Although Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames are the only two actors to appear in all the Mission: Impossible movies, the film series has built up more of a recurring cast in recent years. The recently-released Mission: Impossible - Fallout is arguably the most continuity-heavy entry, with Simon Pegg, Michelle Monaghan, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin and Sean Harris all reprising their respective roles, However, Jeremy Renner, who played William Brandt in Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation, sat out Fallout due to his commitments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but according to director and writer Christopher McQuarrie, there originally was a plan to bring Renner back for a cameo that would have seen William being killed off at the beginning of the movie.
Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 shot back-to-back last year, and while Renner will reprise Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, in the latter movie, the superhero archer ultimately didn't appear in the former. The problem was that back when it seemed like Renner might appear in Infinity War, Christopher McQuarrie and the Mission: Impossible - Fallout team were still figuring out the movie and couldn't provide a schedule, and in the end, there was no way to make William Brandt one of the main characters. But then McQuarrie envisioned Fallout starting with the death of a team member, and as he explained to Empire, he couldn't kill off Ving Rhames' Luther Stickell or Simon Pegg's Benji Dunn, leaving Renner's William as the best choice. McQuarrie continued:
So I said to Renner, 'Hey listen, I have this idea for an opening sequence where you sacrifice yourself to save the team, and that the mission-gone-wrong not only involves losing the plutonium, but involves the death of a team member.' And Jeremy was like, 'Thanks, but no thanks' [...] He was smart not to take the short paycheck for three days of work and getting blown up.
I agree with Christopher McQuarrie on Jeremy Renner making the right decision. Sure cameoing in Mission: Impossible - Fallout would have given Renner his third appearance, but then his time with the franchise would have ended. It's a shame that William Brandt couldn't participate in the latest spy adventure, but he's still out there. Although Fallout didn't address William Brandt's whereabouts, at least the door is still open for him to return for Mission: Impossible 7.
Warning: SPOILERS for Mission: Impossible - Fallout are ahead!
Mission: Impossible - Fallout ended up not opening with one of Ethan Hunt's team members dying, but a familiar face did meet their end later in the movie. After it was revealed that Henry Cavill's August Walker was John Lark, Fallout's shadowy antagonist, he killed Alec Baldwin's Alan Hunley during his escape. Now the IMF is once again leaderless, and while it would be great to see William Brandt back in the field with Ethan and the gang in the future, perhaps Hunley's death paves the way for William to become the new IMF Secretary.