After 19 years, Tom Cruise's first major franchise is still one of Hollywood's best.
As Ethan Hunt, the star turned himself into an action hero with 1996's "Mission: Impossible" -- going Full Cruise with all the running, punching and jumping onto a bullet train from (naturally) an exploding helicopter. The first film was a huge hit, spawning five sequels -- all from different directors, as the series aims to give each "Mission" its own unique fingerprint.
Cruise is back for the latest installment, "Rogue Nation." Before you see the movie this Friday, your mission -- should you choose to accept it -- is to check out these 27 facts about the "Mission" films.
"Mission: Impossible" (1996)
1. Before locking down Brian De Palma to direct, the first filmmaker Cruise approached about "Mission" was Sydney Pollack, whom he had worked with previously on Paramount's 1993 summer hit, "The Firm."
2. De Palma designed many of the film's action sequences before the story connecting them was complete, forcing screenwriters to construct narratives around them.
3. Offers to appear in the film went out to original "Mission" TV stars Peter Graves and Martin Landau, but they declined. Graves said "no" because he wasn't a fan of his character, Jim Phelps, being the baddie, so Jon Voight was cast in the role instead. And Landau passed because he disliked the story favoring action over the "mind games" of the TV series.
4. During the film's most iconic set piece, the stealing of the NOC List (above), note the clock on the wall: The time displayed jumps ahead in time (sometimes drastically) in certain shots -- even though the scene is supposed to be occurring in (near) real time.
5. "Mission" was one of the first major Hollywood productions to shoot in Prague.
6. The film's trailer shows Ethan and Claire, Phelps' wife, engaged in a steamy kiss. That scene does not exist in the final cut, as the filmmakers decided to scrap the love triangle between the three characters as it didn't jive tonally with the rest of the film. (It also risked making Ethan, the film's hero, seem unlikable by having an affair with his boss' wife.)
7. Danny Elfman scored the film, but only after Alan Silvestri ("Forrest Gump") was let go from "Mission" after his music tested poorly with test audiences. But don't feel too bad for Silvestri; he was able to re-use some of his "Mission" score in the 1996 action movie "Eraser," which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.
8. The climactic train sequence (above) took six weeks to shoot, and is made up of 152 shots. Cruise and Voight shot most of the sequence on a London soundstage, duking it out atop a mock-up of the bullet train's roof.
9. Cruise was originally not a fan of the helicopter flying into the tunnel after the train. De Palma insisted that they needed to go big for the film's climatic set piece, so Cruise relented.
10. Hot off the success of their film, "Star Trek: First Contact," screenwriters Ron Moore and Brannon Braga were first approached to develop a story for the sequel. While very little (if anything) from their original pass ended up in the final film, they do receive "Story by" credit.
11. When developing the film, director John Woo was inspired by Hitchcock's "Notorious." The classic thriller centers on a love triangle involving spies, and Woo wanted to bring a similar dynamic to the relationship between Ethan Hunt, the villain, Ambrose (Dougray Scott) and the love interest they both share, Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton).
12. Another Hitchcock film that seemingly inspired Woo? "To Catch a Thief." Woo changed Hall from being a spy to a master thief, hoping to give the sequel a very Cary Grant vibe.
13. The opening scene, where Cruise climbs and leaps from a 2,000-foot cliff, was the scariest and most challenging of Woo's career. Cruise did the aforementioned stunt himself, with no safety net on the ground (naturally) but with a safety harness, which was digitally-removed in post. That's just how Cruise rolls.
14. Before Anthony Hopkins was cast in the role of Hunt's boss, Swanbeck, Woo set his sights on Ian McKellen for the part. The once and future Magneto was unavailable, but Hopkins was interested in appearing in the film. When producer Paula Wagner told Woo this, the director reportedly was so excited about working with the legendary actor that he lost sleep.
"Mission: Impossible III" (2006)
15. The film's intense opening scene, where villain Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) interrogates Hunt, was not "M:I:III's" original opening. Director J.J. Abrams decided on the sequence several weeks before delivering a final cut. In fact, the scene featured Davian's Number Two, played by Eddie Marsan, delivering all of Hoffman's lines.
16. Abrams called Marsan to tell him that, while the actor was contracted for the film and that he did a great job, he was going to give all his lines to Hoffman. Marsan couldn't have been more understanding and respectful of the director's choice, according to Abrams' commentary on the Blu-ray.
18. Spielberg contributed a tiny (but fun) element to the "your mission, should you choose to accept it" scene. Hunt was originally supposed to get his orders via the eye finder in a regular camera. Spielberg suggested they change it to a disposable camera.
19. During the stunt where Hunt leaps out of a Shanghai skyscraper and deploys his parachute, Cruise points out on the Blu-ray commentary the moment when he separated his ribs.
20. When Musgrave (Billy Crudup) reveals he is the villain to Hunt, Cruise held cue cards for the actor. Why? Because the scene wasn't written until the morning it was shot, so Crudup didn't have time to learn his lines.
21. Rumor is that, the original scripted ending for the film, depicted a now-married Hunt and his wife (Michelle Monaghan) celebrating their nuptials by diving out of a helicopter to either para-ski or water ski on Lake Wanaka, the lake the couple discusses briefly during the opening scene set at their engagement party.
23. Originally, "Ghost Prots" was intended to be a reboot of sorts for Paramount, but thankfully the studio changed its mind.
24. The opening scene in Budapest was to have depicted Ethan Hunt leaping off the building and getting assassinated. When it was decided to keep Hunt (and Cruise) around, the scene was changed to involve the character of Hanaway, played by "Lost's" Josh Holloway.
25. Jeremy Renner probably wasn't a big fan of that change, as his character, Brandt, was in place to inherit the missions from Hunt.
26. And yes, that is Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. To help the actor prep for it, production constructed a mock-up of the section similar to the real thing. They even heated the glass to mirror (no pun intended) the conditions faced on the real building, which sits in the hot desert son all day.
27. "Ghost Prots" continues the tradition of Cruise sporting long hair for the even-numbered installments, and only short hair seemingly for the odd-numbered films.