In between literally launching himself into space, Tom Cruise will at some point need to knock off both Mission: Impossible 7 and Mission: Impossible 8, two films we also know will co-star MCU alum Hayley Atwell. Who exactly Atwell is playing is still a mystery, but a recent appearance by the actress alongside director Christopher McQuarrie on the Mission-focused podcast Light the Fuse offered some very intriguing insights.
For one, thanks to the famously seat-of-your-pants way McQuarrie makes these movies and the franchise’s twisty-turny nature, Atwell still isn’t sure which side of the IMF she falls on. “I’ve been living in an existential crisis since October, going ‘who am I? who am I?’,” she said. “An actor in search of a character.”
But it certainly seems like Atwell will often find herself standing in the way of Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. McQuarrie described the character as a “destructive force of nature” who will test every member of the IMF. Here’s how Atwell described her arc:
“There’s ambiguity…the interesting thing we’re exploring is her resistance to a situation she finds herself in. How she starts off, where she becomes. The journey of what she comes into and what is asked of her and potentially where she ends up.”
For McQuarrie, finding the character started with making sure she offered something different from the other badass women of the franchise’s past.
“For Hayley to exist in a franchise where other women had come and made statements, we said ‘well it can’t be like that.’ We don’t want Hayley to be a repeat of any character that’s come before. What’s left? What’s unique and what’s new? We wrote a scene about what we imagined the spark of that character to be, and that’s what Hayley came in and read. What we discovered there is this energy that Hayley had, specifically an energy with Tom. It’s not a vibe, it’s literally a vibration. You felt it and you were like, ‘I don’t know what to make of this person.’”
As for how the character will test the mettle of the IMF, both Atwell and McQuarrie teased some truly intense physical training—her screen test alone apparently included a “two-hour stunt audition”—and some miracle work with a knife. Said McQuarrie:
“It is truly something to see….the work that you’ve done, the dedication you’ve shown, the focus, and quite frankly, your frightening talent with a knife, are all stuff that I’m very, very, very excited for people to see. It’s a very different side of Hayley.”
Or, as co-star Simon Pegg—also making an appearance on the podcast—so elegantly put it, “[Stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood] showed me a video of you doing your training. You’re super fast. Proper Matrix shit going on.”
For more on the next two Mission: Impossible movies, here’s McQuarrie teasing three “obscene” set pieces.