Rebecca Ferguson has played some pretty important female characters in her career so far, from Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen to Jenny Lind in last year's The Greatest Showman, but her most empowering role to date might be Isla Faust in the Mission: Impossible series.
Ilsa joined the franchise in 2015's Rogue Nation, playing an MI6 agent undercover in the Syndicate, but in this year's Fallout returns to throw a spanner in the works for Ethan Hunt and his team, who are trying to track down stolen plutonium while being monitored by a shady CIA agent after a mission goes wrong.
"Ilsa is bloody fierce," Ferguson tells FANGRRLS. "She's strong, but she has so many attributes that are fun to play with. That's why she becomes an equal to Ethan in these films."
In Rogue Nation, Ferguson famously wore that yellow ballgown and the unnecessarily sexy way she took aim at the Austrian Chancellor ended up on the poster. In this film, Ilsa is far more covered up, and the way she is shot seems to use far less of the male gaze.
The actress explains that there was "no need for the dressing up in this film" because most of her scenes were shot in the blistering cold.
"Jeffrey [Kurland], our costume designer, offered up a variation of clothes, of suits, skirts, and trousers just to see where we are at and what we fall into," Ferguson explains. "It's a collaborative process, but we also show Chris [McQuarrie] because it's also for photography and imagery.
"There's always a reason for why we're wearing the clothes we are wearing. For me, we were in cold milieus. New Zealand was bloody freezing, I think I was wearing four layers of undergarment."
As much as one can appreciate a strong female character like Ilsa being an equal to the likes of Ethan Hunt, the age gap between them can't be escaped. In real life, Rebecca is 34 and Tom Cruise is 56, so there's a 22-year difference between their ages. It certainly plays into the old Hollywood cliche of actors being cast opposite younger actresses, especially when a romance is hinted between them, as in this sixth Mission: Impossible film.
Rebecca is aware of this and agrees that Hollywood's age gap between male and female actors needs to go both ways; however, she argues that in this film it doesn't really matter as much. "I think we need to start playing the field for everyone," the Swedish star says. "I think we're just starting to penetrate the surface for equality in all fashion.
"Yes, there might be insinuations of something there, but I haven't acted on it. I tried to stay away from the idea that there is a romance going on between Ilsa and Ethan because it simplifies a relationship."
"The equality doesn't take away from the idea of a romance, but for me, she's so fierce and independent she doesn't have time for [it], the same for him," she continues. "There's a bond between them that goes beyond love, or attraction or sensuality. It's platonic, but it's caring.
"They're absolutely devoted to one another, but what's fascinating is what keeps them apart, whether we're 25 or 40 or 30 or 50, that's not the point."
Mission: Impossible - Fallout will be available November 19 (November 20 in the U.S.) for digital download and will release on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, and DVD from December 3 (December 4 in the U.S.).