While 2018 has seen some incredible movies, I’d argue one of the top films is writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Not only does the film feature some of the most incredible action set pieces I’ve ever seen, the movie shows off unbelievable work from every department, an incredible score by Lorne Balfe, and a script that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the final frame. It’s one of those rare films where everything just works.
As most of you know, Collider has a long-running screening series with IMAX and back in September, we screened Mission: Impossible – Fallout for some of our lucky readers. After the screening ended, I sat down with McQuarrie for an almost 90-minute conversation where we went in-depth on a myriad of subjects (here’s part 1 and part 2). As the two of us were leaving the building, I mentioned I still had a lot of things that I didn’t get to ask, and he said he’d be up for doing another screening and Q&A. I figured it would never happen due to his busy schedule, but a little over a week ago we screened the film again and then did another extended Q&A. Since the interview ended up being over 15,000 words, I decided to break it up into two parts.
In today’s installment, McQuarrie talks about shooting without a finished script and what those conversations with the studio are like, how the character of Walker evolved and casting Henry Cavill when another actor passed, how they came up with the ending, changing his entire crew for this sequel, why the Oscars need a “Best Stunts” category, the Jack Reacher franchise, his involvement in Top Gun: Maverick, and a lot more—including some great stories about making Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
Check out what Christopher McQuarrie had to say below and look for part two soon. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is on Digital HD and Digital 4K HDR now, Blu-ray/4K HDR/DVD December 4th)
Mission: Impossible – Fallout stars Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Kirby, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Wes Bentley, Liang Yang, and Frederick Schmidt.
Collider: I guess I’m going to start with the most important thing up front, which is so you quit Twitter.
CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE: Again.
MCQUARRIE: Yes. Well, I deleted my feed. I walked away from it for a little while.
You answered a lot of fan questions on Twitter. Was there any apprehension about shutting it off?
MCQUARRIE: No, none whatsoever. Every now and again I say, “Okay, I’m just going to wipe the slate clean and step away from a while.” The reason I first went on Twitter was to be able to respond to misinformation swiftly. You could correct things that were erroneous in the press. What kept me there was following a lot of funny people. It was a great place to go and have a laugh. It’s become very dark and very angry, owing to God knows what. I can’t imagine what’s going on in the world that might have people feeling divided and dark and angry. I realized that it was affecting me. I was going there to interact with people who were asking me questions and then I would start reading my feed. I would find myself just surfing through that for a very long time, almost desperately searching for something positive… it was just affecting my overall mood, so I just decided to step back for a little bit. When I have something new to interact with everybody with I’ll do it again.
I want to give a huge thank you to IMAX. Also, a big thank you to Paramount Home Entertainment. I believe that this thing called Mission: Impossible – Fallout is going to be on Blu-ray and Digital HD really soon.
MCQUARRIE: With aspect ratio changes.
I’m assuming that was something you wanted.
MCQUARRIE: Yes. I figured we’d shot all that film, we might as well keep it.
What are you really looking forward to for fans to get on the Blu-ray/digital release?
MCQUARRIE: There are three commentaries on the Blu-ray. Tom and I do a trip down memory lane and Eddie Hamilton and I do a slightly deeper dive into editorial. Lorne Balfe has his own commentary with an isolated score. There is a deleted footage reel. It’s not a deleted scenes reel, but it’s deleted selects, which you can listen to either with Eddie and I bloviating further, or you can listen to it with just music. It’s a very nice thing that Eddie put together. Then finally, Eddie and Lorne did a fantastic dissection of the score and how we mixed it over the foot chase. It’s really phenomenal. It’s actually my favorite thing on the DVD. There’s a million extras, featurettes, behind the scenes, how we did the helicopter chase, the car chase, the HALO jump. All of that stuff. You’re going to be just sick of all of the information you’ll get on the DVD.
What’s interesting is that a lot of the studios have pulled back on Blu-ray releases from spending the money because I guess they’re saying the sales are down. Was it difficult to get this thing done in terms of commentaries and all these extras?
MCQUARRIE: No, and as I understand it, where the trend is shifting now, they’re actually including that stuff on the digital release. If you buy the movie on iTunes, it’s my understanding you can get it with all those extras. I think that was the big issue. The only commentary I regret not having been able to do is Edge of Tomorrow. They rushed that one out the door. I thought that would have been a great one. One of these days I want to get Tom and Doug in the same place and just do our own. Just sit and watch the movie, record a commentary, and put it out online because I think it would be quite funny. Commentaries are something Tom and I are talking about very early on while we’re making the movie and we push very hard for that. Tom is a big, big believer in all that.
We spoke at the end of September. Since there’s no one in the theater now and it’s just you and I, I think this is the moment you announce what’s going on with M:I 7. Because no one’s listening.
MCQUARRIE: I can tell you Tom already has a lot of really big ideas. Yeah. World-topping shit.
Because I’ve asked you this twice. Is it going to go to space?
MCQUARRIE: That would be entirely up to SpaceX or NASA. They would have to be involved with that, I would imagine. Or Paramount Pictures. I don’t know how much they want to invest.
I won’t press you on M:I 7 any more but believe me it’s on-
MCQUARRIE: I still have not had my nap.
Yeah, by the way, you have been going nonstop.
MCQUARRIE: Yes. That’s Tom Cruise. That’s what happens. He doesn’t really like his friends to have vacations. Yeah, I was pulled right into Top Gun. The last time we talked you asked me about it and I gave the party line, which was, “I know nothing about it.” Then when we did an interview for Empire Magazine, Tom decided to just announce it right there in the middle of the interview. Yes, I’m working on Top Gun.
Oh, I have questions, but we’re going to get to those in a few.
MCQUARRIE: There are airplanes in it. That’s all I know. There, that’s an exclusive.
I have a few specific things I want to talk about. Fallout is one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year. Tom Cruise delivers this phenomenal performance that has him jumping out of a helicopter, breaking his ankle. Do you feel that it’s time for the Oscars to finally acknowledge his work on this franchise? Because I think his performance is amazing, and it feels like genre films, when it’s action, when they think of it like Mission: Impossible, they don’t look at his performance in terms of an Oscar kind of thing. I think it’s a shame because he delivered something amazing in this.
MCQUARRIE: I can be diplomatic, but fuck it. There was talk of a popular film category. I’m really glad they’re not doing that, because I think the notion of that is to shy away from the fact that a—I don’t care, revoke my academy membership. What would be more effective, is I think if you’re going to introduce a new category the category should be stunts. I can’t think of a film recently that might qualify, but, that’s an art, that’s a skill, that’s a craft. Those are people risking their lives and doing things that are absolutely and utterly truly amazing and are so much a part of an experience like that. Not just in films like this. You go look at Hell or High Water. Lone Survivor. The stunts in that movie were absolutely incredible. In terms of a new category, I think you need to do that.
In terms of the notion of a popular film, if you look at the history of the Academy Awards, you can see that over time the Academy has an idea of what a Best Picture is. What qualifies as a Best Picture. There was an era that you had to be big and giant and bloviated to qualify as Best Picture. There was a time when you had to be cutting edge and out there to do it.
I think that there’s a point at which we’ve lost sight of the fact that what we’re here to do first and foremost—sorry if this sounds offensive to anybody—is to entertain people and to move people. A part of me looks at that and says, “Well, there are big movies that do that too.” I was reading online the back and forth, the arguments of how certain films didn’t qualify because they’re just not Academy Award movies. This one guy had this unbelievably articulate seven-paragraph argument for all of the things that qualified a movie, none of which were Titanic. It wasn’t that long ago that a film like that was both commercially successful and won all of those Academy Awards. I think some of what we see now is a little bit of a backlash from that. There’s a morning after and people say, “We did what? We gave the two billion dollar earning movie an Academy Award and not these other movies?”
They’re bringing a lot of new people into the Academy. I think that’s great. They’re sharing the wealth. I think that’s wonderful. It might be nice if they had a bunch of screenings where they talked about what a Best Picture is. How do we define it? Really, if they look at what their mission is. I think ultimately you’ll just see the pendulum swing. Some film will do it. Some change in the audience will do it. Look, a film like this made a lot of money. That’s perfectly acceptable. There are other films, smaller films, important films, films that are addressing things that people don’t necessarily want to confront that don’t make money. The awards that they make get that movie attention and might put that movie in front of some other people. I think that’s great too. I think I’ve covered about every single possible perspective you could have on all this. I answered your question. But in the end, stunts.