When it comes to the Mission: Impossible franchise, you never know which characters are going to carry over from film to film. Ving Rhames is the only actor besides Tom Cruise who’s been in all six movies, and while Simon Pegg has stuck around since Mission: Impossible III, various outside forces are to blame for the disappearance of Paula Patton, Thandie Newton, and in the latest installment Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Jeremy Renner.
At one time, Renner was positioned to possibly take over the Mission franchise from Cruise, and early versions of Ghost Protocol set that film up as a hand-off of sorts to Renner’s character Brandt. That ended up not happening as Rogue Nation and Fallout writer/director Christopher McQuarrie came into Ghost Protocol during production and reworked the script a bit, but Renner made a great impression in Ghost Protocol and returned for a fun arc in Rogue Nation.
Many assumed that Renner wasn’t returning to Fallout because he would be busy shooting Avengers: Infinity War, but as we now know, Hawkeye is nowhere to be found in that first Avengers movie. So why is Jeremy Renner not in Mission: Impossible – Fallout? Speaking on the Empire podcast, McQuarrie explained his dilemma:
“Jeremy had his commitment to Avengers, which ironically they ended up not exercising, and we didn’t know what the [sixth Mission] movie was, so we couldn’t provide a schedule. We needed absolute freedom. The unfortunate thing for Jeremy is that he got caught in this perfect storm of, one can’t use you and one doesn’t know how to, given the massive complications they had with Avengers.”
McQuarrie has been honest about the fact that during Rogue Nation’s production, Renner grew frustrated. The film was shooting in London but the script was changing on the fly, so Renner was having to leave his family back home and sometimes not be needed on set right away.
So it’s possible those feelings are why, when McQuarrie asked Renner if he wanted to make an impactful cameo in Fallout, the actor turned him down. Indeed, McQuarrie’s initial idea was to kill off Brandt in the opening scene of Fallout:
“I had this whole idea that the movie would start with the death of a team member. And of course the first team member that’s always the first guy we talk about killing is Luther. Luther died in the first movie, and he quite famously said to Tom Cruise, ‘Hey man, how come the brother’s always gotta die?’ And Tom said, ‘You’re right.’ He was like, ‘Why do I gotta be the bad guy?’ And they made Luther nefarious and then suddenly a good guy, and six movies later it was the smartest question anybody’s ever asked Tom Cruise […] So I said to Jeremy, look we can’t kill Ving, it’s never going to work. No matter how many movies into it, it’s always going to be the same thing. You killed the black guy. And we didn’t think the movie could recover if you killed Benji.”
So McQuarrie pitched Renner on the idea of flying in for a few days’ work to give Brandt a major sendoff and start Fallout with a bang. Renner, however, wasn’t having it:
“So I said to Renner, ‘Hey listen, I have this idea for an opening sequence where you sacrifice yourself to save the team, and that the mission-gone-wrong not only involves losing the plutonium, but involves the death of a team member.’ And Jeremy was like, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ […] He was smart not to take the short paycheck for three days of work and getting blown up.”
This is pretty interesting, and would have radically changed the whole dynamic of Fallout. In the current version of the film [SPOILER ALERT], Ethan shoots Luther in the chest in order to save his life, knowing Luther’s wearing a bulletproof vest. But I suppose if Renner had returned, Ethan would have hesitated long enough for the film’s baddies to off Brandt.
It’ll be interesting to see if Renner returns for a Mission film down the line now that Brandt is still alive. It could go either way really, but I do think the character is a fascinating addition to the team, so I’d love to see him return.