LOS ANGELES — The last time audiences saw super spy Ethan Hunt on screen in 2011, Lalo Schifrin’s iconic “Mission: Impossible” score seemed to be playing him toward the exit. Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt character had breathed new life into the franchise’s fourth installment, “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” leading to speculation that the “Hurt Locker” lead would take over the reins from star Tom Cruise.
And in “Ghost Protocol’s” final scene — SPOILER ALERT — Cruise as Hunt is shown wistfully reconnecting with his supposedly dead wife (Michelle Monahan). That’s a clear violation of the secret agent playbook if there ever was one.
Then a funny thing happened on Ethan Hunt’s trip out to pasture. “Ghost Protocol” took in more $700 million at the box office — a personal best for Cruise, long one of moviedom’s most bankable stars, as well as a financial high-water mark for the already blockbuster “M:I” franchise.
Now Cruise has signed on to reprise his role as the world-beating IMF agent in a fifth “Mission: Impossible” movie. As reported by Deadline Monday and confirmed Tuesday by franchise distributor Paramount, the actor will star in and produce the new sequel, developing the project with “Star Trek: Into Darkness” director-producer J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot.
Although Paramount and Skydance Productions (which co-financed and executive produced “Ghost Protocol”) have yet to reveal who will write or direct “M:I 5,” Christopher McQuarrie — who directed last year’s Cruise-starring action adventure “Jack Reacher” and wrote Cruise’s 2008 Nazi thriller “Valkyrie” — is reportedly the leading contender to direct the new sequel.
McQuarrie would follow in an illustrious line of “Mission: Impossible” directors: Brian DePalma (responsible for 1996’s movie adaptation of the ’60s TV series), John Woo (“M:I 2”), Abrams (M:I 3”) and animation ace Brad Bird (“Ghost Protocol”).
The “Mission: Impossible” franchise has earned over $2 billion globally, to rank among Hollywood’s most successful movie series.