When "Alias" creator J.J. Abrams met Tom Cruise earlier this summer, the actor admitted he had never seen the show. Abrams gave him the first two seasons on DVD even though he thought Cruise would never watch them.
He was wrong. Not only did Cruise watch the shows, he loved them so much he asked Abrams to direct "Mission: Impossible 3."
Abrams, who wrote "Armageddon" and "Joy Ride" and has directed episodes of "Alias" and "Felicity," which he also created, has never directed a movie before, but he was not about to turn the offer down.
"The thing about 'Mission: Impossible' is that it is an incredible challenge, it's an incredible opportunity," Abrams said Wednesday. "And I just couldn't feel luckier that I'm gonna get to do that movie, 'cause I think the series is really fun. I'm a huge fan of the TV show."
One of Abrams' favorite writers, "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile" screenwriter/director Frank Darabont, worked on the "Mission: Impossible 3" script with Dean Georgaris ("The Manchurian Candidate," "Paycheck"), so rewrites are unlikely.
David Fincher was originally attached to direct but dropped out to do another movie. Joe Carnahan, who directed the Cruise-produced "Narc," stepped in, but he left earlier this summer over "creative differences."
Shooting, which was scheduled to start this fall, has been pushed to next summer so Cruise can film "The War of the Worlds." Scarlett Johansson and Carrie-Anne Moss will co-star with Cruise in "M:I 3."
Abrams, in the meantime, has started shooting the fourth season of "Alias" and is also launching another show this fall, "Lost," with "The Lord of the Rings" co-star Dominic Monaghan and Ian Somerhalder from "The Rules of Attraction."
"It's potentially an incredibly cool show," Abrams said. " 'Lost' is about this group of people who survive this jumbo jet crash on an island in the South Pacific and the island is not what it seems to be. And the experience for these people, it's not just the survival and the interpersonal stuff, but the fact that they have to live on this island that is a place of mystery [makes for] pretty cool suspense. The cast is unbelievable. We have 13 regulars. They are all amazing."
Abrams directed the series' first episode, which is reportedly the most expensive pilot in TV history. It airs September 22, with the show continuing on Wednesday evenings.
Although he continues to write, Abrams is looking forward to directing more and has already signed on for another TV pilot.
"It's fun to write, because you have the opportunity to tell stories, but it's the most lonely job in the world," he said. "I mean, you're just sitting there with a computer and feeling like a moron. Directing, you actually get to meet people and see faces and have interaction, and the people who are talking to you aren't just in your head and it's much more of a social job, so I prefer that light years more than writing."
As for "Alias," Abrams said the fourth season will focus more on Sydney Bristow's (Jennifer Garner) personal life.
"Season three was ultimately a pretty intense year for the character and is a darker year, and season four is there's a lot of hope in the year," Abrams said. "I can just tell things are going well because the actors and the directors and the editors, everyone's really happy and that's not always the case. I think our stories are better than they've ever been."
The third season of "Alias," meanwhile, is due September 7 on DVD and will treat fans to plenty of special features.
"They get some behind-the-scenes of how we create the appearance of various locations, all from lovely Burbank, California," Abrams said. "They get behind-the-scenes with some of our guest stars we have on the show — Isabella Rossellini, Ricky Gervais who's on 'The Office,' the BBC show, which is the greatest show ever, if you haven't seen it — and it includes an animated featurette which is sort of a short, animated episode of 'Alias,' which is really beautifully done and written by one of our writers. And Jennifer Garner did the voice, so it's pretty cool."
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