December 29, 2023 | Christy Box

High-Octane Facts About The Mission: Impossible Films

"Your mission, should you choose to accept it..."

Since the first movie in 1996, the Mission: Impossible films have become a pop culture phenomenon. While the idea started as a television show in the 1960s, the series of films have further cemented Mission: Impossible’s reputation for excellent, enthralling spycraft. However, unlike the show, the films have often centered upon action-packed scenes with incredible stunts. Tom Cruise has often helped further the films’ action by performing dangerous, mind-boggling stunts himself without the use of a stunt double. The series is now going into its sixth film of action-packed spycraft that audiences have come to love.

The Mission: Impossible Films Facts

45. The Driving Force

Tom Cruise was a fan of the Mission: Impossible television series that ran in the 1960s and 70s, and he pushed Paramount Pictures to adapt it into a movie, since they already had the rights.

tom cruise mission impossible split image

44. Cruise Control

According to stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood, when Cruise decides he wants to do a stunt, he tells the studio he will not do the movie at all unless he is allowed to perform the stunt himself.

Mission: Impossible Films facts Mission: Impossible (1996), Paramount Pictures

43. Practice Makes Perfect

In Ghost Protocol, Cruise climbed the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. He rehearsed on a replica of part of the building while in Prague, but can you ever be prepared enough to climb a real 2,723 ft building?

Mission: Impossible Films facts Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011), Paramount Pictures

42. A Sensible Reason

Cruise has stated that the gadgets were one reason he wanted to make the first movie. He commented, “I felt like I was 10 years old again. I thought, ‘What would be the coolest thing to see?’”

Mission: Impossible Films facts Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011), Paramount Pictures

41. Second Time’s The Charm

The original script for the first Mission: Impossible movie was considered a failure. Three famous screenwriters got to work on fixing the script, but the final product was still panned by some critics. However, audiences still loved it, and the movie broke box office records.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible (1996), Paramount Pictures

40. Spy Turned Thief

Nyah Nordoff-Hall in Mission: Impossible II was originally supposed to be a spy, but Director John Woo decided she would be a thief instead to add a more interesting element to her romance with Hunt. He also changed the introduction of their romance from a flirtation indoors to a dramatic car chase.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible II (2000), Paramount Pictures

39. The Rushed Villain Monologue

John Musgrave’s reveal as a villain in Mission: Impossible III was written on the morning of filming, and Billy Crudup did have time to memorize the scene. Tom Cruise held up cue cards for him to get through the scene.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible III (2006), Paramount Pictures

38. No One Will Ever Suspect

Producers decided to cast Jon Voight in the role of Jim Phelps in Mission: Impossible because they thought the audience would not suspect him and would be surprised by his eventual betrayal.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible (1996), Paramount Pictures

37. A Short-Lived Cameo

The characters from the Mission: Impossible TV series were originally planned to make a brief appearance before meeting their untimely end in the first film. Martin Landau, part of the original television cast, did not appreciate the fatal cameo idea.

Mission: Impossible Films factsWikimedia Commons

36. A Good Way to Lose an Eye

In the final battle of Mission: Impossible II, Ethan Hunt narrowly escapes being pierced in the eye. Director John Woo was aiming to bring the cutting tool near Cruise's eye without risking his safety. Cruise insisted that the sharp implement be positioned as close to his eye as possible. To accommodate this without jeopardizing Cruise's eyesight, the filmmakers constructed a rigging that would halt the sharp instrument less than an inch from his eye.

Elizabeth MossWikimedia.Commons

35. A Real Cliffhanger

Cruise demanded the cliff scenes in Mission: Impossible II be filmed on a real cliff instead of a soundstage. He scaled the cliff, jumped over a drop, and hung from a cliff ledge wearing only a safety cable. Director John Woo was so scared about him performing the stunt that he couldn’t even watch the monitor as they filmed Cruise on the cliff. It took seven tense takes to get it right.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible II (2000), Paramount Pictures

34. All About The Action

Director Brian De Palma designed the action sequences for the first film before the final, usable screenplay was completed. The writers then had to construct a story around the action. Writer Robert Towne even rewrote scenes between takes.

Martin Scorsese factsGetty Images

33. Just a Scratch

While filming Hunt’s run from the exploding fish tank in the first film, Cruise and a stuntman both got injured. A stuntman was knocked in the water and had a chunk of glass in his leg, and Cruise bruised his ankle and had a minor limp. Cruise didn’t want to mention his injury after he saw what the tank did to the stuntman.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible (1996), Paramount Pictures

32. That Would Be an Awkward Request

When Ethan Hunt bites John Musgrave’s hand in Mission: Impossible III, Cruise is actually biting his own hand. J.J. Abrams didn't want to ask Cruise to bite his costar’s hand. How polite.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible III (2006), Paramount Pictures

31. An Impossible Romance

Cruise met Katie Holmes, whom he later married, when she was auditioning to play the part of his fiancé in Mission: Impossible III. The part eventually went to Michelle Monaghan.

Katie Holmes FactsShutterstock

30. The Other Mission: Impossible III

Director Joe Carnahan quit Mission: Impossible III after 15 months, citing creative differences. He said that his version of the film would have been about the team shutting down, similar to what would happen in Ghost Protocol.

Bradley Cooper FactsGetty Images

29. Cameo Troubles

TV cast member Martin Landau refused another cameo that J.J. Abrams offered him for Mission: Impossible III. He refused to return for anything but a great part in a film, as he feels the films are not true to the original series.

Tom Cruise smiling and looking at side - 2019Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

28. A Balancing Act

When filming the famous scene where he drops from the ceiling and dangles above the floor, Cruise found his head kept hitting the ground. The take only worked when he had the idea to put coins in his shoes to balance out his weight. Fortunately, Ethan Hunt did not have to contend with coins in his shoes through the rest of the mission.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible (1996), Paramount Pictures

27. Car Chase Confusion

Thandie Newton, who played Nordoff-Hall in M:I2, was worried about driving on the left side of a car for the car chase, as she was British and wasn't used to it. The filmmakers hid a stunt driver in the passenger seat of her car who could drive if the scene got out of control.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible II (2000), Paramount Pictures

26. An Unlucky Delay

Dougray Scott, who played the villain of M:I2, was also cast as Wolverine in X-Men. However, delays on Mission: Impossible forced him to pull out of the X-Men role. The then-relatively unknown Hugh Jackman was cast in his place.

X-men factsThe Wolverine (2013), 20th Century Fox

25. Not The Legacy He Was Looking For

The original Jim Phelps from the television series, Peter Graves, did not like the movie turning his character into a traitor. He would have preferred if Phelps had a graceful exit from the series.

Mission: Impossible Films factsWikimedia Commons

24. Rigged

As Cruise was actually climbing the Burj Khalifa, he had to be rigged up with cables to prevent the film from losing its star in a horrible stunt-related accident. The rigging was then visually removed in post-production, but the building posed a problem. The Burj Khalifa has a mirrored surface that reflected everything from the helicopter they were filming from to the crew that was working around the building. It would also sometimes produce multiple reflections of the same thing, leaving the effects crew to remove the rigging from multiple Tom Cruise reflections. It might have been easier to CGI Cruise onto the building, but that’s not Mission: Impossible’s style.

World’s Most Iconic Buildings factsPiqsels

23. Five Stressful Days

Cruise worked on the side of the Burj Khalifa for five days in some harsh conditions. It was inevitable that he would get some bruised ribs working in rigging on the side of a building for that long. He also had to swing out from the building and back in like a pendulum on a single cable, and he impacted with the building hard each time he swung back in.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011), Paramount Pictures

22. The Big Break

Cruise once binged the TV series Alias, and he loved it so much that he offered the show’s creator, J.J. Abrams, his first gig directing a movie for M:I3.

Jar Jar Binks factsWikipedia

21. A Bumpy Ride

For a stunt in Rogue Nation, Cruise had to hold onto the side of an airplane as it took off, circled, and landed no less than eight times to get the scene. The crew tried to talk him out of doing it, but the jury is still out on whether Tom Cruise can be talked out of anything.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

20. The End of an Era

The first Mission: Impossible was the last movie from a major studio to be released on Betamax, a videotape format that became obsolete when VHS took over. Unfortunate for Betamax, but a lucky break for anyone with a Betamax player and a love for Mission: Impossible.

Wildest Things Found Inside Houses factsPixabay

19. We Mustache You About Reshoots

If you thought that Superman looked weird in Justice League, it was Mission: Impossible’s fault. Henry Cavill had grown a mustache for his part in Fallout and was not allowed to shave it during production, even when he was called back for reshoots as Superman. Superman’s mustache had to be digitally removed in post-production.

Henry Cavill factsMan of Steel (2013), Warner Bros.

18. Learning to Freefall

Cruise trained for a year to perform the high-altitude low-opening (HALO) parachute stunt in Fallout himself. He was the first actor to do a HALO jump on camera. It took over 100 jumps to film the stunt scene.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) , Paramount Pictures

17. An Uncomfortable Consultation

The head of Paramount asked a long-time director of the original television show, Reza Badiyi, to come to the set of the first movie to consult on it. Director Brian de Palma respectfully told Badiyi that the movies would be nothing like the show and that his presence would be uncomfortable for both of them. Badiyi left the set and did not return.

Mission: Impossible Films factsGetty Images

16. An Impossible Mistake

When Ethan Hunt catches a drop of sweat from his face before it hits the ground in the first film's vault scene, there’s no way that Hunt could have caught the sweat in the manner shown when he was hovering only one inch above the vault floor. There was no room for it. However, the scene is so tense and well-executed that most audiences have never really cared about the little mistake.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible (1996), Paramount Pictures

15. Little Objects, Big Problems

As Cruise hung onto the side of an airplane for Rogue Nation, any small stone or bird impacting the propeller could have been fatal for him. He was even hit by a tiny stone while in the air and thought it had broken his rib.

Senses FactsPixabay

14. Going Against Type

Producers decided to cast Ving Rhames in Mission: Impossible as the hacker Luther because he went against the stereotype of a hacker.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) , Paramount Pictures

13. The Love Triangle

The first movie was supposed to include a love scene between Ethan Hunt and Phelps’ wife to establish a love triangle. De Palma cut the scene because it did not fit the rest of the movie.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible (1996), Paramount Pictures

12. Over The Top

When they were working on the climactic train sequence for the first film, Cruise and De Palma disagreed over adding a helicopter to the sequence. Cruise thought it made the sequence too unrealistic, while De Palma wanted an over-the-top ending. De Palma won out and the helicopter was added.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible (1996), Paramount Pictures

11. Falling With Style

Cruise had to fall 2 and a half stories from the 154th floor of the Burj Khalifa as part of the Ghost Protocol stunt. He demanded to do it multiple times to get the timing just right, giving the producers and crew quite a scare as he continued to repeat the extremely dangerous feat.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011), Paramount Pictures

10. You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

For one of Mission: Impossible II’s most dangerous stunts, Cruise dropped 18 feet toward a camera with a rig to stop him inches above the camera. Woo was concerned about the scene, thinking Cruise would smash his face into the camera. Little did he know this would soon be one of the tamer stunts Cruise would do for the series.

Tom Cruise FactsShutterstock

9. A Different Max

The part of Max in the first film, played by Vanessa Redgrave, was originally intended for a man, but few could have played it better than Redgrave.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible (1996), Paramount Pictures

8. Perks of Being a Producer

Cruise produces the Mission: Impossible movies in addition to starring in them. In order to make them the way he wants, he waives his usual exorbitant acting fee to free up more money for the production and the massive insurance required to do his own stunts.

Tom Cruise FactsFlickr, Gage Skidmore

7. The Longest Scene Setup

Cruise wanted to actually fly the helicopter during the helicopter stunts in Fallout, including a dangerous corkscrew turn. He had to learn how to fly a helicopter and complete the 2,000 flight hours needed to pilot the helicopter during these scenes.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) , Paramount Pictures

6. Life Imitates Art

After seeing the climactic final fight of Mission: Impossible, a Brazilian helicopter pilot decided to reenact the scene where a helicopter flies through a tunnel in real life. He successfully flew through a tunnel in 2006.

Kobe Bryant FactsShutterstock

5. That Might Strain The Marriage

Cruise’s then-wife Nicole Kidman tried to talk him out of doing the dangerous stunts in the first Mission: Impossible. Not even his wife was able to talk him out of the ridiculous feats he took on.

Nicole Kidman FactsShutterstock

4. A Close Call, or So They Thought

When Cruise performed a stunt for Fallout that involved freefalling from a helicopter, cast and crew members believed he was genuinely plummeting towards a fatal accident. As director Christopher McQuarrie said, "We heard on the radio, ‘I think we just lost Tom.'" That’s some convincing acting.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) , Paramount Pictures

3. That's a No From Gandalf and Magento

Ian McKellen was offered a part in Mission: Impossible II, but he didn't like that they wouldn’t let him see the whole script. He turned it down, and he was offered the part of Magneto in X-Men the next day, which was due to shoot at the same time. While he would have been great in Mission: Impossible, that was probably the right choice both for him and for audiences everywhere. McKellen also says he was lucky he didn't take it for another reason: he was due to play Gandalf right after he filmed X-Men, and had to make sure to wrap on time. Mission: Impossible II, however, kept being delayed. As he said, “If I had decided to do that, I wouldn’t have been in X-Men and I wouldn't have been in Lord of the Rings.”

Harry Potter Actors FactsFlickr, Gage Skidmore

2. Drowning in Acting Talent

Cruise had to learn to hold his breath underwater for over six minutes for a stunt in Rogue Nation, and he lost consciousness a few times while training to do it. When he was performing the stunt, he had to appear to lose his breath underwater. The stunt coordinator pulled him out of the water during multiple takes because he was worried Cruise was actually drowning.

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

1. That’s One Way to Make It Look Real

While filming a stunt in Fallout where he jumps and hangs onto the side of a building, Cruise broke his ankle.When Cruise went on The Graham Norton Show, he brought insider footage from that day containing several angles of the accident. While from some it's unclear how he could have possible broken his ankle, another angle shows it in all its gory detail. But, as the footage also reveals, he didn't even give up at that point, and ended up struggling onto the roof of the building and run-limping away to finish the take. Like, what?

Mission: Impossible Films factsMission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) , Paramount Pictures

We hope you enjoyed these fun facts!

Sources:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23


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