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Mission: Impossible director explains full story behind 'Mustache-gate' and the $3 million price tag to give Henry Cavill a digital upper lip

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Aug 2, 2018, 10:50 AM EDT

Last month, Mission: Impossible - Fallout writer/director Christopher McQuarrie teased the full story behind Henry Cavill's “Mustache-gate." The entire affair dealt with the fact that Paramount would not allow the actor to shave off his mustache for Justice League reshoots, forcing Warner Brothers to digitally remove the facial hair for certain shots. While appearing on Empire's podcast, McQuarrie finally told the entire tale. 

To start off, he explained that the mustache stemmed from the fact that Cavill had just finished shooting David Raymond's thriller Nomis, for which he had grown a beard. He trimmed it down to the simple 'stache and ran it by McQuarrie, who liked it since it helped distinguish August Walker's look from that of Superman. In addition, the hairy upper lip reminded the filmmaker of Clark Gable, and he told Cavill to watch It Happened One Night and Gone with the Wind for acting inspiration. 

Ok, with that exposition out of the way, here's the exhaustive account of "Mustache-gate" in Mr. McQuarrie's own words:

"When the question came - the reshoots for Justice League came out - [Justice League producer] Chuck Roven called me, and he said, 'We need your help and we need to shave Henry’s mustache. We need him to come back and we need to do these reshoots.' And I said, 'Look, Chuck, naturally, I want to do everything I can to help you, but I also have to think about our production. Let me talk to everybody and figure out what the scheduling would be.' And I went and spoke to [our producer] Jake Myers, and the suggestion was made through channels that we shave the mustache [and] Henry [could] begin to grow the mustache back and then they would give us the resources to digitally fill in Henry's mustache. Because like it or not, a fake mustache in close-up on a 75mm lens is never going to look like anything but a fake mustache in a close-up. if you have any doubts about that, just go back  and watch Tom Cruise in Rogue Nation with his beard and mustache. It’s passable for a scene, not for [an entire] film. 

So, we offered the following compromise: Jake Myers calculated the amount of money that it would take to replace the number of shots, and essentially, what Jake was able to project was about a $3 million visual effects budget. So, I don't know how much Henry was in Justice League, I've never seen the movie, but I can tell you how much it would've cost for Mission: Impossible to digitally add Henry Cavill's mustache, and we said yes. We said, here's what we'll do: give us the $3 million and we'll shut down, and that’ll give Henry Cavill the time to grow his mustache back, and we'll just shut our movie down. ... We said we'll do this, at which point, somebody from Paramount Pictures said, 'What is going on? What are you people even talking about?' They're like, 'There's no way we're going to do that. We’re not shutting down.’ We were just like, 'Okay.' That was the best plan that we could come up with."

McQuarrie finished off the account by saying this wasn't (and isn't) a laughing matter and that he sympathized with the folks at Warner Brothers, recounting how he's had similar production troubles in the past; he felt their pain and was "perfectly willing" to put his movie on hold. 

And while every effort was made to accomodate the DCEU, the scheduling of both films didn't work out. Had Tom Cruise broken his ankle at a better point in time (if there ever is a good time to break one's ankle), Cavill could have gone off and shaved his mustache while Cruise was recovering and the script and existing footage were being rewritten/edited, McQuarrie admitted. 

“Nobody wanted to stick it to Justice League. Nobody wanted to hurt those people," he said. "I'm sorry that they were ever in that position [but] I had other things that I had to contend with, and one of them was Henry Cavill going 100 miles-an-hour on a glacier with a fake mustache on. That was just never gonna happen. It was just never, ever, ever gonna happen."