It's difficult to imagine the Mission: Impossible franchise without Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt and his never-ending cascade of terrifying stunts. However, during the making of 2011's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, there was talk of letting another actor take over future installments after Ethan Hunt gets promoted.
Obviously, none of this came to be, but Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation cinematographer Robert Elswit shed some light on exactly what happened — and what didn't.
Speaking freely about the issue while appearing on the Light the Fuse podcast, Elswit details what the plans were originally, and why they didn't happen.
"The original version of [Ghost Protocol] was at the end of it Tom Cruise stops being Ethan Hunt the agent and becomes Ethan Hunt the Secretary," Elswit explained. "They were gonna put another IMF Mission unit together with another actor — maybe it’s Jeremy Renner, who knows who it is — and they’re gonna go through this series of wild events, and at the end, Tom gets to be the Secretary and a new agent takes over the franchise."
This all changed once Christopher McQuarrie was brought in to re-write the script, which changed the direction of the story entirely and kept Ethan Hunt both in the field and at the center of the film.
"Chris came in and he kind of rewrote it, the last half, maybe more, and made it so that we had to change a few things ... so that it all made sense. He tied the whole thing together and made it so that at the end of the movie, Tom ends up not becoming the Secretary but just goes on in his own lonely way."
Obviously, this was a dramatic change from the movie's original intention, but it seems to have worked out just fine. McQuarrie would go on to direct Rogue Nation and last year's Fallout. That made him the first director to stick around the M:I franchise for more than one installment and allowed him to tie the two films together.
Worth noting that this marks the second franchise that Renner was possibly set to "inherit" from another actor. It was rumored that the Avengers co-star would take over the Bourne franchise after toplining The Bourne Legacy in 2012. That plan also never got off the ground, and Damon ended up returning for 2016's Jason Bourne.
Would we have gotten a stunt-heavy spectacle on par with Mission: Impossible - Fallout had things unfolded as originally planned? While that's anyone's guess, we do know that Cruise and McQuarrie have cemented themselves as the cornerstones of the Mission: Impossible franchise — and it looks like it'll stay that way for the foreseeable future.