The Mission: Impossible franchise is best known for its large-scale, death-defying stunts, but some observers are wondering if it may have gone a bridge too far with its latest plans. Mission: Impossible 7, the upcoming (and still-unnamed) entry in the franchise from filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie, is reportedly planning to blow up a 111-year-old Polish bridge as part of its production — and the response has included appeals for preservation and concerns about the bridge's fate.
While coronavirus-driven delays have pushed back production on the action film (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, its predecessor, saw star Tom Cruise perform an extended high-altitude, low-opening parachute jump), it seems that its showstopping plans haven't been dampened. The latest set piece in their sights? A 111-year-old, 495-foot suspension railway bridge located over Poland's Lake Pilchowickie. The bridge, which was decommissioned in 2016, is now the center of debate: Should it be in the production, bringing a AAA Hollywood film to Poland, or should it be preserved?
A spokesperson for Paramount tells SYFY WIRE that the studio has no comment on the situation at this time.
McQuarrie, meanwhile, has issued a statement to Empire, claiming that the production's intentions were "misrepresented" by a disgruntled individual who "retaliated," which resulted in the current furor.
"One individual, for reasons I cannot specify without revealing their identity, claimed they were owed a job on the production for which we felt they were not adequately qualified. When this individual's demands were not met, they retaliated," the filmmaker said.
"After harassing members of our production publicly and anonymously on social media, as well as privately, this individual misrepresented our intentions and concealed their personal reasons for wanting to penalize us. They even tried to have this condemned, unsafe, and unusable bridge landmarked in the hopes of preventing it from ever being removed and rebuilt (which we understand would be to the detriment of the area’s economic needs)," McQuarrie said, per Empire. "Then they reached out to us to gloat about it. In short, this individual manipulated the emotional response of the people in a move that has now compromised our ambitions to bring our production to Poland."
McQuarrie does not refute the plans to destroy the bridge for a "rough concept for a sequence involving a bridge over a body of water, ideally one that could be (spoiler alert) partially destroyed," writing that "we’re also happy to get rid of any condemned bridges that might be lying around" while the production takes advantage of Poland's "new film incentive program."
Polish railway authority PKP PLK denied the plans back in March, tweeting: "We do not blow up the bridges, we improve their condition -- the historical ones are preserved!"
However, on July 23, Robert Golba, CEO of Polish production company Alex Stern (Bridge of Spies), told Wirtualna Polska that there is a "high probability" the bridge will be used in the film. Golba plays coy about whether that means its complete destruction — or what the scene will entail at all, involving a train or not — emphasizing the bridge's dilapidated condition and claiming Hollywood has a history of leaving Polish locations better than they found them. While not confirming the bridge's role in the film, Golba's main points are that any hope the bridge has in being revitalized lies in its use in the film. Otherwise, it will continue to sit unused and undiscussed by locals and visitors alike.
Others see the bridge's increased visibility as an opportunity to save it. The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage has reportedly sent a petition to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asking for its preservation, while The Foundation for the Protection of Silesian Industrial Heritage has also commented negatively about its potential use — and explained that the only reason it wasn't currently under official protection was because of tentative plans to restore it.
"The bridge was used for rail traffic until 2016. Therefore, there was no need to cover it with any special protection as it was used in accordance with its original purpose and was subject to technical supervision. The bridge and the entire line were to be revitalized within a few years," Maciej Mądry, Director of Heritage Conservation at the Foundation for the Protection of Silesian Industrial Heritage, tells SYFY WIRE.
"In the winter of 2020, there was information about the interest in the bridge among the Hollywood film crew, which was not surprising — the bridge was used in the past for a number of film productions. At the time when information about the possibility of blowing up the bridge for the purposes of the film appeared," Mądry said, "[the Foundation for the Protection of Silesian Industrial Heritage] developed and submitted an application for placing the bridge on the list of monuments in order to provide it with permanent legal protection."
No word on what stage this application is at with the Polish government.
Polish outlet The First News reports that this appeal may fall on deaf ears simply because the government wants to stay attractive to Hollywood studios. "We have a new law on audio-visual incentives," said Deputy Culture Minister Paweł Lewandowski. "If a large American producer wants to come to us, we are waiting for him with open arms."
"[The Pilchowickie bridge] stands in ruins and has no value," Lewandowski said. "Not all old things are monuments. The law clearly states that a monument is only that which has social, artistic, or scientific value. In art and culture, that value only emerges when there is a relation between the cultural object and people. So if an object is unused, unavailable, it has no such value. Therefore it is not a monument ... And only a small part of it will be destroyed during filming."
So Lewandowski thinks it will be destroyed during filming ... but only a little. Anyone that's seen a Mission: Impossible film might be a little suspect on their production destroying anything halfway — especially with the local government seemingly on its side.
The next steps regarding this plan will likely come when the Mission: Impossible 7 production gets back to work in September. "We hope to restart in September," said first assistant director Tommy Gormley. "We hope to visit all the countries we planned to." During the same interview, star Simon Pegg noted that exterior scenes (safer under COVID-19 conditions) would be first on the docket as production ramped back up. That means the bridge's fate may need to be decided quickly, depending on its true use as a location for a large action scene.
The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage and the Polish Department of Public and Cultural Diplomacy have yet to respond to SYFY WIRE's requests for comment.
Mission: Impossible 7 — which will star Cruise, Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Ving Rhames, Henry Czerny, Hayley Atwell, Pom Klementieff, and Shea Whigham — is still set for release on Nov. 19, 2021.
(This story was originally published on July 31 and updated on Aug. 6.)