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Sometimes stress has funny ways of manifesting itself in our daily routine. So one would think with the sort of pressure that Tom Cruise engages in during the course of a Mission: Impossible movie, even his bodily systems would find a way to make things interesting. That was recently confirmed by his Mission: Impossible 2 co-star Thandie Newton, as she told a story of a pretty pressured night of shooting that started with a simple blemish, and ended with a full blown zit.
Vulture conducted a comprehensive interview with Thandie Newton, which covered everything from her earliest acting credits, all the way down to her current role on Westworld. Mixed in with this profile of Thandie Newton’s stories of important moments throughout her resume was a story that talked about why she hasn’t appeared in the Mission: Impossible franchise since the second sequel released in 2000, and as you’ll see below, how the stressful night started out:
Oh, I was never asked. I was so scared of Tom. He was a very dominant individual. He tries superhard to be a nice person. But the pressure. He takes on a lot. And I think he has this sense that only he can do everything as best as it can be done. There was one time, we were doing this night scene, there were so many extras with pyrotechnics and you name it, and it was a scene with him and me on the balcony. And I don’t think it was a very well-written scene. I get angry with him. We’re frustrated with each other. And we’re looking out over Spain. It wasn’t going well. And John Woo, bless him, wasn’t there. He was downstairs looking at everything on a monitor. And John had made a decision at the beginning of the movie, unbeknownst certainly to me, that he didn’t speak English. Which I think was very helpful to him, but it was extremely unhelpful to the rest of us. So this scene was happening, and Tom was not happy with what I was doing because I had the shittiest lines.
As Mission: Impossible was a smash success, and Mission: Impossible 2 was the first experiment in the sustainability of the legendary TV series turned film franchise, there was no shortage of pressure. With all of that pressure on the line, having a night’s worth of dialogue that both Thandie Newton and Tom Cruise felt was subpar certainly didn’t help their night of shooting on a Spanish balcony.
Playing the character Nyah Nordoff-Hall, a professional thief recruited into helping thwart the plans of her evil ex-boyfriend, Thandie Newton’s character was in a good portion of Mission: Impossible 2 alongside Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. So it was obviously key for the two to find the proper rhythm between their characters early on, and sustain that energy throughout the film’s production. All of this anxiety literally came to a head, as Newton would explain in the rest of her story:
I remember at the beginning of the night, seeing this slight red mark on his nose, and by the end of the night, I kid you not — this is how his metabolism is so fierce — he had a big whitehead where that red dot was. It would take anyone else 48 hours to manifest a zit. I saw it growing, and it was like the zit was me, just getting bigger and bigger. I remember calling Jonathan Demme. I described the night to him: ‘A nightmare.’ As I was describing it, it was clear that I thought I was the big fucking problem. And Jonathan was like, ‘Thandie, shame on you for not backing yourself.’ He was really sweet. And then Tom called and I thought, Oh, this is it. The apology. No, he was just like, ‘We’re going to reshoot this next week.’ I’m like, ‘Way brilliant.’ And the next time we shot it, I went in there and I just basically manifested all the — because I realized what he wanted. He just wanted this alpha bitch. And I did as best as I could. It’s not the best way to get the best work out of someone. He wasn’t horrible. It was just — he was really stressed. I had the most extraordinary time, and you know who got me that role? Nicole Kidman. I’ve never actually outright asked her, but when your husband is like, ‘Who would you mind me pretending to shag for the next six months?’ You know what I mean? It’s kind of nice if you can pick together. Nicole was a huge advocate for me.
With their chemistry balanced, and Mission: Impossible 2 going on to become a huge hit at the box office, one does have to wonder why Thandie Newton wasn’t asked back to play Nyah Nordoff-Hall in a future Mission: Impossible installment. Not only is that because Newton’s performance chops are always a joy to watch, but the mark she left on the still going strong franchise is still well regarded 20 years after.
Then again, there are two Mission: Impossible sequels currently being shot, and if Henry Czerny’s Kittridge can return from the first installment, who’s to say that Ms. Hall isn’t waiting in a post-credits cliffhanger between Mission: Impossible 7 and 8, ready to return in grand style? With nostalgia proving powerful in entertainment, crazier things have happened.
Mission: Impossible 7 starts the road to the future of the IMF on November 19, 2021, with Mission: Impossible 8 set to jump off on November 4, 2022.