How Brian De Palma Pitched Tom Cruise On Mission: Impossible’s CIA Break-In Scene

After being falsely implicated as the mole, Ethan Hunt — with the aid of two outlawed IMF agents — decides to infiltrate the CIA headquarters in Langley to retrieve an all-important list. This is obviously easier said than done — apart from the borderline impossible nature of the mission, Hunt is a wanted man on the run. The stakes could not possibly be higher, and Brian De Palma further ups the ante by introducing a catch equivalent to the floor-is-lava meme.

The vault is sensitive to sound, pressure, and temperature — that means any sudden noise and movement, or the presence of an unauthorized individual will set off the alarms. What ensues is a masterful portrayal of tense, slow-burn action, where a suspended Tom Cruise glides down a cable and succeeds in doing the impossible after a few extremely close calls, of course.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of “Mission: Impossible”, Cruise talked about how De Palma pitched the logistics of the vault scene to him — over a phone call. Calling this experience unforgettable, Cruise laid out the details:

“And then we came up with the idea of us having to go into the CIA, [De Palma] came up with that idea, like ‘Rififi.’ And I remember when he came to me with that idea, I was actually in Japan — and it was an early day of phones — and I remember I was stuck in a traffic jam … on my way to a premiere. I’ll never forget this [… De Palma] was like, ‘I gotta talk to you,’ […] and he pitched me the whole CIA scene. On a phone, when I’m in the back of a car in Japan … and I just went, ‘Okay, this movie’s really cool.’ This guy is brilliant, you know? This was a phenomenal idea.”

Seems like the greatest of ideas can be relayed even over a phone call.

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