Tom Cruise's next movie mission -- The actor is set to remake the popular TV series "Mission Impossible" into a full-length movie

By Judy Brennan and Albert Kim
December 16, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

Click. Good morning, Mr. Cruise. For your next project, you’re being asked to star in as well as produce Paramount’s feature-film version of Mission: Impossible. Your assignment, should you decide to accept it, is to round up a team, hammer out existing script problems, possibly enlist the aid of the old Mission squad, and keep the whole thing under budget. If you fail, Paramount will disavow all knowledge of your existence…

Not even Jim Phelps faced an assignment as potentially dangerous as the one confronting Tom Cruise — turning the much-parodied 28-year-old CBS spy series into another successful motion-picture franchise for Paramount (think Mission Impossible: The Next Generation). Then again, Cruise, fresh from the sanguine success of Interview With the Vampire, seems up to the challenge. In addition to starring in the film (for an estimated $9 to $12 million), he’ll produce with business partner Paula Wagner. Cruise has already begun assembling his team of crack specialists before filming starts in February.

On the squad so far: director Brian De Palma, who in the past has had success with a feature remake of an old TV show (The Untouchables), and screenwriter David Koepp, who cowrote the screenplay for Jurassic Park with Michael Crichton. Yet to be formally contacted but supposedly the front-runner for the role of Cruise’s love interest is French actress Juliette Binoche (Damage). And with more than a half dozen other roles for hunky demolitions experts, gorgeous masters of disguise, and heavy-accented totalitarian villains, the movie promises to have something for everyone.

Not surprisingly, one of the movie’s biggest stumbling blocks is its screenplay. Koepp was reportedly given $1 million to rewrite an original script done by the husband-and-wife team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (Radioland Murders), a script that one project source says had problems with dialogue and story development. Sources say that Huyck and Katz’s basic plot will remain intact, however, a story line that begins with original Mission-aries like Peter Graves and Martin Landau — or characters similar to theirs — embarking on an assignment with their young protégé (Cruise). But the assignment is botched and the entire team is killed — except for Cruise, who makes revenge his priority.

That particular story line doesn’t sit very well with the old squad. ”I haven’t seen a script,” says Landau, who played disguise expert Rollin Hand on the show, ”but I’m certainly not in favor of having the old team perish.” Adds Graves, who played Mission leader Jim Phelps:

”I haven’t even been contacted yet. Who knows? Maybe they killed us off already.” Sources involved with the production doubt most of the original cast — which included Landau’s ex-wife, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus, and, later, the post-Spock Leonard Nimoy — will make a return appearance.

Meanwhile, Cruise has bigger worries than getting old secret agents in out of the cold. Paramount executives want to keep the budget for the film in the $40 to $50 million range, but sources say that the actor’s vision calls for a big, showy action piece that will tally closer to $62 million. If Mission follows in the recent tradition of TV remake successes (Maverick, The Flintstones, Batman, and The Addams Family), however, the payoff could be huge.

But having Cruise in the picture doesn’t necessarily guarantee a hit. ”The story and the film have to transcend that,” notes producer David Permut, who turned the old Dragnet series into a $56 million hit in 1987. ”If only Mission fans go, Paramount won’t be filling up the theaters.”

Still, even though it looks like an impossible job, Cruise has never been known to self-destruct. ”I remember a lot of people rolled their eyes when word circulated that The Fugitive was going to be made into a film,” says Permut.”This is definitely a smart move.” (Additional reporting by Cindy Pearlman)

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 110 minutes
Complete Coverage