While the Fast & Furious franchise might be the most flashy “rejuvenated” film series at the moment, I’d argue Mission: Impossible is the best. Thanks to Tom Cruise’s dedication and desire to allow filmmakers to put his or her stamp on each entry, the franchise hit a high point with Brad Bird’s 2012 film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and looks to continue that streak with this summer’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which reunites Cruise with his Jack Reacher writer/director Christopher McQuarrie.
The film was originally slated for release this December, but Paramount made the bold move to push it up five months to this July. And now it appears as though the studio has a hit on its hands, as Steve recently took part in a group interview with Skydance Productions CEO David Ellison and CCO Dana Goldberg at the Berlin premiere of Terminator Genisys, who had great things to say about Rogue Nation.
The two revealed that the film recently scored higher than Ghost Protocol at a test screening in Arizona, and also touched on the decision to shift the release date, Cruise’s work ethic and underwater stunt for the film, why it wasn’t shot in IMAX, Rebecca Ferguson‘s standout role, and much more. Read that portion of the conversation below, and look for Steve’s full interview with Ellison and Goldberg soon.
I was just gonna ask about Rogue Nation. I’m super excited for the movie and I’ve already heard really good buzz. Can you talk about some of the test screenings and some of the reactions to that?
DANA GOLDBERG: We will talk about that all day long [laughs].
I’m so excited to see it. It just keeps getting better and better with each episode of the series.
GOLDBERG: It is getting better and better with each episode. Credit to Chris McQuarrie and Tom Cruise and Don Granger who works with us, and it’s a phenomenal movie. It’s a phenomenal movie and I think I’m officially allowed to say that we tested even higher than Ghost Protocol. There’s not a lot of times in your life, you dream about them, but those moments you go to a preview screening and everybody’s there, your director, your star, the studio, you sit there and from the second the movie starts, you’re just like ‘oh, this feels really, really good’. It feels that way from top to bottom, and then they walk in and they tell you what the audience thought and it felt even better to the audience than it did to you, and that’s how we felt in Arizona a couple weeks ago.
Tom Cruise is known as someone who likes to do his own stunts. He’s a bit of a daredevil. Has there ever been an instance where you’ve had to say no to him just for fear of his life?
DAVID ELLISON: In development of certain scenes we’ve said maybe not such a good idea.
Such as the plane scene for example?
ELLISON: No, no, that’s Tom on the side of the plane. There is not a single stunt double in Rogue Nation.
I knew it was him, but did you advise against it?
ELLISON: No, we were 100% in support of that. These stunts are rehearsed to within an inch of their life, but the one thing that Tom feels very passionately about, and it really comes from a place of wanting to entertain the audience, is in a movie like Mission: Impossible, where it’s possible to do these things using a camera that doesn’t rely on the CG that Star Trek or Terminator relied on, when you actually see Tom Cruise holding onto the side of the airplane and the camera doesn’t cut, you get this pit in your stomach that’s just uncomfortable. It puts the audience there in a way that you could never do with CG, and there is an underwater sequence in the movie that has only been teased out in the trailers thus far where Tom worked with three divers to learn how to hold his breath for six minutes, and the tension you get in that sequence when you’re underwater and you see it’s Tom and the camera is not cutting, you’re at the edge of your seat. And that all comes from a place of storytelling and wanting to entertain an audience and Tom is the most dedicated and hardest working movie star we have ever worked with, and he is sensational in Rogue Nation.
You’ve been working with him quite a lot.
GOLDBERG: We love working with Tom. The truth is Tom spoils you because you work with Tom and you then have the expectation that of course every movie star/producer is going to be like that. Because he’s typically the first person on the set and the last person on the set. And he will openly look at you and say ‘I don’t expect you to work harder than me, but I expect you to keep up with me.’ He says it by example, which is beyond impressive. We all kid about Tom, the stunts, and that’s he insane, an adrenaline junkie, all of that, all of which is true, but I also really don’t wanna undermine one very clear fact which is the thought, the planning, the meticulous safety that goes into these things that he is involved with from second one is just so impressive.
So when you asked the question about whether we’ve ever said no, yes when we sit around rooms like this and we’re talking and we’re in the development phase, and somebody goes ‘I know, let’s dangle him outside of a…’ and you go ‘okay, let’s not do that. Let’s not kill Tom Cruise.’ Rule number one: do not kill Tom Cruise. But by the time you get to a plane, that’s months and months and months literally of work has gone into making sure by some of the most talented crew in the business, to making sure that when we put him on that plane, every precaution has been taken. Now by the way, it doesn’t mean something can’t go wrong. If you ask Tom, the thing that we’re most afraid of is a bird strike because if it just in the same way sadly birds have affected planes in normal life, if there was a random bird in the wrong place when we were shooting that sequence, it could have been really, really bad. But in terms of everything that can be controlled, he is meticulous in his preparation.
How did changing the release date impact getting that movie to the screen?
GOLDBERG: Chris McQuarrie hasn’t slept in months.
ELLISON: There is not a moment of sacrifice to the quality of film in moving it forward that way, but it required everybody led by Chris McQuarrie to work twenty plus hours a day. I think when everyone sees this movie if they didn’t already think it after Jack Reacher, they are going to see that Chris McQuarrie is a truly visionary filmmaker.
GOLDBERG: He sort of ruined it for other filmmakers. We were chatting with some people yesterday who said ‘so now just anybody can say you’re going to move your movie up by five months, and just get it done, right? That’s not going to be a problem.’ Because that is actually how it happened. It was a meeting that was a lot like this, it was like ‘well you know what, it would be the perfect date, July 31st, but you guys can’t get in ready in time.’ Yeah, we can. And it was Tom and it was Chris. They both said ‘yeah, we can. We’ll get it ready. We’ll do it.’ And they have not sacrificed one thing. They have killed themselves, our whole crew. Eddie Hamilton, our editor, they have worked non-stop on this movie, and genuinely cannot wait for you guys to see the result. It is beautiful filmmaking.
Is it IMAX also? Some of the scenes?
ELLISON: It’s being DMR to release in IMAX. We didn’t get to shoot anything natively because at the time, every single IMAX screen was taken up by Star Wars and we thought we were releasing in December. Otherwise, we would’ve loved to shoot IMAX. It’s an amazing format.
You mentioned Star Wars. There’s this other little film under the Star Wars banner that has in Rogue in the title, and I was wondering if that caused any drama?
ELLISON: Fortunately, we had settled on the title long before that was released. There was a little bit of behind the scenes with Paramount and Disney but everybody was able to play nice together.
Did you have to okay Disney’s title?
ELLISON: We had the title beforehand.
GOLDBERG: It’s a line in our movie. It’s not something that was created late in the game.
ELLISON: And since the Disney and Star Wars film comes out over a year after us, there’s not as much conflict as other instances in the past where it’s been ‘we want the same title and we want to release on the same weekend or within a month of each other.’ So fortunately there was no drama on that one.
Do you want to talk a little bit about the cost of insuring Tom Cruise on these movies and does it keep on going up with each of these films?
ELLISON: One of my favorite moments, we actually didn’t have on this movie, but on Ghost Protocol, we wanted to hang Tom off the side of a building and we actually couldn’t get insurance and Tom wanted to fire the insurance company [laughs]. And we did and we got somebody to insure the movie. A hilarious but true story is it was the day we were actually rehearsing the Burj Khalifa, it was the whole stunt team, Tom on the side of the building, me, Brad Bird, and Bryan Burk, and Tom was padded up, had the helmet on, and we had rehearsed for months inside these hangars and sound stages and Tom kicked off the building as he would describe it spectacularly crashed into it head first, and me and Burk and Brad were like ‘this is a really bad idea’. In true Tom fashion, while we were all arguing amongst ourselves about how we were the largest idiots known to mankind for putting ourselves in this situation, Tom reset back to one with the stunt guys and nailed it perfectly on the second rehearsal. And we all kind of looked at each other and were like ‘well, that’s why he’s Tom Cruise.’ We shot it the next day, we shot it twice and it was spectacular.
GOLDBERG: A funny story that actually oddly ties together Terminator and this exact topic, Jai Courtney loves to ride motorcycles in real life. He owns a few, it’s his favorite thing in the world to do. And he told our insurance company that on Terminator Genisys and they told him he was not allowed to ride a motorcycle during the filming of our movie in order to be able to get insured. The very next phone call I got from him us ‘can somebody please explain to me how you get insurance for Tom Cruise to hang off the Burj and I can’t ride a motorcycle around New Orleans? How is that fair?’ True story.
That is awesome.
GOLDBERG: Because there’s a lot more care that goes into Tom Cruise hanging off the Burj than you driving around New Orleans. Here’s the one thing we haven’t talked about from Rogue Nation: Rebecca Ferguson.
Heard great things.
GOLDBERG: When you all see this movie, you are going to walk and say ‘this woman’s a movie star.’ She’s incredible in this film, I mean incredible. I think she brings something, no offense to other people who have been in prior films, but this woman has a physicality to her that is unreal. You’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the move with the legs around somebody’s neck, it’s the tip of the iceberg with what she does in this movie. I promise you will say ‘you were right’ when the movie’s over.
For more on what’s coming up from Skydance, click on the links below.
- JACK REACHER 2 Could Start Filming This October
- STAR TREK 3 Is Filming in Dubai and Vancouver
- Tom Cruise Fired the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Insurance Company So He Could Do the Burj Khalifa Stunt
- STAR TREK TV Show: Skydance Executives Explain the Legal Tangles Preventing a New Series
- TOP GUN 2 Will Explore Drone Warfare and the End of the Fighter Pilot Era
- TERMINATOR: TV Show Still in Development; Skydance Heads Hint at 13-Episode Cable Series