The Full Story Behind Henry Cavill's Mission: Impossible And Justice League Mustache Situation

Henry Cavill

With the release of Mission: Impossible - Fallout this weekend, we presumably come to the end of the long and storied history of Mustachegate. Rightly or wrongly, Henry Cavill's facial hair has become emblematic of the woes of Justice League and the DC Extended Universe overall. When reshoots were required on Justice League, Henry Cavill was already shooting Mission: Impossible - Fallout with a mustache, and long story short, the actor's facial hair had to be digitally removed in the DC film. Those are the broad strokes, but the full story and what actually happened behind the scenes is more interesting. Mission: Impossible - Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie first explained that the mustache was a spur of the moment choice to begin with, saying:

Honestly, it's a really tragic set of circumstances. I've skirted any of the fun and the high-fiving that people have been having on the internet because I genuinely felt terrible for those guys. It was an unfortunate set of circumstances. Henry just finished Nomis and had a big beard and the mustache and long hair, and when he came to work he had cut his hair but still had that mustache and he asked, 'What do you think?' I thought about it for a second and said, 'You know what, let's go for it.' That was all that was ever said about it.

You can tell how bad Christopher McQuarrie feels about the whole situation here, clearly not liking that something in his film became the source of so much difficulty and mockery for another film. The whole situation is kind of made worse by the fact that the mustache wasn't some integral trait of Henry Cavill's character, August Walker. It isn't like that was part of the script and he was told to grow it out before filming. He just happened to show up with it after filming the upcoming action movie Nomis and Christopher McQuarrie decided he should keep it. Once that decision was made, there was no going back. Little did Christopher McQuarrie know the kerfuffle that would ensue because of that decision and that's probably why he feels bad about it.

When the DC situation arose, it put both Paramount's Mission: Impossible - Fallout and Warner Bros.' Justice League in quite the pickle. Different solutions were proposed and it was thought that it would be easier to put a fake or CGI mustache on Henry Cavill than it would be to take off his natural one with CGI. However as Christopher McQuarrie also explained to The A.V. Club, this would have been a detriment to Mission: Impossible - Fallout, saying:

When the DC thing came up, we were in a very weird and very difficult situation: If Henry shaved his mustache, DC doesn't have a problem, but we do have a problem. DC said, 'Well, our thought is that you can shave the mustache and as it grows back you can augment it with CG.' I thought, 'Ehhh, that's not really gonna work.' I've worked with fake mustaches before. You can get away with it for a shot or two, but it doesn't work over the course of a movie. It certainly doesn't work over the course of a movie in 35-mm anamorphic with a 75-mm lens in close-up. And, if you don't believe me, just go look at any movie where someone wears a bad mustache for the whole film. It's egregious. It's almost comical.

So just as Superman's upper lip was criticized for being firmly entrenched in the uncanny valley, if Mission: Impossible - Fallout had allowed Henry Cavill to shave and then augmented his growing mustache with CGI, we might now be making fun of that. Technically speaking, Christopher McQuarrie knew the perils of this approach and didn't want to have this intense character looking goofy in his film, and that's understandable. But still they tried to work it out. Christopher McQuarrie also revealed that he and the producer were open to the idea of shutting down production while Henry Cavill regrew his mustache in exchange for the $3 million those shots would cost from Warner Bros. But Paramount had a release date to hit and that was taken off the table. The cruel irony and serendipitous nature of the mustache situation didn't end there though because production ultimately was shutdown for Tom Cruise's injury. But at that point, it was too late to save Superman.

What I get from this tale is that it really was no one's fault. There was no malice towards DC from Paramount and the mustache wasn't done on purpose to troll. This was a case of two studios with release dates to hit where neither would budge. Paramount would have been doing a favor that it had no obligation to do, and one that could have hurt its film in the process. Once you see Mission: Impossible - Fallout, you can also see why Christopher McQuarrie wouldn't have wanted to go the CGI mustache route for August Walker. Henry Cavill's character is in Fallout longer and plays a bigger role than Supes does in Justice League. And as you can probably tell from the trailers with the bathroom fight, he's not just siting around either, maintaining the illusion of that CGI mustache would have been quite the feat and there's no way even a superglued mustache would have stayed on.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is in theaters today. For all of this year's biggest movies, check out our release schedule.

Nick Evans

Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.