Why Mission: Impossible Changed Its Ending In The Middle Of Shooting

The fact that Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation works as well as it does is a modern miracle, given the circumstances that were placed on director Christopher McQuarrie during his post-production. For starters, the movie’s planned release date was shifted from December to July 31, largely to avoid Star Wars: The Force Awakens (according to reports). Also, from a lot of what we were hearing, McQuarrie was still tinkering with his ending as late as June (!!), trying to find the right combination of scenes that would fit.

We asked Simon Pegg about that when we interviewed him at the world premiere of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation in Vienna, Austria. And he admitted (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t yet seen the film!) that the confrontation between Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson that takes place at a café table in London wasn’t on the page when they started filming. It was necessary for the team to rethink their ending to find what best fit the motivations of the characters, which is exactly how Pegg says he likes it. He told us:

We always had the ending of the film as a kind of moveable feast when we were making it. We got the script initially, and Chris being Chris McQuarrie ‘The Writer’ as opposed to Chris McQuarrie ‘The Director’ wanted to keep the ending [as] something we would find on the way. So the meat of the ending didn’t appear until after we were well into the shoot. It wasn’t in the script, that [scene]. But it was something we’d all agreed to do, to have that sort of evolve organically rather than just sort of have it all on the page before we started.It’s a scary way to work, but it really helped the movie, I think. It means a sort of, a different kind of movie, then just like building to the biggest action set piece. Which is often the case. It’s like a video game, some films. You get bosses that increase in size, whereas this is something else."

It’s definitely true that Rogue Nation is the kind of action film that opens BIG (with that eye-popping airplane stunt), then reserves the best of its stunt sequences for the middle act. I’m not sure how McQuarrie could have topped the underwater-dive-scene-into-a-car-chase-into-a-motorcycle-chase montage… so, he didn’t! He developed an ending, instead, that plays on our sympathies for the characters, placing Simon Pegg’s Benji in a life-threatening situation and forcing Ethan to use his wit and intellect to beat Lane at his own game. And the fact that McQuarrie trusted his instincts, and his cast, enough to make that change while already in the process -- and facing an enhanced deadline – shows why he’s one of the strongest working directors out there today.

Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is in theaters as we speak.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.