December 20, 2011


Currently in IMAX, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol opens nationwide on December 21st. The non-stop action flick follows Impossible Missions Force (IMF) operative Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), who is blamed for the terrorist bombing of the Kremlin and disavowed, along with the rest of the agency, when the President initiates “Ghost Protocol.” Left with only a team of fellow IMF fugitives – including William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Jane Carter (Paula Patton) – whose personal motives are unclear, Hunt must find a way to clear the agency’s name and prevent another attack.

During our exclusive chat, director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) talked about the biggest challenges in transitioning from animation to live-action, what he wanted to bring to the popular franchise to make this installment his own, working with a star who insists on doing all of his own stunts, meticulously planning out the IMAX sequences, re-shoots and test screenings, and how he was all for showing the prologue for The Dark Knight Rises ahead of IMAX showings of the film. He also talked about a possible sequel for The Incredibles and how, if he ever came up with a story that is at least as good as the one he already did, that he’d be happy to return to that world. Watch the video or read the transcript after the jump:

Brad Bird

  • What the biggest challenges were in transitioning to live-action from animation
  • What he brought to the franchise to make it his own
  • Having a moment where he thought, “I could be the director that kills Tom Cruise”
  • How shooting with the IMAX cameras changed how he approached the stunts and scenes he used them for
  • Did he have to do any reshoots
  • Did he do any test screenings to gauge reaction
  • What does it mean to be able to show six minutes of The Dark Knight Rises before IMAX showings of the film
  • Is he working on a sequel for The Incredibles


Collider: First of all, just in watching two scenes of this, it was heart-stopping, and I have to say that I’m very excited to see the finished film.

BRAD BIRD: Oh, thank you.

What were the biggest challenges that you found, in transitioning to a live-action feature from animation?

BIRD: I think the challenge is the speed that these things have to move in. There’s a lot of people and a lot of equipment, and you’re moving from one country to another. We had a very tight schedule and a very big movie to deliver, and so it has to run like clockwork. At the same time, you’re looking to take advantage of the talented people and the spontaneity between actors. So, you’re trying to create happy accidents, and then get them on film. There’s an adrenalin to just shooting that’s considerable.

What did you want to bring to the Mission: Impossible franchise to make this film uniquely your own?

BIRD: I suppose there’s a slightly irreverent tone that I am attracted to, and a playful quality. I love watching actors bounce off each other. Because the story of this film involves a team that Tom [Cruise] is stuck with, rather than one he picked, they all have very different personalities and they’re put together and then cut off, where they’re on their own. That’s what Ghost Protocol refers to. It’s the fact of the AMF shutting down, and any agents are considered ghosts. There’s no contact with them and they’re on their own to figure out how to get out of it. So, it’s inherently dramatic, and that was interesting to me.

Because Tom Cruise is the kind of actor who wants to do every possible stunt himself, when you have him hanging off the side of the tallest building in the world in Dubai, do you ever have a moment where you stop and go, “I could be the director that kills Tom Cruise”?

BIRD: Yeah. I think every director that has worked with him in these kinds of films probably has that feeling where your eyes snap open at three in the morning and you go, “My god, what am I doing?!” Definitely.

How did shooting with the IMAX cameras change how you approached the stunts and the scenes that you used them for?

BIRD: They demanded a planning. The IMAX sequences were probably the only ones where I really had to have adequate time to really plan meticulously because they’re big cameras, they’re noisy and they’re cumbersome. But, the image quality you get from them is unparalleled, so I think it was worth the trouble.

Andrew Stanton recently made the jump to live-action with John Carter, and he had to do some reshoots with that film. Did you have to do any with this?

BIRD: We did some little reshoots, but they were more to tie together little things. They weren’t extensive. They were pretty simple. And, they were very surgical. It was one shot that goes between two scenes to more clearly show that this is there. That kind of stuff.

Did you do any test screenings at all, or screenings for friends and family, to gauge reaction?

BIRD: We had one test screening, and miraculously, it didn’t get reported on the internet, which almost never happens these days. But, it went very well. The funny thing was that I wanted to do a few of those little surgical re-shoots of certain things to improve little parts, but in showing it and getting good test scores, it takes away some of your wind for the re-shoots. They were like, “Well, it scored great. I guess we’re done.” And I was like, “No, I want to fix a few things! Can I just do a little bit more?” They indulged me, so we did some surgical, additional filming, but it was very small.

One thing that did come out on the internet was that you will have footage of The Dark Knight Rises showing before your film in IMAX theaters. What does it mean to be able to show six minutes of that film before yours?

BIRD: Well, I suppose we better have something good, if we’re going to follow Chris Nolan. But, I think anything that has showmanship, which the last film, The Dark Knight, had in spades and I presume the next film will have, [will be great]. One of the reasons we wanted to do several sequences in IMAX was to have showmanship. Anything that makes movie-going a magnificent experience, I’m all for.

How many times a day do you get asked about a sequel for The Incredibles, and are you working on that at all?

BIRD: I can’t say that I’m actively working on it, but I have some ideas. If I ever get it all together, into a story that is at least as good as the one we did, I’d be happy to return to that world, and I love working with Pixar.


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