Zum Kinostart von “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Teil 1” am 13.7. – Interview mit Hauptdarsteller Simon Pegg:

This is your fifth Mission: Impossible. Where does Benji find himself at the start of it?

Pegg: We always try and look at these stories in real time rather than like a Looney Tunes cartoon where everything just resets at the end of each adventure. Benji is now five missions in and he is very much made of that experience. His attitude reflects that. By this stage he has diffused a few nuclear bombs, saved the world a couple of times. That’s definitely rubbed off on him, in terms of his worldview. He is older and wiser.

What’s the story of “Dead Reckoning”? And what makes it so big that it has to be split over two movies?

Pegg: I don’t know how much I can divulge without drifting into spoiler territory, but what I can tell you is that what McQ [Christopher McQuarrie] and Tom [Cruise] really wanted to do with this story was service the characters. They are both always at pains to put character first and have the story grow out of that, rather than having a set story which those characters just become crowbarred into. And, in order to service what has now become very much an ensemble in support of Tom’s Ethan [Hunt], they wanted to have a bit more bandwidth to tell this story at its fullest, instead of anything feeling rushed. It’s meant that they have been able to take their time and create two movies, both completely contained and of themselves. The promise with Mission: Impossible is that there is always more to come. But with “Dead Reckoning Part One”, that promise is even more concrete.

Tom says he and McQ wanted to make this movie feel like the most adventurous Mission yet. What’s been the process of creating that, and how will it manifest itself on screen?

Pegg: Since “Mission: Impossible III”, and certainly since Chris McQuarrie joined the gang, which he did as a writer on “Ghost Protocol”, we’ve been honing what makes a Mission: Impossible a Mission: Impossible. And there are so many factors. There’s the adventure, the globe-trotting, the fun and the action. And every time you finesse a recipe you might change a few little bits and bobs, to try and perfect it. McQ just gets more and more adept at discovering the balance of those things, to concoct the perfect Mission: Impossible. I think [laughs] he didn’t know what he signed up for when he came on board to help with the script for “Ghost Protocol”. He didn’t know then that he would eventually be essentially the curator of these stories. What that’s given the series is a real sense of continuity. What initially was the case [on this franchise], which was this very interesting idea of having a diverse series of directors have very different visions for each movie, has evolved. The first four movies were directed by Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird. But what we have now, for the back half of that journey, is a continuity that is really working for the series because you don’t have to start again, each time. Each movie now is not someone else’s take on Mission: Impossible. This is now Tom and McQ’s definitive, singular take on Mission: Impossible. And they’re just so fluent in it now – they know what works and how these stories need to be told. From “Ghost Protocol”, when the group dynamic really took hold, Ethan has been given a set of people that he really cares about. They back him up, but that also raises the stakes.

What kind of personal adventure has it been for you, making this film?

Pegg: It’s been an amazing adventure, through all kinds of challenges. There was the global pandemic and everything that threw us. But what’s brilliant about these movies is how they overcome adversity. Tom is the king of turning a crisis into an opportunity. Every time anything goes wrong, he always makes sure it ends up servicing the movie. On “Fallout”, when Tom broke his ankle [jumping from building to building], that ended up saving us in a way because it gave us the space to nail the ending of the movie. On this, we started off in Norway in 2020. And I went out there for three weeks and didn’t shoot a frame because the weather was so bad. Then we went to Rome and Venice. Venice was deserted when we were there, which was incredible to see and shoot in, but also brought with it all sorts of practical problems. It’s been a real challenge, but we’ve done nothing but flourish in those circumstances. And we started shooting the next movie officially last year. We’ve been to South Africa and have just been to the Arctic, which was a genuine adventure. We were filming in temperatures of -35, 600 miles from the North Pole, stopping for polar bears.

What was it like shooting in a deserted Venice. That sounds spooky?

Pegg: It was creepy – very “Don’t Look Now”! Actually, that part of the film is creepy. There’s something very different about the antagonist in these [two] films. This story is a ghost story, in a lot of ways. And Venice is such an incredibly evocative city in that respect. It is so beautiful, almost like a living film set. I’d never been there before, and within two hours of arriving I was learning how to drive a boat on the Grand Canal. And the way that Fraser [Taggart, director of photography] lit it, it looked stunning. Me, Tarzan [Greg Tarzan Davis, who plays Degas] and Hayley [Atwell, who plays Grace] were all staying in the same hotel, and one night we all watched “Don’t Look Now”. Then the next day we went around looking for the bridges and locations in the film – and I saw a girl in a red coat! That city just lends itself to a very eerie, haunting vibe.

What can you say about this new antagonist, Gabriel?

It’s a difficult one to define in a sentence, in that his motivations go beyond who he is. He is greater than the sum of his parts. He’s played by Esai Morales and he represents an idea that we’ve been setting up ever since “Fallout”, this idea of having accountability for one’s actions. “Fallout” was about the fallout from all of Ethan’s good intentions. And in this movie, there’s the sense that the past is catching up with him. In some respects, Gabriel is the spectre of that.

You and Tom are good friends now. Do you ever, as a pal, advise him against doing any of the stunts he does for these movies?

Pegg: It’s funny, I remember when me and Rebecca [Ferguson, who plays Ilsa Faust] said bye to him when we were in New Zealand [on “Fallout”] and he was off to do that helicopter sequence. There was a sense that we were saying goodbye in a slightly, ‘Well, maybe see you…’ kind of way [laughs]. But you can’t tell him. He’s not going to listen to you because he’s not going to suddenly go, ‘Oh, okay, no, I won’t do that.’ Because he puts the film first. His highest priority is to deliver the most authentic and amazing experience for the audience. He genuinely dedicates his life to that. But on the flip side of that, he is also incredibly ‘clucky’ when it comes to us doing stuff. Genuinely, if we have to do anything, even though it’s something utterly innocuous compared to what he’s doing, he is concerned. I had a fight sequence in “Rogue Nation”. This stunt guy, Robert, had to throw me against the wall. And while we were doing it, Tom was clucking around the monitor going, ‘It’s a bit much.’ [Laughs] He is very motherly around all of us when we have to do stuff, which is, let’s face it, a bare-faced cheek considering what we have to watch him do!

In the trailer there’s a great nod to Brian De Palma’s “Mission: Impossible” – the moment when Ethan and Gabriel are fighting on the top of a moving train echoes Ethan and Jim fighting in the first movie. Is “Dead Reckoning” a love letter to all the Mission movies?

Pegg: Absolutely. And I think that comes down to a combination of the borderline nerdy love of this series that Tom and McQ have and their understanding of the weight of history when it comes to how these stories have evolved. You’ve got Henry Czerny in this [playing Eugene Kittridge], who was in the first Mission. There is a lot [in these two movies] for you if you’re a Mission: Impossible nerd – there’s a ton of brilliant stuff in there for you to pick up on. But it’s also an incredible experience for everyone. They recently announced Rolf Saxon [who played CIA analyst William Donloe in the first movie] is coming back, which gives you an idea of just how completely these films are wrapping around back to the start.

You mentioned Henry Czerny’s Kittridge. In the trailer he tells Ethan that he has to pick a side. What are Ethan’s choices in this movie?

Pegg: Ethan is only ever on the side of what’s best for everybody, even if sometimes that doesn’t pan out as being the same side that his representatives from his country are operating from – which is why he goes rogue a lot. He is all about the greater good. That’s what the IMF, Ethan and his team, are fighting for. And it’s fair to say that not everyone is.

The last movie was the most successful – critically and commercially – of the series. How have you all coped with the pressure to top that?

Pegg: The only pressure comes from ourselves, on ourselves, so it’s less about feeling any pressure from outside forces. It’s more about, ‘How do we advance this and evolve it and never rest on our laurels?’ We never think, ‘Oh, that worked. Let’s do that again.’ And that comes down to Tom and McQ’s collaboration, which is incredibly studious and unique. They are always looking for ways to ratchet up the tension, to raise the stakes. I remember on the press tour of “Ghost Protocol”, doing interviews and saying, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to top that.’ And I meant it. Then, on the very next film, Tom hangs off a plane, on the next one he tailspins a helicopter! Every time they somehow manage to do it – and they have done it again in this.

What’s your favourite Benji scene in “Dead Reckoning Part One”, and why?

Pegg: There’s a great sequence in the airport, which I won’t elaborate on except to say that Benji and Luther are reunited and immediately find themselves in the kind of high jinks that would usually end a movie. And this is near the beginning [of ours]. There are three of us, all in three different places, dealing with three different crises. It’s a great sequence and really speaks to the scale, complexity and fun of what this movie has to offer. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So, what can audiences expect from this film?

Pegg: Audiences can expect to be reminded of just how phenomenal the cinematic experience can be. Tom and McQ speak fluently in the language of cinema – theatrical cinema. Their skill and wisdom in that art form is on another level. “Top Gun: Maverick” was very much a demonstration of that, but I think this will take it even further, in terms of what it means to be thrilled in the cinema. But the thing they also get is that you don’t care about any of the pyrotechnics or the stunts if you don’t feel something for the characters. That’s the thing they’ve prioritised above everything else in this. This is a film where you are truly invested in the characters. Because of that, those big moments will feel even more exciting and thrilling.

-> Interview mit Regisseur Christopher McQuarrie

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