While Mission: Impossible 3 has been delayed over the past few years by several director and cast changes, the production’s biggest obstacle may have been its biggest draw: star-producer Tom Cruise. Reports last week in the New York Times and elsewhere suggested that Paramount might pull the plug on the expensive project because of fears that Cruise is alienating potential moviegoers with the public spectacle of his romance with Katie Holmes and his increasingly frequent talk of Scientology. A more likely cause of Paramount’s jitters was Cruise’s budget-busting profit-participation deal. On Wednesday, however, Paramount announced that the film is a go, with shooting to begin next month. According to the Los Angeles Times, what put the film back on track was Cruise’s willingness to take a major pay cut, giving up what could amount to tens of millions of dollars.
According to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Variety, new Paramount chief Brad Grey has been negotiating with Cruise for the last week over the budget, which had soared north of $150 million. (The Los Angeles Times cited Paramount insiders who placed the figure at $185 million.) Cruise was to have taken no fee upfront but 30 percent of the gross, the same deal that ultimately earned him $70 million on 2000’s Mission: Impossible 2, according to Variety’s estimate. The Los Angeles Times reports that Cruise agreed to cut his pay to 22.5 percent and to drop some expensive locations (like Shanghai) from the shoot. As a result, the film will now begin shooting in Italy on July 18, as originally scheduled.
Cruise will be going into the project with an untried director and a relatively unknown leading lady. The film was initially supposed to be in theaters by summer 2005, but director David Fincher (Fight Club) dropped out of the project, and last summer, after Paramount had spent tens of millions scouting locations and hiring crews, so did director Joe Carnahan (Narc). Cruise hired J.J. Abrams, who has never directed a feature before, but the TV drama whiz had to oversee the first season of Lost and the fourth season of Alias, so he was unavailable until this summer. The cast of Carnahan’s version — Scarlett Johansson, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Kenneth Branagh — all left when the movie was delayed last summer. Instead, joining Cruise will be leading lady Michelle Monaghan, who’s best known for her year-long stint on Boston Public, though she’ll also be seen opposite Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when Mr. and Mrs. Smith opens this week. Also in the cast are Mission vet Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers (last seen starring in CBS’ Elvis miniseries), and Philip Seymour Hoffman. M:I3‘s release date is set for May 5, 2006.