Life seems to have come full circle for the cast and crew of ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ as they touched down on Abu Dhabi’s yet-to-be-opened Midfield Terminal last month.
Several key scenes of iconic director Christopher McQuarrie’s latest action spectacle, out in UAE cinemas on July 9, were shot at this airport, and a few hours after this sit-down interview, they would all get dolled up to attend the premiere screening at the Emirates Palace.
Unlike the cast, who were given ample time to get their shots perfect at the airport and the Liwa Desert, this journalist was on a strict clock – all of six minutes to interview the talents Hayley Atwell, Simon Pegg, Pom Klementieff, and director McQuarrie -- and get to the bottom of their experience of filming in this region or working with an action icon like Cruise, who famously loves to do all his stunts.
Think of this nifty interaction like speed-dating where everyone in that room is under intense pressure to impress. But they all came off with flying colors. Sharp and witty, this quartet -- minus Cruise -- came off with flying colors.
“Tom lets everyone shine,” was this talented ensemble’s credo.
Here are their takes on...
Returning to Abu Dhabi:
Director McQuarrie: “We have shot in Abu Dhabi before, and there’s a very good reason why we came back. We love this location and we love the people here.”
Filming at an airport in the UAE capital:
Pom Klementieff: “It was so much fun. I was goofing around the airport because it was empty. And that was amazing because you never get an empty airport. It’s such a beautiful playground.
On not reducing the Middle East to stereotypical representation in Hollywood films:
Simon Pegg: “We have been here in Abu Dhabi for ‘Fallen’ and in Dubai for ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’. And as McQ [director] said, we came back because we love it. There’s so much scope for grand sort of images with the desert. The thing is that a sandstorm is very dramatic, and the desert is incredibly dramatic. Those scenes look so spectacular in the desert... Plus, we have some extraordinary structures here. Imaging having an airport all to ourselves. It was the most incredible film set that we have ever had to ourselves. We could run around it, and that was great.”
On women’s roles getting stronger in Tom Cruise-led testosterone-charged action franchise:
Hayley Atwell: “My first experience of coming into this franchise was meeting Tom and Chris together in a screen test. I met them previously for other potential projects... They were honest and upfront with me during the screen test, saying: ‘We are not looking for a character that we want someone to fit into... We find the actors that we want to work with first and who also want to work and enjoy the idea of this particularly unique process where from that crack, the characters are created over time. So I knew it was going to be up to me to offer things creatively, as well as sharing/carrying out their vision, and that gives an artist immediate agency and a bit of autonomy. It was important to me that I elevated her [character] from being just one thing – she wasn’t going to be just the femme fatale, or the Ice Queen, or the ingénue, or the damsel in distress. I wanted to give her nuance. So I wanted her [my character] to have moments of self-doubt as well as courage and self-confidence. She was sort of morally ambiguous at times and yet emotionally very vulnerable. She was human and not just existing in an action franchise in one particular way, and that was supported by all.”
Epic, Magnificent, and Stress
On ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ reminding you of a glossy Bollywood film minus its song-dance routine:
Christopher McQuarrie: “You are asking a very good question there. It’s very interesting you say that because everything we did with the characters was about dance and movement. It all had a specific rhythm. It all had to do with movement than it does with dialogue, especially in action scenes featuring Tom and Haley. There’s a dance rhythm to their action scenes.”
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On actors being overshadowed by Tom Cruise and his spectacular stunts:
Christopher McQuarrie: “There’s never that danger of Tom making it about Tom. I speak from everybody’s experience [everybody nods and agrees]. Yes, he understands that the movie is all about the protagonist and his journey with the audience following that character. He understands that the stronger the supporting cast is, then we are more emotionally attached to that journey. Everybody here has had several or at least one experience where we spent all the time knowing who those characters were... and then the last thirty minutes, we turn the cameras around on Tom.”
Pom Klementieff: “Totally. He’s always on set, and he’s always watching. He’s always asking if we need anything. He’s the most generous person and the best scene partner. He wants everyone to shine, and you will see that each character will shine in their way in this movie, and it’s also thanks to McQ.
Hayley Atwell: “In the scene with the Fiat 500, there’s a moment when Ethan Hunt is undermined by this little yellow car. He’s so brilliant in that scene with his comedic timing. The embarrassment of turning the windscreen wipers instead of the engine or turning on the car and immediately crashing into the wall is proof. And remember, he’s next to a woman who doesn’t really know him or his track record of being this incredibly accomplished stuntman.
He played into that scene in a way that doesn’t make Ethan Hunt look cool, but it makes him so endearing to the audience because they see a different side of his character. It takes someone very comfortable, not only in themselves but also in knowing what they are doing for the scene to pull that off. That scene is going to be a delight to the audiences.”
Simon Pegg: “I try to make it as much about me as possible” (the whole room erupts in laughter)