“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” director Christopher McQuarrie revealed before the film opened in theaters that he rejected de-aging Tom Cruise for a 1989-set opening scene. Now on a new episode of “The Empire Spoiler Special Film Podcast” (via /Film), the filmmaker dropped that he considered reaching out to Julia Roberts to de-age her as well for the scene that never happened as planned.
The scene that made it into the film is a brief flashback that is interspersed throughout the movie. It depicts a young Ethan Hunt (Cruise) watching the villainous Gabriel (Esai Morales) murder his girlfriend, played by Mariela Garriga. McQuarrie looked into de-aging VFX in order to open the film with a more extended scene set around this fateful encounter.
“I said, ‘Ok, if I were doing this sequence, it would be Tom in, say, 1989. It would be Tony Scott’s ‘Mission: Impossible.’ That’s who would have been directing the movie before Brian De Palma, you know, in that era,” McQuarrie said on the Empire podcast. “We looked at ‘Days of Thunder’ and we looked at the style of it, and we started thinking what would it look like if Tony Scott had shot this, and who would it have been? I looked back at who was the ingenue, who was the breakout star in 1989? And right around then was ‘Mystic Pizza.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God. Julia Roberts, a then-pre-‘Pretty Woman’ Julia Roberts, as this young woman.’”
McQuarrie continued, “The only way I could have seen doing the sequence justice [using de-aging] was to somehow convince Julia Roberts to come in and be this small role at the beginning of this story. And of course, as you’re conceptually going through it, you’re like, ‘Now all anybody’s going to be doing is thinking about the de-aging of Julia Roberts, and Esai, and Tom, and Henry Czerny.’”
De-aging effects are still quite polarizing, as evidenced by the divisive response to de-aging Harrison Ford for the 25-minute scene that opens “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” While McQuarrie was impressed with the de-aging technology he researched for the scrapped “Dead Reckoning” opening, he still thought it was too distracting to see a familiar star like Tom Cruise look so much younger. It would take viewers out of the movie, he argued. That and also the price tag to de-age actors is so huge.
“I got the bill for de-aging those people before their salaries were even factored into it,” McQuarre told Empire. “And if you put two of them in a shot together, or three of them in a shot together, it would have been as expensive as the train by the time we were done.”
McQuarrie is referring to the film’s climactic set piece, which is set on a speeding train. The production built the train carts from scratch and actually crashed the train, which is no small price tag.
“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is now playing in theaters from Paramount Pictures.