Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible 2
Credit: Richard Foreman

If Paramount had its druthers, ”M:I-2” would have opened in summer 1998, two years after ”Mission: Impossible” grossed $465 million worldwide. But release dates kept self-destructing like Mr. Phelps’ tapes, as Cruise’s commitment to ”Eyes Wide Shut” caused major delays. Once the star resurfaced, he quickly recruited Woo, hot from ”Face/Off.” It was the director’s idea to give Cruise, whom he found ”so charming in person, so young and pretty,” a romance with a female agent (Newton). She’s simultaneously courted by a baddie (Scott) threatening the world with a lethal virus.

Cruise and fellow producer Paula Wagner planned a March 1999 start in Sydney, Australia. The main impetus for staging the action there was to use ostensibly lower-cost crews. But savings weren’t in the cards. First, the weather was biblical-retribution bad, including car-trashing hail. ”Sometimes we only got two shots a day,” says Woo. ”Sometimes we got nothing.” Then there were the retakes on the big, dangerous car stunt involving Newton: She had to pull out of a driveway. Fast. ”I’m the worst driver around,” she explains. ”I don’t concentrate. This poor stuntperson had to bend down in the passenger seat clutching the hand brake in case anything went wrong. Isn’t that pathetic?”

There were speed bumps, too, after the initial director of photography, Aussie Andrew Lesnie (lensman on the ”Babe” movies), by mutual agreement, jumped off ”M:I-2” onto the ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Woo and Cruise then imported an American DP, Jeffrey Kimball — which led to grumbles from an Australian labor group. The final picture, rumored to be well over its initial reported $80 million budget, looks impressively elaborate, but may cool Hollywood’s rush to film Down Under. Says costar Rhames: ”American crews have more experience, so they work faster. The Australian people have a more relaxed way of life. I think you can see that in their work.” Look for Agent Hunt to find another base country next time.

Mission: Impossible 2

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 125 minutes
  • John Woo