Tom Cruise Signs On For 'Mission: Impossible IV'

J.J. Abrams won't return as director, but he will produce with Cruise.

After the success of the first three "Mission: Impossible" movies, some wondered whether the series would finish within the framework of a traditional trilogy. Now, four years after Ethan Hunt's last adventure, a call has gone out for another adventure, and Tom Cruise has chosen to accept it.

Paramount Pictures announced Tuesday (February 9) that it will be making "Mission: Impossible IV," targeting a Memorial Day 2011 release. Although "Mission: Impossible III" director-turned-"Star Trek"-mastermind J.J. Abrams will not return to direct the next film, he will produce with Cruise through his Bad Robot Productions.

"Tom and J.J. are great talents," Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey said in a statement announcing the deal. "We are excited to be working with them to re-launch this legendary franchise."

Screenwriters Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec ("Life on Mars") are writing the script, based on an original idea by Cruise and Abrams. The duo are currently working with the studio to find a director for the project.

The announcement of the project marks a substantial reversal of fortune for Cruise, who has had an eventful few years since last portraying Ethan Hunt. While working on "Mission: Impossible III," the veteran star made an infamous stop at "The Oprah Winfrey Show," during which he jumped on the talk-show host's couch to demonstrate his enthusiasm about then-girlfriend Katie Holmes. Around that same time, the actor made waves by speaking out against actress Brooke Shields' use of anti-depressants.

Dealing with various controversies in the time since, Cruise has spent the past few years shying away from summer blockbusters and has instead appeared in a political thriller ("Lions for Lambs"), a comedy ("Tropic Thunder") and a fact-based drama ("Valkyrie"). With "Mission: Impossible IV," he returns to the signature series of his career.

Based on the 1966-73 hit TV show, "Mission: Impossible" follows a small team of special agents recruited for missions against evil organizations, political zealots and crime kingpins. In addition to Cruise, veteran actor Ving Rhames has appeared in each of the three movies as Hunt's trusted friend/ fellow agent Luther Stickell; it is not yet known whether Rhames will return for the fourth film.

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