Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Ethan Hunt has accepted another mission. Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions have set Tom Cruise in a deal to star in and produce a fifth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Both Paramount and Skydance have confirmed this, but they are not saying who’s writing and directing, or when they are targeting release. I’ve heard all along that the director will be Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise’s frequent collaborator who most recently wrote and directed Jack Reacher, the adaptation of the Lee Child novels that starred Cruise. The writer/director will be finalized shortly, and that person will develop the next installment with Cruise and JJ Abrams‘ Bad Robot. Abrams directed the third film in the series and he and Cruise reignited the franchise by hatching the Brad Bird-directed Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol, a film that added Jeremy Renner to the mix and saw Cruise sky-walking across the exterior glass 124 floors up on a skyscraper in Dubai. That film had a $145 million budget and a worldwide gross of nearly $700 million, the most a Cruise film has ever done.

David Ellison’s Skydance Productions will once again co-finance the film with Paramount, a role it also serves the same role on Jack Reacher. That film is in early talks for a sequel as well on a $60 million budget film that grossed $216 million worldwide. That’s a good start for a series backed by the fan base for Child’s novel series. People seem forever to be debating whether Cruise still has it. Audiences turned out for Oblivion, a $120 million budget film that grossed over $220 million worldwide. While it’s unclear what will happen to that Top Gun sequel that Cruise and Tony Scott were working on when the director died tragically, he is positioned to continue the M:I franchise, plus Jack Reacher, and he’s starring with Armie Hammer in the Guy Ritchie-directed The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which the film’s backers at Warner Bros hope will launch another franchise. Nobody works harder on the set or in promoting these films than Cruise. When I interviewed him for Playboy last year, Cruise confessed that early in his career, he begged studios to let him promote around the globe, and it was mainly because he wanted to travel and see all the places in the world he’d observed in movies. Back then, studios were mostly concerned with domestic ticket sales and it was always a discussion. He got his way and would take a couple of days in each country between interviews to see the sights. It had a profound impact on global ticket sales and became a template for how other globally successful stars like Will Smith conducted themselves and you could see the difference between the overseas grosses of the actors who took part, and others who had to be dragged out of the country kicking and screaming. Studios now beg actors like Cruise to stump in every major territory possible. So is Cruise still viable? Mark me down as a yes, absolutely. He’s repped by CAA.

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