@nuise counties

The famous smile on Tom Cruise’s face has widened since Mission: Impossible opened in America, snapping up almost $80 million in a single week. Alan Morrison hears how the actor hit the jackpot.

our mission. Tom. if you decide to accept it. is to turn 6()s spy series Mission: Impossible into the biggest hit of the year. But there are catches. The Cold War has frozen over. The project has been gathering dust for over a decade on the shelves at Paramount Studios. The director you‘ve chosen had the biggest flop of the 90s with Bonfire ()f The Vanities. Your dream will self-destruct in five seconds.

Somehow. Tom Cruise has done what many film industry insiders had written off as. well. impossible. A mixture of old-fashioned spy intrigue and state-of-the-art action spectacle. Mission: Int/mssible opened in the States over the Memorial Day Weekend and ended up taking more in its first few days than Jurassic Park. Critics had complained that the plot was either too implausible or deliberately

10 The List I4-27 Jun I996

complicated; detractors had .Iaunched anti- Cruise missiles at the star for turning the original series‘ quirky team effort into a one man. ego-driven dash across Europe. Then the public came along. and they knew what they wanted.

‘This is an action-thriller. but we wanted to make it different.’ says the 33-year-old actor who. for the first time. also tries out the producer’s shoes. ‘One of the reasons it's so hard to make a spy movie these days is that there is no Cold War. The obvious villains have changed. I wanted the movie to be very

sophisticated. It needed to have a balance of

complexity to plot and to character. and be grounded in an emotional reality.‘

After many. many rewrites including efforts by Hollywood top dogs Robert Towne (Chinatown) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler 's List) the story now finds Cruise playing Ethan

Hunt. a CIA agent trying to track down the mole who has sold a list of undercover operatives to the bad guys. causing the death of his colleagues and putting his own life in danger. In the process. Cruise has plenty of opportunity to flex his well-toned muscles.

‘I wanted to make Ethan‘s strength more mental than physical.’ he stresses. ‘His ability is in the way he can think his way in and out of situations. In these thrillers. you need to feel that the character is going through hell. and you have to understand that emotionally his life is falling out from under his feet and he‘s going to be crushed by the weight of what’s occurring around him. No matter how carefully a sequence is constructed. the suspense has to come from the guts of the actors.‘

What really makes the film different from typical American actioners is the way it adds a European dimension to the Hollywood formula. Director Brian De Palma persuaded Cruise to

‘One of the reasons it’s so hard to make a spy movie these days is that there is no Cold War. The obvious villains have changed.’

base the production at Pinewood Studios. taking in locations such as London's Liverpool Street Station and Tate Gallery. Prague‘s Charles Bridge and two railway tracks near Dumfries. The cast also reflects this. pulling together American veteran Jon Voight. French stars Emmanuelle Beart and Jean Reno. and English actresses Kristen Scott Thomas and Vanessa Redgrave.

Mission: Int/mssible is Cruise‘s first straight action-adventure movie. at least in the way it makes demands on the physicality of the actor rather than supporting him with fighter planes (Top Gun) or racing cars (Days Of Thunder). Deeper character work in Rain Man. Born ()1: The Fourth ()f ./ul_\‘ and. most recently. Interview With The Vampire has also proved that. in terms of acting skills. he‘s more thanjust a pretty face.

Now the man regularly reckoned by his colleagues to be the most driven and most focused actor of his generation has stepped into the production arena. Along with his former agent and wall of protection Paula Wagner. Cruise formed his own production company in I992. and Mission: Impossible is the first fruit of its labours. He calls the dual experience of acting and producing ‘a trial by fire‘ and. for the foreseeable future. plans to keep the two separate: Cruise-Wagner Productions are planning a Robert Towne-scripted biopic of runner Steve Prefontaine. while Cruise himself has just finished playing a sports agent in Cameron Crowe's Jerry McGuire and this autumn teams up with wife Nicole Kidman for Stanley Kubrick‘s [fives Wide Shut. a tale of sexual obsession and jealousy.

Cruise and Kidman‘s previous on-screen pairings have been less than happy —- the box office disasters of Far And Away and Days Of Thunder but nothing seems amiss in their marriage. Very much a hands-on father. Cruise is permanently fussing around his adopted kids. three-year-old Isabella and one-year-old Connor Antony. Up on screen. Daddy‘s saving the free world and raking in the dollars: between takes. he‘s changing nappies. For Tom Cruise. both carry the sweet smell of success.

Mission: Im/mssib/e opens in the UK on Friday 5 July.