it’s a necessity for action films as well. “It’s been a lot of fun,” he said of the atmosphere he fosters on “M:I” sets. “As an actor, the range that I get to play with this character has been a real blast. Plus, all the stunts.”
“For almost three years now, he let me write the script I wanted to write, and work with the guys I wanted to,” Abrams said of his supportive boss and leading man. “[He let me] write it, let me cast the movie however I wanted to cast it, with people like Keri Russell, who I knew from ‘Felicity’; he’d never known her.”
Abrams can thank another of his small-screen endeavors for the big-screen opportunity Cruise gave him.
” ‘Alias’ was so obviously inspired by ‘Mission: Impossible,” Abrams remembered of the classic ’60s program that invented the deadly world of Ethan Hunt. “It was strange that the TV show inspired the series, and then got me the job to direct the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movie. Tom saw ‘Alias,’ and that was the thing he responded to.”
For that very reason, Abrams concludes his hypothetical battle scene with a twist ending that would make the film more “Super Friends” than “Freddy Vs. Jason.” “They’d have that fight, and then there’d be a moment where they would realize they were actually on the same side,” Abrams argued, insisting that Hunt’s Impossible Mission Force and Sydney Bristow’s CIA are engaged in the same battle. “They could then start fighting together against the bad guy, their common enemy.”
Jealous actors, tabloid photographers, and other assorted haters — you’ve been warned.
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