Christopher McQuarrie Reveals The Issues Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol's Script Initially Had

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Christopher McQuarrie publicly lead the charge on the last two Mission: Impossible movies, Rogue Nation and Fallout, as both writer and director, but he actually first contributed to the spy franchise by making an uncredited rewrite of Ghost Protocol's script. Production was already underway, but McQuarrie's changes resulted in the story blending much better with the existing action, and he also overturned the fate of Michelle Monaghan's character, Julia Meade. McQuarrie recalled:

The screenplay was, the action was mostly there. But it was there in ways that were part of a story that wasn't integrated into the action. When I read the script, the big things were: You didn't know what was in the suitcase, you didn't know what was in the envelope, you didn't know what the villain was doing. This was all a mystery in the movie. And Michelle Monaghan was dead. Julia's character was really dead.

Julia Meade-Hunt was introduced in 2006's Mission: Impossible III, and at the end of that movie, she and Ethan Hunt left on their honeymoon, and there was no indication that Ethan would return to being a field agent. But at the start of Ghost Protocol, Ethan was back in action like before, and Julia was said to have been assassinated. It wasn't until the end of Ghost Protocol that it was revealed that Julia was alive and well, with Ethan having faked her death as part of a plan to give her a new identity and to get him into the prison where we found him at the beginning of Ghost Protocol. But had Christopher McQuarrie not come aboard, she truly would have been gone from this world.

As for why he made sure Julia Meade was still alive in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Christopher McQuarrie felt that it was necessary to ensure that movie was functioning at 100% effectiveness. And by reversing her fate, that also led to giving Jeremy Renner's character, William Brandt, a different backstory, as his need to stay away from the field was originally attributed to the death of two other individuals. In McQuarrie's words:

And I came on board and I said, 'Look, there are two things going on. 1. Emotionally, if Julia is dead, no matter how this story turns out, I'm sad.' A hundred means you're at 90. Because no matter how well Ethan wins, he's carrying this failure that they've alluded to throughout the movie. You've got to let the audience off the hook tonally -- in Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible -- you've got to let them off the hook. The other thing that was going on was Jeremy Renner had a different backstory. His character of Brandt was still the agent that was now an analyst, but the reason he couldn't go back into the field was he had hesitated and his hesitation had led to the death of two nameless agents... I said, 'First of all, let's try to integrate Tom's story with Jeremy's story so that Jeremy's story is actually relevant to the movie. Right now it feels like there are two movies happening.'

Christopher McQuarrie also noted in his interview on the Light the Fuse podcast that in the final cut of Ghost Protocol, the idea that Julia was even dead wasn't brought up until William Brandt mentions it approximately 70 minutes into the movie. Ultimately, because he's not a fan of the 'mystery box' trope, McQuarrie's approach was to take every thing that was known and make it unknown, and vice-versa, resulting in Julia's fate being Ghost Protocol's only major mystery. Clearly his alterations paid off, as Ghost Protocol was met with critical acclaim and made over $694 million worldwide.

The latest entry of the Mission: Impossible film series, Fallout, is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, and if there is any news regarding Mission: Impossible 7, we here at CinemaBlend will be sure to let you know about it. For now, you can plan your visits to the movie theater this year accordingly by checking out our 2019 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.