Needless to say, my first impression of this film was that while the film’s director, Brad Bird, may have a background in directing animation (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) and not in live-action, he sure as hell knows how to make the most of IMAX cameras, in which Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is partly filmed in.
I’m sitting in a hotel room with the affable Shaun Of The Dead star Simon Pegg, who rather famously once replied to a journalist’s question about moving on to bigger and better things outside of Britain with: “It’s not like I’m going to run off and do Mission: Impossible III“. His comment swiftly came back to haunt him because he subsequently went off to do just that, and now his character the technician Benji Dunn has an even bigger part in the latest M:I Hollywood blockbuster.
“I got an email from JJ (Abrams) one morning that said, ‘Hey, what if Benji was an agent?’ I was like, ‘What, what, what’,” begins Pegg on the new M:I film. “He said, ‘We’re going to do another film and I think Benji should be out in the field with Ethan’, and I was just overjoyed. I only did two days on the last movie and to go from that to doing seven months on this one was great.”
Ghost Protocol is less Tom Cruise-centric and more an ensemble piece about four agents – played by Pegg, Cruise, Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton – who are in the field, cut off from the rest of the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) espionage agency, and forced to work together as a “sort of dysfunctional family of four agents,” he explains.
Mission Impossible III came out in 2006 and it seems like a long time between drinks, with the next M:I film only coming out now. In the intervening years, Pegg has – among many other things – gone on to co-write and co-star in the 2007 British action comedy Hot Fuzz as well as the 2011 sci-fi comedy Paul (of which he is particularly proud of: he’s sporting a tattoo of a spirit wolf from Santa Fe where Paul was shot “to remind me of that time”). He’s also had a baby girl and penned his pseudo-autobiography Nerd Do Well.
On the five-year gap between Mission: Impossible III and this M:I release, Pegg emphasises that this is a new chapter in the M:I series rather than a sequel: “It’s very pointedly called Ghost Protocol and not M:I 4,” he says.
“It is very much part of the series, with Tom going to a different director each film, but with this one it’s sort of a new chapter in Ethan’s life. He’s older now, he’s not the young star of IMF anymore – he’s a senior agent.”
Filming took place in Prague, Dubai and Vancouver over a seven-month period, which Pegg enthuses was fantastic as he got to see some incredible sites around the world. “It’s no terrible thing to be working with Brad Bird and Tom Cruise for seven months,” he adds with a smile.
On working with Cruise, who is not only the star of this series but also a producer – as well as one of the most talked about actors in Hollywood and not necessarily for the right reasons – Pegg says it was great to meet and work with the man behind the rumours.
“A lot is said about Tom and it’s interesting to actually work with someone who you feel like you already know because you’ve read a lot and you’ve seen things speculated by the lower end of the press that are so fascinated with his life.
“When you meet the guy, he is just utterly dedicated to his craft. As a producer he is aware of every department and as an actor he is totally committed to his role.
“As a person, he is really warm and funny and generous and utterly keen for everyone on the crew and cast to feel like they’re part of something special, which is a great way to be and takes a lot of energy and is really kind of awe-inspiring at times because it’s like, ‘When do you rest? When do you switch off?'”
As is the norm these days in Hollywood, Pegg is signed on to do more M:I films, should this do well. “I would love to get back into that role and work with these people again because it feels like committed filmmaking, but on a big budget.
“Hollywood is a strange place, it’s been slightly overrun by marketing people and a lot of the time people just want to put out firework displays that last as long in the mind as rockets in the sky. However, it is possible to make smart blockbusters. I mean, Inception showed that you can make a really smart blockbuster and I think that Mission Impossible has something of that.
“It’s got a good plot, it’s got real characters and it’s got genuine jeopardy. I know what happens at the end of the film, and my heart rate was up.”
From my heart-stopping 15-minute sneak preview and Pegg’s heart-racing account of the closing scene, this is sure to be an adrenalin-fuelled addition to the already action-packed Mission Impossible series.