Ever since JJ Abrams’ third film in the series, the Mission: Impossible movies have evolved into a team affair. Of course, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is still front and centre, but the group around him has grown to involve returning characters like Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn, Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, Ving Rhames’ ever-present Luther Stickell, and Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt. But while Mission: Impossible – Fallout brings nearly all the above back to the fold, there’s one notable absence in Brandt.
Speaking on the first part of the Empire Podcast’s gigantic six-ish hour spoiler-filled interview session with Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie, the filmmaker opened up about why Renner didn’t return. “Jeremy had his commitment to Avengers, which ironically they ended up not exercising, and we didn’t know what the [sixth Mission] movie was, so we couldn’t provide a schedule. We needed absolute freedom,” he explained. “The unfortunate thing for Jeremy is that he got caught in this perfect storm of, one can’t use you and one doesn’t know how to, given the massive complications they had with Avengers.”
McQuarrie added that he did come up with an option for Brandt to return, but it involved killing the character off. SPOILERS FOR MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT FOLLOW. A possible plan for Brandt’s untimely death would have seen him perish in the film’s opening plutonium deal-gone-wrong – but Renner turned down the idea.
“I had this whole idea that the movie would start with the death of a team member,” McQuarrie said. “And of course the first team member that’s always the first guy we talk about killing is Luther. Luther died in the first movie, and he quite famously said to Tom Cruise, ‘Hey man, how come the brother’s always gotta die?’ And Tom said, ‘You’re right.’ He was like, ‘Why do I gotta be the bad guy?’ And they made Luther nefarious and then suddenly a good guy, and six movies later it was the smartest question anybody’s ever asked Tom Cruise […] So I said to Jeremy, look we can’t kill Ving, it’s never going to work. No matter how many movies into it, it’s always going to be the same thing. You killed the black guy. And we didn’t think the movie could recover if you killed Benji.
“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.”
Listen to the near-three hour first part of Empire’s spoiler-filled Mission: Impossible – Fallout interview here. A second, equally lengthy interview is still to come, as well as an episode with the regular Empire Podcast team discussing the ins-and-outs of the sixth Mission.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout is out in UK cinemas now.