CS Interview: Christopher McQuarrie talks Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Paramount Pictures provided ComingSoon.net with the chance to talk 1:1 with director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) for the home video release of his blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Fallout. The sequel is now available on Digital HD and on Blu-ray December 4. Check out the interview below!
The best intentions often come back to haunt you. Mission: Impossible – Fallout finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team (Alec Baldwin, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames) along with some familiar allies (Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan) in a race against time after a mission gone wrong. Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett, and Vanessa Kirby also join the dynamic cast.
The Mission: Impossible franchise launched in 1966 with the original CBS television series, which ran for seven seasons and 171 episodes. Mission: Impossible returned in 1988 with a rebooted series on ABC. It failed to find an audience, however, and was canceled after two seasons. It was nearly a decade later that the Tom Cruise-led Mission: Impossible feature film would turn the small screen spy series into a hugely-successful cinematic franchise.
Christopher McQuarrie, who previously helmed Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, once again wrote and directed the Paramount Pictures sequel. The film made over $791 million at the global box office, making it the highest-grossing entry in the franchise.
ComingSoon.net: I remember hearing an interview with you where you said after “Rogue Nation” you were working on different things. Then Tom Cruise sort of roped you into “Fallout” by saying, “This is a go movie. Do you want to wait a year and maybe make a movie and maybe not make a movie or do you want to make a movie?” So do you regret that decision? (laughs)
Chris McQuarrie: (laughs) Clearly not, yeah. Look, did I regret it several times while I was making the movie? You bet. There were times when I turned to the producer and said, “Don’t ever let me do this again.” And he said, “You asked me that last time. And I told you not to do it again. And it’s from everything that has been described to me by women that have been through it, it’s very similar to child birth. Once it’s all over and you have the baby, you forget everything that went into making it.
CS: Right, unless you’re like my wife and you got nerve damage in your leg during birth.
CS: In “Fallout” you tried to get a little deeper into the psychology of Ethan Hunt, and you paint a picture of a guy who literally feels like he has to choose between a personal life or the world. I always wondered what kind of a life Hunt has in between these insane missions. What’s your theory? What’s a normal, uneventful 9 to 5 day like for Ethan?
McQuarrie: That’s exactly why I opened the movie the way that I did. I wanted to show what Ethan’s life is. You don’t get a glimpse behind the curtain very often in these movies, and the notion of Ethan dreaming this kind of idyllic version of his wedding and then waking up in a cold, lonely room waiting for a mission. I felt like that juxtaposition in that one instant would immediately give you an understanding of the loneliness of this character, the cost of being Ethan Hunt.
CS: Tom has been doing these movies for more than 20 years. There’s six of them. The character of Ethan Hunt is now up there in the pantheon with iconic action heroes like John McClane and James Bond and Indiana Jones. What do you think makes Ethan Hunt different from those other icons?
McQuarrie: It’s interesting that you mentioned Indiana Jones and John McClane, because I think they’re two characters who are similar in one respect, which is none of them really want to do the crazy shit they’re doing. They’re not daredevils. They’re doing what they’re doing because they have a cause and there are lives they’re trying to save, or in many cases, a world they’re trying to save. I think what’s really great about Ethan is that I sat there trying to isolate his character and separate him from Bond and Indiana Jones and all those other people. What came of that was that line that Hunley says to him, that “Some flaw in your core being, it simply won’t allow you to choose between one life and millions.” There are shorter solutions to the problems that Ethan Hunt finds himself in, but it’s often because of another life that Ethan has to go around. He has to take the long way around. On some level, when you see him clinging to the side of a mountain or the side of an airplane or hanging off a building, he’s holding onto his humanity. He’s taking that long way around because he refuses to take the shortcuts that another character might.
CS: When I was watching the chase scenes, particularly the one with Ilsa and Tom on the bikes, I started thinking about this really old short film called “Paris Rendezvous.” Have you ever seen that film?
McQuarrie: That is precisely the film that I presented to Tom before “Fallout” and I said, “This is the movie you need to watch.” You know, a lot of people reference “The French Connection” when they watch that sequence, but it owes more to “Rendezvous.”
CS: Yeah, because in that film and “Fallout” there’s a lot of first person POV, just going through the streets of Paris. It feels chaotic and almost like, “oh, did they get permission to do this?”
McQuarrie: Oh, he did not get permission. Claude Lelouch did not get permission and got in a lot of trouble, as I understand it. You can read up on the history of that film. But yeah, most importantly, it essentially showcases the entire city. He manages to canvas all of Paris. And when I showed this to Tom, I was like, “This is what I want to do. I want to go by the major monuments of the city, if we can.” Interestingly enough, the Arc de Triomphe was not in our plan. It was not even something we considered and it was only when I was looking at a roundabout in Paris that I said to the location guys, “There’s got to be a better roundabout somewhere in Paris.” And ding, the light came on, and everybody knew where I was going and they all kind of went, “Oh my god.” And I said, “Can we get it?” They came back and said, “It’s closed one day while you’re here and they’re closing it for this event. They will give you the Arc de Triomphe for two hours starting at six in the morning or seven in the morning.” And the sun didn’t come up until half an hour after we were allowed to start, so we only had a 90-minute window, and we shot everything that you’re seeing in that movie in 51 minutes inside that 90-minute window.
CS: In an interview once Paul Verhoeven said before any of his big movies he would start working out and pumping iron, because you need a lot of stamina as a director. What’s your routine to stay limber on a mega production like this?
McQuarrie: I never sit down. I never leave the set. I eat very restricted meals. I eat small meals every day of no more than 200 calories. And I don’t eat any sugar. I don’t eat any carbs. I’m basically just eating protein and vegetables and doing everything I can to maximize my energy. But, of course, I finish the day and I get home and I have a couple glasses of wine to come down off of all of that. But now, I’ve even done away with that. Oh, and all during “Fallout” I did not have coffee. I had given up coffee a few years prior and that was a big thing, so you really Verhoeven’s absolutely right. It is running a marathon. The most important thing that I learned on “Jack Reacher” is momentum. When you attack that movie, start running and never, ever, ever stop. If you stop, it’ll catch up with you. You will have a physical meltdown. Your body will just give out. Your body knows when it can get sick, and it does. And other directors on “Mission: Impossible” have faced health problems on the movies because they are so stressful. I learned my lesson very early on.