The road to… Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

This weekend was the opening of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, but the franchise began 17th September 1996 as a television series on Columbia Broadcasting System.

Inspired by the film Topkapi, the series followed the cases of the Impossible Missions Force, a division of the Central Intelligence Agency, that would complete the tasks no one else had been able to. Episodes used minimal dialogue, music to create suspense, and involved a team of people – in this case the Impossible Missions Force – to complete a task to exact timing – all elements borrowed from Topkapi.

Creator Bruce Geller vetoed any character development to keep a focus on the missions themselves. He felt that having characters not change and work as plot devices would say more about the characters than if they were elements of the narrative. In each episode, they’re only seen together in what The Complete “Mission: Impossible” Dossier author Patrick J. White called the Apartment Scene: at the end of the first act, the Impossible Missions Force would meet in the Leader’s apartment for debriefing. The set was designed to have a grey tone, despite being videotaped in colour. Here, characters would mention what they’d do during the execution of their plan, but in vague terms so as to tease the audience. This would help establish the equipment that would be used, and the roles of guest characters. It’s here that Jim Phelps would sum-up the deadline for mission completion, as well as take any questions from characters so as it fill potential plot holes.

Another decision taken to minimise character development was to not explain absences. Characters were never killed or released from duty, yet any actors departing the series would be unexplained, with their character just not appearing in future episodes with no acknowledgement of it.

In season five, producer Bruce Lansbury decided to scale back the budget, and moved the setting to be internalised within the United States of America, fighting an enemy known as “The Syndicate”, who were described as outside the reaches of “conventional law enforcement”. Such methods as manipulating targets into removing each other were replaced with obtaining evidence against them and tricking confessions using recording devices. These changes may have altered the methods by which the Impossible Missions Force tackled The Syndicate, but each episode still maintained – generally – the formula from previous seasons.

The final episode, Edward J. Lasko‘s Imitation, brought the count to 171 – the most episodes for an English-language espionage series until 24: day 8, 7:00 p.m – 8:00 p.m (by Chip Johannessen and Patrick Harbinson).

In the 1980s, the series was revived for another shot. The 1988 Writers Guild of America Strike prompted American Broadcasting Company to find written, but unproduced, scripts. This lead to the production of a new Mission: Impossible series, shot in Australia, which was twenty per cent cheaper than Hollywood. The only character to carry-over was Phelps. Everyone else was new. Though the plots were updated, American Broadcasting Company were worried that some episodes would need remaking due to lack of new material. The strike was resolved quickly enough for only four episodes to be modernisations of original stories. It’s for this reason that the new series is considered a continuation of the previous. Although the series wasn’t a success, the Australian tax credit was low enough for it to still generate a high profit margin, and it lasted for two seasons, when it was cancelled for low ratings due to a new time slot.

While the formula was still used, the scale was pushed more than before. One character was killed-off – as Geller was unable to veto the decision by being dead – and posthumously disavowed, the first for the Mission: Impossible franchise. Some of the gadgets used were also much closer to science fiction than the hard science of the original run, with the Impossible Missions Force now being a global force rather than a small operation. Some original cast members made appearances, but as new characters.

As a continuation of the new series, the premise was created that Phelps’ former protege is killed in action, prompting him to be called out of retirement to form a new Impossible Missions Force and, in the first episode, track-down the killer.

One fan of the show was actor Tom Cruise, who’d recently set-up his own production company, Cruise/Wagner Productions. Paramount Pictures owned the rights to the series, and had been trying to make a feature for a long time but hadn’t found the right treatment. As a producer, Cruise persuaded them to give him $70, 000, 000 to make Mission: Impossible. After several drafts of a story and screenplay by David Koepp and Robert Towne, production began and Mission: Impossible became a feature, disconnected from television continuity. Infamously, original cast members reacted harshly to this version. Phelps actor Peter Graves disliked the treatment of Jon Voight’s version of the character – the only one carried-over series used for the feature – who’s revealed to be a traitor in the final twist. Original cast member Martin Landau also considered it not true to what Mission: Impossible is – getting in and out without leaving a trace, not a generic action-adventure. With the widest release of any feature yet given, the highest-grossing opening Wednesday, and sixteen days and two weekends at the top of the box office, Mission: Impossible grossed five times its final $80M budget with $457M, prompting Paramount Pictures to greenlit a sequel.

Only Towne returned for Mission: Impossible II, which had 1.5 times Mission: Impossible‘s budget of $125, 000, 000, this time only grossing four times its budget, but still grossing higher than previously at $546, 000, 000, making it the highest-grossing of the franchise so far with a profit margin of 4. Its opening weekend grossed $57, 845, 279, making it not only number one at the box office – where it would stay for three more weekends – but the highest grossing domestic opening weekend of 2000, and the highest grossing worldwide opening weekend of 2000, with $546.4 approx. This once again lead Paramount Pictures to greenlighting a threequel.

Mission: Impossible III went through six years of development through three directors. Cruise had been watching Alias, and approached J. J. Abrams about writing and directing. Abrams brought with him his team of Alias writers – Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. This had the highest budget yet – $150, 000, 000. But it had the lowest profit margin so far, only returning two times that budget with £357, 000, 000. It spent fourteen days and two weekends at number one in the box office, despite an opening weekend of $47.7M. But Mission: Impossible III was still profitable, and that lead to a third sequel.

Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec were hired as screenwriters after Abrams declined to return due to other commitments. Due to the underperformance of Mission: Impossible III, the budget was reduced to $145, 000, 000. But the total worldwide lifetime gross of $694M and foreign gross of $485M – the two highest for the spy genre – generated a profit margin of nearly five times that amount, a return to performance for the franchise. It remained at number one in the box office for fifteen days and four weekends, the first of which grossed $12M – the highest-grossing opening weekend for a limited release. With a domestic gross of $209M, it became the highest-grossing domestic spy feature. Its second domestic weekend grossed $29M, a drop of .5%, the lowest second-weekend drop for a spy feature.

These numbers were enough for Paramount Pictures to begin production on another Mission: Impossible feature, which is how Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation was greenlit. This shares Mission: Impossible III‘s high production budget of $150M, and is still playing worldwide. On 14th November 2013, Coming Soon first announced it as “Mission: Impossible 5“, with Drew Pearce screenwriting and Cruise and Abrams producing. The original release date was scheduled for 25th December. In a 15th November interview with Music Television to promote The World’s End, actor Simon Pegg confirmed he was to reprise the Benji Dunn role – his third appearance in the series, after Mission: Impossible III and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. On 9th May 2014, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Will Staples was rewriting Pearce‘s screenplay. He was replaced by director Christopher McQuarrie, with story credited to Pearce. In a 22nd May 2014 Yahoo! interview, Jeremy Renner also confirmed he’d been cast, reprising the William Brandt role, who first appeared in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. A week later, at the 29th May 2014 premiere of Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise told a Telegraph reporter that “Mission: Impossible 5” was to shoot in London. On 7th August, KTV also reported that Vienna was another location. After The Hollywood Reporter reported Alec Baldwin was in-talks with Paramount casting, on 9th July, Coming Soon reported Rebecca Ferguson had been cast as the female lead. On 16th August, McQuarrie tweeted that series regular Ving Rhames would return to the role of Luther Stickell. On 21st August, principal photography began, with initial set photographs released via Coming Soon, confirming that Baldwin had been cast. The following day, 22nd August, Express released more set photographs showing Cruise and Ferguson hanging from Vienna Opera House, confirming Vienna as a location. Principal photography continued through 26th August, with more scenes in Vienna, via more set photographs released by Daily Mail. On 28th August, Morocco World News reported the closing of Marrakesh Highway by National Company of Highways of Morocco. After one-and-a-half weeks of shooting, the crew departed Vienna on 31st August, which was revealed by Xinhuanet. More set photographs from Daily Mail showed them arriving in Rabat the same day. On 3rd September, Marrakesh Highway was used to shoot a chase sequence in the F80 BMW M3, which was broken by BMW Blog. On 4th September, Morocco World News again reported the closing of the stadium of Marrakech for more scenes. On 5th September, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Sean Harris was in negotiations for the antagonist role. On 26th September, Daily Mirror posted photographs of the same F80 BMW M3 being driven by Cruise in Kasbah of the Udayas. On 28th September, Daily Mail posted more set photographs of the crew arriving in London. On 2nd October, Variety reported that Simon McBurney was in negotiations to be Ferguson’s character’s boss. A week later on 6th October, actor Zhang Jingchu was spotted in London. Variety also reported this to be due to having been cast in a role important to a plot twist. The following day, 7th October, BMW Blog posted photographs of multiple damaged F80 BMW M3s being transported into London. On 11th October, the crew were spotted during an aerial scene using a helicopter in Monaco in more set photographs released by Daily Mail. Master Herald reported Ferguson had also been seen there. In yet more Daily Mail set photographs posted 3rd November, Cruise was seen at RAF Wittering atop a grounded aeroplane. Cruise was at times suspended from an Airbus A400M Atlas, rather than using a stunt double. On 8th November, Daily Echo reported that more scenes used Fawley Power Station. The 25th December release date was brought-forward on 26th January to 31st July. PR Newswire reporter on 13th February that Paramount Pictures were to remaster Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation for IMAX. According to Hollywood Reporter on 20th February, production was halted for McQuarrie and Cruise to work on the ending. Deadline reported on 5th March that Paramount Pictures has partnered with Lotte for South Korean distribution for release on Thursday 30th March. McQuarrie tweeted on 12th March that principal photography had wrapped. On 22nd May, Paramount Pictures debuted the first footage during a basketball tournament, which revealed the Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation title, advertising the full trailer debut the following day, 23rd May, and revealing that The Syndicate would be the target.

A second trailer was released 3rd June.

On 4th June, Entertain This posted an interview with Cruise where he revealed Fawley Power Station’s scene was underwater, where he held his breath for over a minute using training from Kirk Krack for a single long take. Hollywood Reporter reported on 22nd July that Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation was to be released in Dolby Cinema – combining Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos audio. The South Korean opening night on Thursday 30th July grossed $4M. The domestic opening night on 31st July grossed $20.3M. The full opening weekend is projected to gross $40-50M.

Screenwriters’ Dispatch: Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin’s Anthropod

Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin have written WWII drama Arthropod, the name of an operation using Czechoslovakian soldiers trained by the British Army to assassinate General Reinhard Heydrich, who lead Nazi forces into the country.

The Wrap reports Marc Guggenheim‘s written an adaptation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, titled Uprising, chronicling a civil war against Earth from a Lunar colony.

Variety reports Diablo Cody‘s rewriting Barbie.

Deadline reports Michael Berg‘s adapting Mrs. Frisby & the Rates of Nimh, which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hope will establish a franchise. The story’s to be an origin of a mouse who teams-up with super-intelligent lab rats to escape a laboratory and lead mouse civilisation against Humanity.

Harve Bennett‘s died. Bennett’s most popular screenplays were Star Trek III: the Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home.

Deadline report Jeff Buhler‘s sold Descendent to Lotus Entertainment, inspired by news reports of real events of parents who become worried over the source of their son’s above-average intelligence. Buhler said

I have always been fascinated by the concept of reincarnation which is a widely held belief for billions of people around the globe. Descendant explores this world in a very personal and frightening way that has never been realized on film.

The Hollywood Reporter claims reports Eric Heisserer has adapted Ted Chiang’s Prisoners, in-which a xenolinguist and physicist are recruited by the government to assess the intentions of aliens that have landed all over the world, but experiences flashbacks that develop the secret truth of who these beings are.

Debbie Horsfield‘s spoken to Radio Times over the adapting of Poldark:

He is a rebel and he is not an outcast so much but he stands apart from the rest of society. What I loved about Ross Poldark is that he has got a bit of Tom Jones and a bit of Mr Darcy because he’s a gentleman and bit of Rochester and a bit of Rhett Butler and a bit of Robin Hood. He is actually all the good heroes rolled into one and yet he is his own unique personality. That’s what’s great about him. He does have a strong sense of justice but he’s not priggish about it. He’s a leader but he doesn’t seek leadership – but people will follow him. That’s a true leader. I think the books are so extraordinary. I feel more pressure doing justice to [them] in the way I would feel about doing justice to a Jane Austen or a Dickens. I’d be doing [Poldark]  for years and years but I love the stories so much.

Deadline reports Drew Pierce is working on a second instalment in the Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe, featuring an all-male version of the team.

Jenji KohanBruce Miller and Tracy Miller have co-written The Devil You Know‘s pilot, about the Salem Witch Trials that divides New England.

Tax Analysts reports the federal government of Mexico have offered Sony Pictures Entertainment $20M if they make screenplay changes to more positively represent the country. They claim the intention is to show modern Mexico City structures and its skyline. Part of the conditions is to cast a Mexican as Estrella, who can’t be herself Mexican. Bond uses Estrella’s apartment as a base of operations while hunting an assassin targeting the governor of the Federal District, which the offer proposes becomes an international leader instead, while the Federal District Police becomes a special force. Bond’s confrontation with the assassin currently leads to a cage match in an ambiguous location, but Mexico are requesting it instead be a chase through Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebrations.

Steven Moffat, co-screenwriter of the upcoming Sherlock special, has spoken to Entertainment Weekly over the function of Victorian production design seen on set:

The special is its own thing. We wouldn’t have done the story we’re doing, and the way we’re doing it, if we didn’t have this special. It’s not part of the run of three episodes. So we had this to do it – as we could hardly conceal – it’s Victorian. We wanted to do this, but it had to be a special, it had to be separate entity on its own. It’s kind of in its own little bubble.

The Hollywood Reporter claims Craig Kyle‘s written a Blue Thunder retelling about a military helicopter with technology of a potential future.

CNN reports Jonathan Herman‘s rewriting Scarface.

Indiewire reports Ehren Kruger‘s writing a serial adaptation of The Brothers Grimm.

BBC News reports Douglas McGrath‘s adapting his stage-play musical Beautiful, chronicling the career of Carol King, into a motion picture.

Armando Iannucci, writer of The Thick of It starring Peter Capaldi, has confirmed interest in writing a Doctor Who episode for the actor. Speaking to The Guardian, Iannucci said

I’m a big fan of Doctor Who and obviously with Peter, who’s loving it, it would be nice to. I’ve spoken off and on to them but it’s a case of being able to fit something in. It’s a nice thought. In our conversations there was an idea we had, but it may be a wee while yet before we get round to working out when it would be. Knowing I am committed for the next year or so, it’s all on hold. Let’s get back in touch when we can.

According to The Hollywood ReporterJason Segal and Drew Pearce have been hired by Warner Bros. to write The Million Brick Race, an installment in the LEGO Cinematic Universe.

Speaking to Comic Book ResourcesSimon Pegg has spoken about how he came to write Washington Project and what it’s about:

It just came out of conversations I was having with J.J. and Bryan Burk, and they decided to kind of like restart the process. Because I’d been on the set with Burk-y on Mission: Impossible, he said, “Maybe you should come on and write it with Doug and Justin and him and Lindsey Weber”. And I was a bit, “No. I don’t want to – it’s too much pressure!” But I think we just want to take it forward with the spirit of the TV show. And it’s a story about frontierism and adventure and optimism and fun, and that’s where we want to take it, you know. Where no man has gone before – where no one has gone before, sensibly corrected for a slighter, more enlightened generation. But yeah, that’s the mood at the moment.”

Den of Geek reports Alien Nation is to be rewritten by Art Marcum and Jeff Holloway.

The Hollywood Reporter also reports Friday the 13th‘s reboot is to be written by Nick Antosca, whose draft resulted in the production’s green lighting.

The Wrap reports Fifty Shades of Grey writer Kelly Marcel has departed the sequels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

It’s been announced Jamie Mathieson and Catherine Tregenna are writing episodes for Doctor Who‘s ninth season, titled The Girl who Died and The Woman who Lived.

It’s reported that Disney have bought a screenplay by Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek for a Mulan retelling, based on the Chinese legend of warrior Hua Mulan, who disguises herself as a male to join the army, becoming a national hero with her dragon companion Mushu.

On his blog, GRRM, in an entry titled Conventions and CancellationsGeorge R.R. Martin stated he won’t be writing an episode for season six of Game of Thrones, adapted from his novel series A Song of Ice and Fire. He said:

after wrestling with it for a month or so, I’ve decided not to script an episode for season six of GAME OF THRONES.  Writing a script takes me three weeks, minimum, and longer when it is not a straight adaptation from the novels.  And really, it would cost me more time than that, since I have never been good at changing gears from one medium to another and back again.

The Telegraph reports Stan Lee‘s writing an original superhero drama, Lucky Man. Detective and gambler Harry Clayton acquires a charm that gives him control of luck. His gambling’s lead to his wife and daughter abandoning him, his boss suspects him of Theistic Satanism and he’s in-debt with a crime kingpin. Lee said

Luck has always been a fascinating subject to me, and I am excited to finally share that fascination with audiences around the world.

Screen Daily report Steve McQueen and Debbie Tucker Green are co-writing a six-episode miniseries chronicling the lives of Black people in London from 1968 to 2014. McQueen said

I don’t think there has been a serious drama series in Britain with black people from all walks of life as the main protagonists. This isn’t a black Our Friends in the North.

Production company Rainmark managing director Tracey Scofield told Broadcast

He wants to reach a very wide audience with this. It is very entertaining and moving. Steve has done a lot of research on it and we’re now working on the script and appointing writers with an eye to shooting next spring.