It turns out the Mission: Impossible franchise almost went in a very different direction, right before it turned into one of the best franchises currently going in Hollywood right now. Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, the fourth entry in the long-running franchise, came out in 2011 and, when combined with Rogue Nation and Fallout, makes for a stunning trilogy. However, Tom Cruise almost took a step back and handed off the series to a new actor.

This comes from cinematographer Robert Elswit, who worked on the movie in question. He made the reveal in a recent interview and, originally, Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt was going to take over as the new IMF Secretary, paving the way for someone else to become the face of the franchise in the future. Here's what Elswit had to say about it.

"The original version of Ghost Protocol, most of the people involved probably wouldn't speak about this, but I can because nobody gives a s*** about what I say. The original version of this movie was at the end of it Tom Cruise stops being Ethan Hunt the agent and becomes Ethan Hunt the Secretary. The whole version of this was they were gonna put another IMF Mission unit together with another actor, maybe it's Jeremy Renner, who knows who it is, and they're gonna go through this series of wild events, and at the end Tom gets to be the Secretary and a new agent takes over the franchise. Which I think seemed kind of nutty, but that was kind of the marching orders."

It's easy to see where these seeds were planted. Tom Wilkinson, who had previously served as the IMF Secretary, was killed in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Jeremy Renner then joined the team and it was clear that there was a path for him to take on a more significant role down the line. However, Christopher McQuarrie, who has written and directed the last two entries, eventually came in with Tom Cruise and fixed what ultimately would have proved to be a huge mistake.

"At some point when we came back to Vancouver and did a lot of the interior work, we had already done the one big stunt on the building and breaking out of prison in Russia, Chris McQuarrie came in, and Chris McQuarrie and Tom sat down and said, 'How do we fix this?'... Chris came in and he kind of rewrote it, the last half, maybe more, and made it so that we had to change a few things that we shot at the beginning, like add lines, reshoot little pieces so that it all made sense. He tied the whole thing together and made it so that at the end of the movie, Tom ends up not becoming the Secretary but just goes on in his own lonely way."

Paramount is surely counting their blessings. Fallout grossed a series-best $791 million worldwide and they recently locked down bot Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise for Mission: Impossible 7 and 8, which will shoot back-to-back and be released in 2021 and 2022, respectively. While we can't say for sure that the series wouldn't have done as well with a new lead, it's hard to argue with the results as they are. For more with Robert Elswit, check out the latest edition of the Light the Fuse Podcast.

Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott