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Thursday, August 25, 2022

In a Venice Q&A posted today by Deadline's Joe Utichi, Luca Guadagnino talks about the current state of cinema:
DEADLINE: You talked about finding common ground in your work. But the way you’ve explored this sense of otherness has been distinct each time. Are you purposefully seeking out new stones to turn over, even if they belong to the same garden?

GUADAGNINO: I think the thing that most excites me as a filmmaker and a director is the possibility of fully exploring the craft, and really playing with the set of tools you have in your hands within the language of cinema. The more conscious I become about cinema, through the way I work and through learning the formal language of cinema in its many, many layers, it’s something that’s truly amazing.

I respect so much the work of filmmakers who repeat their same movie over and over again. It’s actually reassuring and beautiful to see that. But at the same time, that’s not who I am and how I am. I like the idea of trying things, as you said, to turn different stones in the same garden. I don’t know if the garden is my garden, the garden of my imagery, or what the great historian of cinema Georges Sadoul said in his seminal Histoire générale du cinema, Tome 1, which is that cinema is about human beings because it’s about telling the story of human beings. That might sound parochial, banal, or old-fashioned, again, but I think he was right. Even the most experimental work of Pat O’Neill, which I adore, or the great experience of the underground cinema in the ’60s and ’70s, still reflects on that.

DEADLINE: Equally banal, perhaps, but that idea that the universal can be found in the specific is something mainstream cinema often neglects.

GUADAGNINO: Every-size-fits-all is Walmart. Every-size-fits-all is an artificial concept that belongs to the practices of capitalism, and the execution of a dull idea of capital. A smart idea of capital comes with the notion of prototype; it comes with the idea of finding new territory in order to expand even more.

The reiteration of something that has been set in stone and repeated and repeated over and over again is a bad practice because it’s pollution. It’s the pollution of imageries, of the world, and it makes the environment less livable, and thus less consumable. It’s a strange contradiction.

Billy Wilder said that show business is show business because without business it’d be show show, which from his perspective was the greatest sin of all. I’m not sure I’m totally in agreement with Mr. Wilder. Still, let’s hold on that, because this is Deadline Hollywood. But at the same time, you have to make prototypes because you have to re-create again and again the possibility of excitement in the investment of an audience toward something truly new.

Even Top Gun: Maverick, which is a movie that trades very deeply with nostalgia and repetition, comes with the novelty of happening 25 years later. The idea that a sequel comes after a quarter of a century is, in its way, a very smart, intelligent, and thoughtful way of doing business. Because now, even if the movie holds very deep nostalgia in the audience—the nostalgic gaze of Tony Scott and the idea of the world in the way it was in 1986—you are there for the ride of Tom Cruise’s Maverick being a man now, not a boy. So, I would say there are always ways to create something that is surprising and interesting.

DEADLINE: And yet, the industry revels in its love of data.

GUADAGNINO: Yes, but we’re not working on parameters that are set in stone, like chemistry or physics or mathematics. We are working with something that deals with the unconscious, and we have to allow that to be cunning. If we trade in the unconscious for the algorithm of it all—whether it’s the algorithm itself or the expectations that come from it—that is where you fail. “You can’t do that because our data tells us the audience wants this.” Well, that way you would never have had The Godfather. You would never have had GoodFellas. You’d never even have had Mission: Impossible, the first movie by Brian De Palma.

And by the way, that’s true of The Godfather: Part II, and Part III, which I love. It’s my favorite of the three. I’m using this platform to say it: it’s a masterpiece. I go back to the Godfathers over and over, but I go back to Part III every six months. I wish I could have done a movie like that; it’s beautiful. Coppola is a forger of prototypes. Even now, with Megalopolis. He’s not doing it in a cheap way, he’s making a big movie out of it.

DEADLINE: The question is whether the industry that allowed for films like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now still exists, or whether the data is too powerful now.

GUADAGNINO: Probably not as a system, in the way the system worked back then. But definitely, it exists as individual personalities finding their own ways into the business. We have to see what happens and how things morph, and not be too disheartened by the present because there are new ways to find and be excited about.

That’s what I say to young filmmakers when they ask me how to break into filmmaking: just do it. And don’t allow anybody to let you down or lecture you about what to do and how to do it. Just do it. A filmmaker has to be a very obsessive person who must refuse to let people f*ck with him, her, or them. It’s a director’s medium.

Posted by Geoff at 11:46 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 9, 2022

David Koepp was asked to choose which one of his screenplays to discuss in depth on episode 46 of the podcast Script Apart, and he chose Mission: Impossible.

Within the first few minutes, host Al Horner asks Koepp about his approach to character. "I would love to be one of those writers I hear, on shows very much like this, who say, 'It all begins with character," Koepp replies. "It must begin with character.' I'm just not. And I'm not sure I believe them. I think you have an idea about something. You don't... well, maybe you do, I don't know. I think, I have an idea. And then I think, I do exactly as you said, I think, 'Who is either the best or the worst person possible for this to happen to.' In the case of KIMI, I thought, who is the worst possible person for this to happen to. The idea was, you know, that we overhear... there are people whose job it is to listen to all those little recordings that Siri and Alexa make in our homes, and to flag irregularities and try to correct the algorithm for where it misinterpreted things. And I read an article that talked about the people who listen to those. And I thought, ooh, that's interesting. I like that person. And what if they heard something terrible. Then I thought, who's the worst person that could happen to, and it would be someone who doesn't like to leave their house. That's why they have this job, and they must go out in order to effect change in the world. So, in that case, it was the worst. In Mission: Impossible, that kind of spy thing, you want to think, who is the best person for this to happen to. And that of course is the indestructible Tom Cruise."

CBR's Leon Miller posted an article three days ago with quotes of Koepp, from the podcast, about why they decided to kill off the first team in the film:

Mission: Impossible co-writer David Koepp recently explained why Ethan Hunt's first team had to die in the 1996 espionage blockbuster.

Koepp revealed that director Brian De Palma decided to kill off the original Impossible Missions Force line-up to keep the movie's focus on Tom Cruise as Hunt, in an episode of Script Apart. "There's a fundamental flaw in Mission: Impossible as a movie with Tom Cruise, as a concept," he said, "It's an idea that should not work. It appears it has [laughs], but it is essentially an ensemble, that is its very nature. It's a team movie if it's based on the [original 1960s Mission: Impossible] television show."

"So, for this ensemble movie, the one piece of casting is the biggest movie star in the world with an incredibly dominant personality," Koepp continued. "So, it's just not going to work, so Brian's idea was 'We have to kill everybody.' And it's a good point. That's his approach on a number of films, but in this one in particular, it really worked. He's like 'Look, it's an ensemble, so we have to start it like an ensemble, kill everybody, so we've only got one left, and he's the star, and let him put together another team. But we'll always orient it around him,' which was a brilliant idea."

Meanwhile, Sandy Schaefer at /Film focused on what George Lucas said to Brian De Palma when he showed an early cut of Mission: Impossible to some filmmaker friends. Schaefer quotes Koepp:
"Brian [De Palma] had shown an early cut of the movie to some filmmaker friends. And George Lucas saw it and said, 'You're missing the spaghetti scene.' ... Brian said, 'What's the spaghetti scene?' And he said, 'You know, where they all sit around and eat spaghetti and they get the mission. You don't know who these people are. You start in the middle of a mission.' Brian said, 'Well, it's exciting to start in the middle of a mission.' And George said, 'It's not exciting unless you know who they are.'"

Posted by Geoff at 6:28 PM CDT
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Saturday, May 28, 2022

As the trailer for next year's Mission: Impossible film made the rounds this past week, ahead of this weekend's release of Top Gun: Maverick, several articles delved into the M:I trailer for clues as to the upcoming film's links with Missions past. At Den of Geek, David Crow writes:
“It’s all led to this.” That is what Tom Cruise tweeted out Monday morning alongside our first taste of the Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One teaser trailer. It’s an old familiar line in movie franchises that have survived, or even thrived, for decades: every previous film has been building to this moment!

And yet, while watching how the dazzling sizzle reel footage is framed in Dead Reckoning, it is hard not to think this will be some kind of capstone on the entire Mission: Impossible franchise. After all, this is the first feature in nearly 30 years to directly call back on the events of the original Mission: Impossible movie from 1996.

Most obviously, that is apparent in the way the trailer is structured around a verbal dressing down from an IMF and/or CIA handler. At this point, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt getting chastised for his insubordinate and showboating ways is pro forma. The price of doing business as “the gambler” of super-spy espionage (as previously described in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). However, the fact that the man chewing Hunt out this time is the first superior he ever had to deem Hunt more enemy than ally is significant. Indeed, that is Henry Czerny as Eugene Kittridge.

If his distinct sneering cadence sounds familiar to you in the trailer—as he informs Ethan the ideal he’s fought for doesn’t exist and never did—that’s because Czerny’s Kittridge was previously the IMF Director in the 1996 movie directed by Brian De Palma. Due to the machinations of the film’s true villain, Jon Voight as Jim Phelps, Kittridge came to be convinced by a frame job that Ethan Hunt was a dirty agent. He then spent most of the film chasing Hunt down until he was led to a fateful chunnel ride between London and Paris where he learned of Phelps’ culpability… and arrested a covert crime boss named Max (Vanessa Redgrave).

That ending to the original Mission: Impossible is also important to the new trailer since we see the daughter of the Max character, Vanessa Kirby’s “the White Widow,” on her own fateful train ride in a desert terrain. The familiarity of the action set-piece is unlikely to be coincidental.

Meanwhile, with a new Tom Cruise movie in theaters, there have been many articles and podcasts delving into best-of overviews of Cruise's film career. At The Big Picture podcast, Sean Fennessey and Amanda Dobbins are joined by Chris Ryan as they all attempt to figure out which ten films to place into a "Tom Cruise Hall of Fame." And at Parade, Samuel R. Murrian has put together a pretty solid list of the "25 Best Tom Cruise Movies of All Time." Any Tom Cruise list that places Michael Mann's Collateral and Steven Spielberg's Minority Report is a list that seems to have its cinematic priorities in the right place. Murrian places De Palma's Mission: Impossible at number 12:
Brian de Palma is a master of unforgettable, operatic set pieces: the shootout on the steps of Union Station in The Untouchables, the prom scene in Carrie, the shock ending of Blowout, the list goes on. He was an unexpected but ultimately inspired choice to helm 1996’s franchise starter, and his stamp of directorial bravura is unmistakable.

Mission: Impossible was released in a golden age of special effects—when computer-generated imagery was a new innovation, sparingly used. Mission: Impossible‘s climactic helicopter vs. train sequence through the Britain-France Chunnel, though technically preposterous, still stands up today as pure visual candy. The most common criticism directed at the original Mission is that its plot is too hard to follow—maybe even flat-out incomprehensible. It’s hard to complain about that when the entertainment value is this high.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Monday, May 23, 2022
Kittridge, YOU need to pick a side!

Posted by Geoff at 12:12 PM CDT
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Thursday, March 24, 2022

"Once the movie got up and running, or once Paramount greenlit it, Tom got rather anxious, and wanted to bring Towne in to work on it." This is David Koepp talking about working on the screenplay for the 1996 film, Mission: Impossible. "And then Towne came in, and Brian didn't want-- [Koepp throws his hands in the air] yeah, there was a lot of fighting. And then Towne came in and threw all the pages up in the air. And things stayed quite chaotic. And then three weeks before shooting, they said, 'Will you come back... you know, try and put it all back together. But Bob's going to keep working, and you're going to keep working, and we'll just figure out what we shoot.' I was like, 'Okay... this oughta be interesting.'"

This idea of sort of figuring-it-out-as-we-go-along seems to have stuck with Tom Cruise and his collaborators throughout the Mission: Impossible franchise. Today at The Hollywood Reporter, Kim Masters highlights the "perhaps surprisingly improvisational approach to filmmaking" taken by Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie:

M:I 7‘s release date has been pushed four times; it’s now set for July 2023. By holding on to the film as a work in progress while working on the eighth, Cruise and his writer-director, Christopher McQuarrie, ensure that Paramount won’t have much luck imposing budget restrictions on what is allegedly the final installment in the franchise. It also gives Cruise — who has creative control — flexibility with respect to the cliffhanger ending of M:I 7.

With hundreds of millions on the line, says a knowledgeable source, Cruise and McQuarrie take a perhaps surprisingly improvisational approach to filmmaking. McQuarrie first encountered Cruise on the 2008 film Valkyrie, which McQuarrie co-wrote and co-produced. He started collaborating on the Mission movies when he went to work on the script for the fourth installment, 2011’s Ghost Protocol, mid-production. He directed the fifth, 2015’s Rogue Nation, during which he figured out the third act only in the middle of shooting. The sixth installment, 2018’s Fallout, involved more of the same budget-fracturing spontaneity. This unpredictable approach is Cruise exercising the power he’s accrued from bringing in $3.6 billion in box office starring as Ethan Hunt over three decades.

The notion that a studio can control spending on a Cruise movie is dismissed by executives who have been in the trenches with him. One says a studio can only hope to “influence” Cruise and McQuarrie. “Tom looks at [the money] he delivers to the studio,” says another. “Why wouldn’t you go do whatever you want? Who’s going to tell you not to?” These executives say Cruise is driven by his own perfectionism. “It’s not always in the best interest of the budget, but he is incredibly detailed and willing to put in an enormous amount of time and effort on every aspect,” says a source on M:I 7. “The guy does give every ounce of his being to this endeavor,” confirms another.

The still-unfinished M:I 7 has already hit a breathtaking $290 million budget, with tax incentives. Cruise and McQuarrie did a little work on 8 as 7 got underway — enough to say they had started the film — but shooting on 8 is underway now. Sources say Cruise has persuaded Brian Robbins, the new president and CEO of Paramount Pictures, to give him more money to finish the seventh film and make the eighth, arguing (with some justification) that inflation has driven up expenses.

No one can be blamed for COVID-19, or for the lousy luck that had M:I 7 start its shoot in northern Italy, hit hard early in the pandemic. Ultimately, both Cruise and McQuarrie — neither of whom was believed to be vaccinated at the time — contracted the virus, according to sources. McQuarrie’s illness was so severe that he was hospitalized in London, a source says. (Why the two weren’t vaccinated isn’t clear, but in Cruise’s case, it apparently was not because Scientology has taken a position against it, as some in town have speculated. Sources familiar with the organization’s policy say it has left the decision up to members.) Neither Cruise nor McQuarrie responded to a request for comment.

Posted by Geoff at 10:46 PM CDT
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Saturday, March 12, 2022
@cypnk HAS "FUN FACTS" AND "alt.alien.vampire.flonk.flonk.flonk"

Posted by Geoff at 11:51 AM CST
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Tuesday, March 8, 2022
(Thanks to Chris!)

Posted by Geoff at 7:09 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, March 9, 2022 8:04 AM CST
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Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Light The Fuse page for the first part of the interview includes the photo below of Chris Soldo (on the right), in front of a board of shots for the tunnel sequence for Mission: Impossible. The photo description mentions that "they added red gels over the shots they completed." This board is mentioned in the episode.

Posted by Geoff at 5:00 PM CDT
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Friday, July 2, 2021

"We are once again joined by the legendary filmmaker, Are Snakes Necessary? author and director of the first Mission: Impossible film Brian De Palma and his co-author Susan Lehman," begins the description of the new episode of the podcast Light The Fuse, which is hosted by Charles Hood and Drew Taylor. "In this episode we discuss the unmade prequel films to some of his earlier projects, why he isn’t interested in Mission: Impossible sequels, and what happened with the musical score (with Alan Silvestri replaced by Danny Elfman). We also get into some potential future projects, which is really exciting."

As you can imagine, there is a lot to digest from this episode (the YouTube version is embedded below). For now, let's look at the episode's discussion of Elfman/Silvestri:

Charles: So the music -- obviously, Alan Silvestri was on, and then was taken off. And then Danny Elfman came on. And you've worked with so many incredible composers in your career. I would love to hear how that whole process went down, and then also would love to know why never again with Elfman? because the two of you seemed like a match made in Heaven.

De Palma: Well, you know, the great composers, the problem is, you know, they're not always available. Because they're working all the time. With Alan, it was just, we were recording, and it just didn't work. And Tom was very unhappy with it. And I'm used to working with composers and going in and changing this, and moving this around, and it just... there was no sort of chemistry between Alan and I. And when we saw that Danny was available, we immediately snapped him up. And I, as Paul, I know, has detailed, explained to you, I mean, I literally spent four weeks sitting next to him, going over every cue in Mission: Impossible. In order to get us ready to record in four weeks. And he did an amazing job.

Drew: So you wanted to work with him again?

De Palma: Who?

Drew: Danny.

De Palma: Oh, of course! I mean, I've worked with all the great composers. I've missed a few, but, you know, I started with Bernard Herrmann, so...

Charles: Ha ha ha, not too shabby.

De Palma: Yeah, you can't start any better, basically.

Here's how Paul Hirsch describes the Silvestri/Elfman switch in his book, A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away:
The first day of recording the music was exciting, as always. This day, however, was special, because the famous theme of the Mission: Impossible TV series, originally composed by Lalo Schifrin, was the star, more so than any other element. The orchestra performing the theme was being videotaped for the press kit. After the hoopla of laying down a good take of the main title, Alan began recording the first cue for the Prague sequence. After just a few notes, Brian turned to Cruise, who was sitting next to him, and said derisively, "It sounds like the 'Song of the Volga Boatmen.'"

I knew then that we were in trouble. Tom picked up on Brian's unhappiness and seemed to share it. Once a negative comment like that is made, it can poison everything,

As hard as it is to believe, not once since Brian and Alan first met had they spoken again. Brian never called up and said, "Hey, Alan, I was wondering if you could play me some of what you are writing, just to make sure we are on the same page." And not once had Alan called Brian to say, "Hey, Brian, I'd like you to hear some of what I have in mind for the film, just in case you want to make any changes."

So here we were on the day, and Brian was unhappy. He huddled with Cruise and the head of music from the studio. The next thing I knew, the rest of the recording session was canceled and Alan was being replaced. We had used a track from Dead Presidents for temping the CIA scene, and as is often the case, the temp led to hiring the composer. It had happened on Sisters and again on Steel Magnolias, and now it happened again. Danny Elfman, a brilliant composer, had written that track and was available. All of a sudden, Danny was in.
Once the deal was in place, Brian asked me to go with him to Elfman's house in Topanga Canyon. We waited while Danny was finishing up a phone call in another pat of the house. The room was decorated with strange, creepy objects, of which I remember two. One was a foot-high human skeleton in a jar. The other was a cat lying on the sofa, seemingly asleep, but when I stroked it, I realized that it was dead and stuffed.

In his studio, Danny had a large monitor in front of a keyboard, and he and Brian settled in to look at a scene together. We didn't stay long, and the next day Brian told me that Elfman had asked him not to have me accompany him to the house anymore. Brian went back and worked with him every day for weeks. He confided to me that he had never worked so hard with a composer in his life.

I couldn't resist pointing out, "If you had worked like this with Alan, he would have written you a great score."

Posted by Geoff at 5:05 PM CDT
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Saturday, June 26, 2021

The set of images above comes from a set of motion gifs posted at the Light The Fuse page for episode 158. The episode features part one of the podcast's interview with Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman. After talking about De Palma and Lehman's novel Are Snakes Necessary?, hosts Charles Hood and Drew Taylor steer the discussion toward Mission: Impossible:
Drew: Did you send any early drafts or run any of the ideas by your buddy and neighbor David Koepp?

De Palma: No, not really. I think we sent... yeah, because he read the book and gave us a quote. Yes, only when we were finished.

Drew: Okay.

De Palma: Basically.

Lehman: Here's a trade secret: Brian is very big on don't show your work to anybody until it's finished.

Drew: Oh, really. But you famously have chimed in on other people's work in progresses, like, correct me if I'm wrong, but you really, uh, heckled Lucas on using [begins to laugh while talking] "The Force" in that early Star Wars screening.

De Palma: Will we never live down this meeting over the first screening of Star Wars. Everybody's.. I mean, when I talk to everybody that was involved in that movie, everyone has a different version of what happened.

Lehman: Well, give your version.

Drew: Yeah.

De Palma: But my version-- I mean, my version is pretty close to... I was just watching Steven's, um, the biography they did of Steven. And he related how he saw it. Everybody, you know, they always portray me as the guy that says the worst thing that drives everybody crazy. But if you're gonna to show me something, I'm gonna tell you what I think about it. Why am I there unless I'm gonna give an honest appraisal of what I've seen? And in this case, you know, the fact that Steven says that only he saw the possibilities of Star Wars, that's not really true. We all saw it as a terrific thing that George had done. And you know, we were well aware of where the special effects weren't there, and how they had cut in all these planes from other movies to be things they were supposed to be-- you know, the ships and stuff like that. But I did make a joke about The Force. That's true. [everybody laughs]

Lehman: Tell us what your opinion of The Force was.

De Palma: I just thought the idea of The Force was like, you know, "THE FORCE!" I would say, but I kept repeating it, you know. But, it doesn't seem like a great name for this kind of spiritual guidance. So, "The Force." So, needless to say, I had a lot to say about The Force, which obviously I was terribly wrong about. But the other thing was that no one knew what was, you know, the movie starts in chapter 3, we're in a world nobody's ever... knows anything about, he's got all these funny names for people, and I said, "George, you've gotta set this up somehow. Like those scrolls in the Flash Gordon movies." You know, George had that idea, but it was all gobbledygook, basically. So I and Jay Cocks went over the crawl and basically rewrote it. So it made some sense. And that was our contribution.

But, I mean, I said some things very direct to my director friends about their movies that went on to be extremely successful. Sometimes I was right, sometimes I was wrong, but they did the same for my movies. I mean, I think when George saw Mission: Impossible, he said, you know, "There's no set-up for this thing. You've gotta set this thing up. 'You're gonna do this. You're gonna do that.You're gonna do that.' You gotta have that scene where they're all sitting around the table and everybody gets their instructions about what's gonna happen." In the beginning, we had this very strange scene. It's hard for me to remember now. But with Voight, and somehow the jealous thing with the wife and Tom and then we got into the first mission and when George saw the movie, it's the first thing he said: "What are these people doing? You know, this is Mission: Impossible, a group of guys going to do stuff. So you've gotta get 'em all around a table and tell the audience what they're supposed to do." And that's what we did. We went back and re-shot it. So that was an example of us helping each other.

Drew: Wow.

Charles: And so is that scene with Jon Voight at the head of the table and Kristin Scott Thomas is off to the side, was she not able to come back for scheduling? It kind of seems like she was sort of isolated in a corner?

De Palma: Correct. An astute student of cinema. In fact, Kristin could not come, so I had to shoot her over to the side, and we doubled her in the master shot with her back to the window.

Drew: Wow.

Charles: I don't think I can take credit, I think someone else pointed that out for me, but...

Lehman: Go ahead, take credit.


Drew: I don't know if you know this, Brian, but we have done, like, over 150 episodes on the Mission: Impossible franchise, and talked to many of your collaborators on the first movie. And they told us everything. No, I'm kidding. So we were wondering, you know it's the 25th anniversary now, and you had an interesting sort of history with writers on this one, too, which is why I'm glad Susan's here to hear about your relationship with other writers.

Lehman: No, I've heard this before.


Drew: Did you use anything from that original Katz and Huyck draft of the movie, or was that just...

De Palma: Which draft are you talking about?

Charles: Supposedly there was a draft that Willard and Gloria Katz did...

De Palma: Correct.

Charles: And did you end up using anything from that?

De Palma: No. What happened was Sydney Pollack worked with them originally. He worked for a year on a draft that was set in the midwest. There was a storm. I don't even remember what it was. But Tom was unhappy with it. And when the head of CAA said to me, "Would you be interested in doing Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise," and I said, "You bet," and they sent me off to... because Sydney wanted to do Sabrina. He wanted to get out of the Mission: Impossible situation. Because it wasn't going well. So Sydney went on to Sabrina, and they plugged me into Mission: Impossible. So I proceeded to work with the Huycks, who I knew way back from working with, you know, George many years ago. And we worked on a version still all set in the United States. I think the... and I don't even quite remember what the mission was, but it had something to do with a storm. And I knew Tom was not gonna like this. I was forced to go through with another draft of this thing where everybody was looking around for new writers to start all over again. And then Paramount had a commitment to Zaillion, and Zaillion and I went off to his office, we smoked a lot of cigarettes, I think we ate a lot of, well, I ate a lot of popcorn, and we worked for a couple of weeks, and we worked out this ten-page treatment of what ultimately became the basis for Mission: Impossible. But then Zaillion had other things he wanted to do so he bailed out. And then I ran into David, who was about to do a remake of something. And I said, "Don't do that! Come over and let's do Mission: Impossible." So he said, "Great." So I handed David this ten-page treatment, and he and I worked out the initial script for Mission: Impossible. That's act number one.

Act number two is, I'm trying to convince Jon... all Paramount wanted to do was make Mission: Impossible. To get Tom Cruise into Mission: Impossible was all they cared about. What the script was, who cares, as long as Tom is in Mission: Impossible. Tom was always having problems with characters or something. And I said, "Tom, you gotta go in and tell Sherry that you're gonna make this movie or we're going nowhere." So ultimately, Tom said okay, we're gonna make this script. And everybody said good, we have a go picture, we're going to London, we're starting to build all the sets. But I got a call the next day, and it was from Paula Wagner. And she said, "The good news is we're all go. The bad news is you have to fire David Koepp." I said, "What?!?" "Because Tom wans to bring on Bob Towne." "Fire David Koepp??" David's never been fired in his life. He's an old friend of mine, and I said, "You've gotta be kidding." "No. That's what Tom wants to do." So I had to call up Dave, I said, "Dave, the good news is, it's a go, the bad news is, you're fired." So what I did was keep David in the loop, let him know what we were doing, when we were starting to go into production, and Towne was up in the hotel for about six weeks, writing God-knows-what. Tom and I used to come in from rehearsals and act out these scenes in front of him. And he would work some more and smoke a few more cigars, and...

Lehman: Are there any tapes of that? Of you and Tom acting out the scenes?

De Palma: I don't think so. Finally, when he had to submit a script, the new script, Paula was appalled. I mean it just didn't work at all. So I said, "We've gotta bring David Koepp back on. And we've gotta take some of the good stuff, the good scenes that Towne had done..." See, what Towne did, he re-wrote the whole script. That's not what needed to be done. The characters had to be fleshed out a little bit. There have to be some clever lines. That's what he did. And then I brought David back on, I made them pay him a lot of money for two weeks. He took what Towne had done and integrated it into his script, and that became the script we shot. Of course, until the famous story about pulling off masks in the boxcar. Which we had a big fight over that. I said, "I've got this big helicopter chase in the tunnel! Him on the train, Voight on the helicopter..." And then Towne looks at me and says, "Oh, one of those, you know, helicopter-going-into-a-tunnel sequences." I said, [sarcastic] "Oh, okay, maybe you're right. Let's do pulling off masks in the boxcar. That's how we'll wrap it up. Great!" And I left it at that. I walked out of the room. And Tom came around and thought that maybe the helicopter thing would be better than pulling the masks off in the boxcar as a finale.

Drew: So how much of the Towne stuff ultimately made it in, would you say? Not much?

De Palma: There were some good Towne lines in there, but basically it's David's script. And I was very disappointed with Towne. But, you know, he has such a great reputation. I was very disappointed in what he did, and then look what he did to the next Mission: Impossible. It's a mess!


Drew: That's true.

De Palma: That is the... no good.

Drew: He was riffing on Hitchcock, though. I mean, did you have any sympathy in that?

De Palma: You mean in the one he did after mine?

Drew: Yeah. It's Notorious.

Charles: Basically, it's Notorious.

De Palma: Yeah, you know, I heard that idea so many times, "Let's do Notorious," blah-di-blah-di-blah. That's what he did, and it was not good.

Charles: When you say you heard that idea so many times, do you mean Tom Cruise was saying to you, "Let's do Notorious"?

De Palma: No, no, this was an idea that Towne had about doing a kind of Notorious element.

Charles: Oh, okay.

De Palma: We all love Notorious, but it didn't work for Mission: Impossible. As you've probably heard.


Charles: You know the sequence in the diner with Jon Voight, when he's revealed to be alive, and Tom Cruise is seeing the truth while Jon Voight lies. I think that Paul Hirsch had some hilarious comments about how critics were dumbed-down from Twister coming out a couple of weeks before [laughing]. He told us about that. But I'm wondering where that... that sequence is so brilliant, and I just love it so much. I'm wondering when did that come about? Was that with Koepp, or was that, you know, when in the process?

De Palma: Now you're getting into an area that I don't quite remember. I remember the way I shot it. And the idea of... I think it must have come from me and David. Because I had this idea that Voight should be saying one thing and Tom should be thinking what the truth was. And then, you know, I had laid out the sequence like that. But I think that's something we had right in the beginning of the script. I guess you can check in the versions David has on his website.

Charles: Yes.

De Palma: In the initial script, and how it changed in the final version.

Lehman: I think those are all included in the De Palma archives, by the way.

De Palma: [laughs] No, they're in the David Koepp archives.

Charles: In one of his earlier scripts, there was a great set piece with a military wedding. Where, you know, Ethan is tricking Kittridge by showing up, and he does a quick change of his outfit to, like, fit in with this whole military wedding that comes out of the church. Do you recall that?

De Palma: No.


De Palma: We had a great sequence where they got one of the members. I think it was...

Charles: Ving Rhames?

De Palma: Ving? I think it was Ving, where he was in prison, and they break him out of prison. We had a great sequence with a, breaking him out of prison, in which they give him a shot so he looks like he's dead, and they bring him up to the roof, and they're gonna incinerate him. And then the helicopter arrives and it saves Ving, you know, from being incinerated, and he becomes... Otherwise, we had the, you know, this, The Seven Samurai recruiting the group.

Charles: Right.

De Palma: We kind of lost all that. We just stuck 'em all on the train, and they were all there. But we had sequences for each one where they're recruited.

Charles: That was never filmed, was it?

De Palma: No. Though, I laid out that sequence at the escape from prison. We were even starting to build a set for that. Which was, it was too much, too expensive. You know, we gotta cut this thing out.

Drew: Wow. But you seem to have had a relatively good time on this movie, all things considered. Correct?

De Palma: [sarcastic] A good time?


Drew: [lughing] Maybe hindsight is making it... yeah, I've heard you talking very warmly about the move recently. I don't know if maybe time has colored your perception of it, but...

De Palma: [ponderous] A good time...

Charles: You made a comment recently about how Carlito's Way and Mission: Impossible might be... I forget the exact phrase that you said, but it was something about you being at the top of your game, you had the biggest, you know, sandbox to play in, and...

De Palma: I had all the, you know, all the great things that you [want to have] when you make a big studio movie. You know, all the great technicians, all the great...all the money, you know, big stars. Yeah! you know, you can make something extraordinary. But it was like, after it was over, I said, get me outta here. Talk about stress in order to get the thing done.

Posted by Geoff at 3:55 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, June 26, 2021 4:11 PM CDT
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