The Mission: Impossible film series, known for its tense action, Cruise-running, and latex mask reveals, is one of the most financially successful movie franchises. Always focusing on Tom Cruise’s agent Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Missions Force, the series is also curiously diverse, with each entry a unique reflection of the time it was made and its director’s personal style. From John Woo’s slow-motion action opera in M:I:II to Brad Bird’s slick and precise set piece spectacle in Ghost Protocol, the spy property has proven adaptable enough to thrive as something new each time–and offer some surprising trivia.
Here are nine facts about the Mission: Impossible franchise:
1. The cast of the original series weren’t much impressed with the reboot.
Mission: Impossible (1996) was based on the CBS series that ran from 1966 to 1973 with a two-season reboot in 1988. Greg Morris, who played Barney Collier in the TV series, walked out; Martin Landau, who played Rollin Hand, criticized the movie’s script, and Peter Graves, who played Jim Phelps, reportedly objected to the film reprising Phelps (Jon Voight) but making him a traitor.
2. ‘They will not be recommending Prague to other producers, the Americans said.’
Mission: Impossible was the first major Hollywood production to come to Prague since the end of Communism there, and, while it’s since become a center for productions since, first-time producer Cruise encountered resistance from the local bureaucracy in securing locations. Disagreements about the fee to use the exterior of Lichenstein Palace and alleged price gouging by government officials led to public controversy, with Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel weighing in. The franchise eventually returned to Prague with Ghost Protocol where the city doubled as Moscow.
3. The classic theme song.
Oscar nominee and Grammy winner Lalo Schifrin composed the original Mission: Impossible TV series theme music. For the film U2 band members Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. remixed that music for the soundtrack, and for M:I:II that honor belonged to none other than Limp Bizkit.
4. Remaking Hitchcock.
Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne wrote on the first two Mission: Impossible movies, and in Mission: Impossible II Towne paid significant homage to the Alfred Hitchcock film Notorious. In each movie a government agent working on an undercover operation (Tom Cruise; Cary Grant) recruits then falls for an asset (Thandie Newton; Ingrid Bergman), only to be ordered to send her into danger with a former lover and current dangerous dude (a rogue IMF agent played by Dougray Scott; a Nazi played by Claude Rains). M:I:II lifts plot and dialogue, most noticeable in the racetrack sequence.
5. Ethan Hunt’s boring day job.
J.J. Abrams’ directorial debut Mission: Impossible III was the first M:I movie to investigate Ethan Hunt’s personal life and plays a little like an extended, big-budget episode of Abrams’ Jennifer Garner-starring spy show Alias. While Garner’s Sydney Bristow worked as an office assistant in a bank, Cruise’s Hunt has the flashy job of a traffic engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
6. 9 Academy Award winners and nominees.
The Impossible franchise has always attracted a diverse array of actors from Ving Rhames (in all four movies) to Maggie Q to Philip Seymour Hoffman fresh off his Capote Oscar win. The series has featured nine Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning actors: Cruise, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jon Voight, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence Fishburne, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Wilkinson, and Jeremy Renner.
7. Dermot Mulroney plays the cello?
Yes, and Mulroney played on the scoring sessions for M:I:III and Ghost Protocol, both scored by Michael Giacchino. Mulroney, a classically trained cellist, has played for several projects composed by Giacchino including Alias and Star Trek Into Darkness.
8. Tom Cruise’s injuries.
There are two things Tom Cruise loves to do in movies. Number one: running. Number two: doing his own stunts. Remember when he just ran horizontal on the side of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world? Cruise reportedly avoided injury filming that stunt in Ghost Protocol, but there was some wear and tear in the rest of the franchise. Cruise bonked his head filming Mission: Impossible, tore his shoulder during M:I:II, and cracked some ribs during M:I:III.
9. The Pixar connection.
Director Brad Bird included a couple nods to his past work with Pixar in Ghost Protocol, including casting animator Teddy Newton as the voice on the other end of a Russian payphone giving Ethan Hunt his mission briefing. Newton directed the Pixar short Day & Night and voiced many secondary Pixar characters in The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3, in which he also voiced a telephone.