"I'D NEVER ACTED WITH A CAMERA THAT'S BASICALLY HOOKED UNDER MY CHIN"
The Huffington Post's Todd Van Luling captured some terrific anecdotes from Henry Czerny about filming his role in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. "Besides launching a series that continues to have box-office success," writes Van Luling, "the movie featured a sort of strange way to present intensity for a blockbuster: squeezing actors very, very close to each other and the camera."
“I’d never acted with a camera that’s basically hooked under my chin,” Czerny told The Huffington Post in a conversation for the 20-year anniversary. “I didn’t know what to do with it, but Brian was at the monitors and if he didn’t get what he wanted I’m sure he would have told me.”
The most extreme close-up Czerny experienced was when his character accused Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt of being a mole. The two sat in a restaurant surrounded by aquariums. Czerny wasn’t sure, but he thinks De Palma’s desire to feature those trapped fish led to the memorable camera angles. “He didn’t want the [viewers] to forget about the fish tank,” said Czerny. “So by putting the camera below, you have the character in close-up and the fish tank in the background hovering if you will.”
So, did Czerny worry about how he’d look with a camera so close to his face?
Czerny laughed in response to the question. He didn’t even know the camera would be there.
“If they’d told me, I would have paid more attention to those nose hairs. Maybe the hair department or the makeup department knew what was going to go on and then did that for me. [But] I had no idea.”
Czerny also recalled a scene when De Palma told him to get almost impossibly close to another actor.
After Hunt breaks into the CIA, Czerny’s character is telling an intelligence co-worker (played by Dale Dye) that they should send the CIA employee responsible for the mishap to Alaska.
De Palma apparently told the actors, “I need you a little closer,” so they shot again. Then, De Palma said something like, “No, no, closer! Like you’re almost kissing!”
“I just remember thinking, ‘I hope I brushed my teeth thoroughly,’” Czerny laughed.
Although Czerny thought it was sometimes “weird” to work within this method, he enjoyed being a part of what’s now considered De Palma’s signature style. “He’ll do a long tracking shot and then jump in for close-ups. It doesn’t allow you to leave the scene.”
In the article, Czerny also talks about how Cruise would regularly take members of the cast and crew out to a "cool establishment" in whatever big city they were filming in, to help release tension. One night in Prague, Czerny tells Van Luling, "I found myself sitting on a piano bench singing show tunes with Nicole [Kidman]. That was not something you normally get to do."