A de-aged Tom Cruise wasn’t the only idea scrapped for “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.”
Christopher McQuarrie, director of this seventh film in the franchise, recently spoke on an Empire Spoiler Special podcast episode (via Slash Film) about how he considered featuring a de-aged Julia Roberts as Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) ill-fated lover in a sequence that would’ve taken place circa 1989. McQuarrie previously told Total Film why he scrapped the sequence altogether, feeling “too distracted by how an actor that I had known for however long was now suddenly this young person.”
Now, as he told Empire, Roberts was part of that sequence in a role eventually played by Mariela Garriga in flashback. Through black-and-white callbacks woven throughout the movie, “Dead Reckoning” shows glimpses into Ethan’s life before he joined the IMF, revealing how Ethan was framed for the death of a woman killed by villain Esai Morales — rather than go to prison, Ethan chose to work for the government. But originally McQuarrie considered an extended cold open deepening the mythology of Ethan’s past.
“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 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.’”
He 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.’”
But not only would the de-aging potentially have been distracting, McQuarrie said the technology (plus the actors’ fees) came with a steep price tag.
“I got the bill for de-aging those people before their salaries were even factored into it. 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. It was so … the force multiplier of — and the way we shoot scenes, and the fluidity, and the camera movement. And of course, that wouldn’t be the style of the movie in 1989. That wouldn’t make sense if you were shooting an ’89 ‘Mission’ like a 2023 ‘Mission.’”
Hence why the filmmakers wound up keeping those flashbacks short, with us never seeing the faces of those involved other than Garriga.