Since winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his craftily-constructed heist thriller The Usual Suspects, Christopher McQuarrie has been one of Hollywood’s premiere go-to guys for injecting some extra class and intelligence into one of their E-ticket escapades. In addition to helping shape the shooting script for the original X-Men (though David Hayter ended up with sole screen credit), McQuarrie has also written films like Valkyrie, The Tourist, and next year’s The Wolverine. Between writing jobs he’s even directed a few films of his own, including the underrated 2000 action drama The Way of the Gun and the upcoming Jack Reacher, an adaptation of the Lee Child novel One Shot. Over the years he’s maintained a healthy working relationship with Tom Cruise, his Jack Reacher star, and even made credited or uncredited contributions to several of the Cruise’s recent projects such as last year’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the currently-in-production sci-fi thriller All You Need is Kill. That relationship may have just napped McQuarrie his biggest directing assignment yet.
According to Mike Fleming, Jr. over at Deadline, Paramount Pictures and Skydance Entertainment are eyeing McQuarrie for the coveted assignment of directing the fifth Mission: Impossible movie, which is presently in the embryonic stages of development.
Though no writers have been hired and no contracts signed, McQuarrie is the strongest contender for the job as far as studio executives, producer J.J. Abrams (another golden boy on the Paramount lot), and Cruise are concerned. Paramount is also releasing Jack Reacher and has put McQuarrie onto writing duties for the Top Gun sequel whose existence is in doubt following the death of director Tony Scott, as well as Without Remorse, an adaptation of the best-selling Tom Clancy novel.
Following the underwhelming box office grosses reaped by 2006’s Mission: Impossible III, the franchise’s future was in doubt until Ghost Protocol, which marked the live-action directorial debut of Brad Bird, opened last December to impressive reviews and made almost $700 in worldwide box office. In the process, Cruise’s fading superstardom was brought roaring and granted the world’s most famous Scientologist license to pursue more diverse and interesting film projects like Oblivion, the forthcoming futuristic adventure directed by Joseph Kosinski.
One of the trademarks of the Mission: Impossible films is having a different director at the helm for each installment. McQuarrie’s best works are dark, morally ambiguous tales of outlaws and desperate men struggling against forces greater than they could ever begin to comprehend. That made a strange fit for a blockbuster tentpole franchise, but then again who would have guessed that the guy who wrote and directed The Incredibles and The Iron Giant would have gone on to make the series’ best entry?. Paramount will doubtlessly keep an eye on Jack Reacher‘s box office performance when it opens on December 21, 2012 before making their final decision. In any case, I now really want to see a McQuarrie-directed Mission: Impossible movie.