Christopher McQuarrie Reveals the Dark Storyline He Cut from ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’

Be aware there are spoilers for Mission: Impossible – Fallout below.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is getting a lot of well-deserved love for finally putting Tom Cruise‘s Ethan Hunt front-and-center as a character and giving him a little room to breathe and grow. That’s not to say the film is packed with all the action spectacle fans know and love from the franchise, but this time around, Ethan’s not just the action hero extraordinaire, he’s a man who has to deal with the consequences of his heroics and his past.

It’s already a bit deeper than what we’ve come to expect form the Mission: Impossible franchise, but turns out the original idea was also going to be a lot darker. As a quick recap, in Fallout, Hunt is forced to assume the identity of terrorist John Lark and finds himself faced with some challenging choices while in that guise. But according to writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, that case of secret identity was originally intended to be the key plot of the film, and it was going to force the character to a lot darker places.

During an in-depth interview, McQuarrie explained how it was supposed to go down and why he ultimately chose not to take that path.

“[When] they go into the bathroom, the whole idea was to assume the identity of John Lark. Ethan ends up having to assume Lark’s identity without the mask. That was gonna be the plot of the whole movie: Ethan assumes the villain’s identity, but looks like himself. And, he must go on convincing people that he is the villain which forces Ethan to have to do darker and more horrible things in pursuit of his aim, the first of which was breaking Lane out of prison. That was eventually going to take Ethan down a very dark path, all of which Tom really embraced, and which I pursued for a very long time. But, in clinging to that idea, I realized that the movie was not moving forward. It was becoming more about that idea as well as much more intellectual. It was happening at the expense of all the other characters, and the movie was just getting very long before getting back to the things you’re obligated to do in a Mission: Impossible. So, I let it go, and as soon as I let it go, the whole England segment of the movie came together.”

Does that mean we would have seen Ethan kill an innocent? That’s always been a benchmark of the character’s heroics and would certainly mark a sizable shift in his moral credo. But McQuarrie wasn’t willing to fully answer that question since his ideas might just come back in another sequel. It does sound like he considered going pretty dang dark with it though.

“I’m going to withhold a detailed answer to that because the lesson I have learned is that anything we throw out comes back. The example being: when Lane says to Ethan––’Your mission should you choose to accept it… did you ever choose not to…?’––that was a scene we cut out of Rogue Nation. There was a confrontation between them earlier in the film, and for a lot of reasons, we had to take it out. Ultimately, I was grateful that we did because it was in the wrong place. And then, it came back to work in Fallout. I will say that I wrote a scene that took Ethan to a very dark place, and when I pitched it to Tom, he said, ‘Well, how about this?’ Tom took the scene even darker, and I was quite surprised. I said, ‘Do you really want to go there with Ethan?’ Tom replied, ‘If we’re going to go for it, let’s go for it.’ So, it taught me something in terms of the boundaries of this character and the boundaries this franchise are even more limitless than I thought.”

Ethan’s undercover narrative wasn’t the only change to the story. In fact, McQuarrie was keen to emphasize that they try to keep everything open for evolution to allow the best moments to come along on set — they even famously went into filming with only a 33-page script. However, one of the bigger moments to wind up on the cutting room floor was a kiss between Ilsa and Ethan, something fans were probably expecting to see this time around.

McQuarrie revealed that they did film the moment — though it was unscripted –but it didn’t make the final cut for a number of reasons, including Ethan’s ongoing emotional relationship with Julia and how the kiss impacted Ilsa’s character.

“There was another scene where it happened, and it happened quite instinctively. It wasn’t written into the script. That part of the scene, I thought was very effective. How they got into the scene was not, and it weakened Ilsa’s character. It appeared to strengthen her, but it weakened her. We really debated that scene for a long, long time. I finally realized the only reason I’ve got this scene in the movie is for aesthetic reasons and not because it makes her a stronger character. It made Ethan’s character stronger at her expense — having nothing to do with the kiss. We ultimately cut it out of the movie, and it wasn’t long after the photograph was shown to Ethan. What people were feeling was that the relationship with Julia, whether you knew what it was or not, it was not resolved in the context of our movie. Why is he involved with this other woman in any emotional way when he has this other unresolved emotional relationship with Julia? Ethan just became confusing. His desires became confusing. His dreams and his fears became confusing. He felt a little bit selfish. So, there was really no way to have the kiss in the movie simply because of the construct of the Julia story. The Ilsa story has to wait for the Julia story to be resolved, and by the time it is, there’s no time for them to have that moment. And by the end of the movie, I ended up feeling that I’m not ready for them to define what their relationship is. I feel better with their relationship not quite yet having found its endpoint. I want to see more of Ilsa. And once their relationship is resolved, there’s no tension left.”

If you’re hoping to see these deleted scenes on the Blu-ray release, don’t get too excited. McQuarrie is in the “the theatrical cut is the director’s cut” school and won’t be releasing specific scenes. However, he did tease a reel of cut footage, so get ready to glimpse some of the footage that never made it to screen (hopefully including that helicopter/truck showdown from the trailer).