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The Nine Secrets of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Director Brad Bird, fight coordinator Robert Alonzo and technical supervisor Dale Shelton talk gadgets and girl fights

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a movie without a single ghost but with plenty of cool spy action. You can own it on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, but before you go watch Tom Cruise travel the world in a hoodie, check out the movie secrets we snagged from the director, technical supervisor and fight coordinator. The Kraft Food Service guy and “Julia’s Friend #1” wouldn’t take our calls. Jerks.

The Gadgets Aren’t Too Far Off the Mark
Dale Shelton: We wanted to have high-tech gadgets that people had never seen, but we wanted it to be believable. It’s technology that are currently in use by the military and intelligence communities, and we just used that as a springboard to jump into the next generation. We wanted it to be something that you would believe, like, “Well, I’ve seen a story on the news that the military is using iris scans and it’s nothing like this, but the IMF, maybe they would have something more advanced that would do this.”

...But Some Got Cut
DS: There were some different types of devices, technical devices, that we did a lot of research on -- I worked closely with Christopher Peck, who’s the prop master of the film -- that we kind of got what we thought would be appropriate for the film, that we could hopefully realize the director’s vision of the film [with], but they never made it in. But we’re not going to say what they are because maybe they’ll be in the next film!

Tom Cruise Can Kick Your Ass
Robert Alonzo: I would advise against picking a fight with Tom Cruise. The techniques that I teach the actors are real, they work. Then, if I need to, I can change the fight and make it organic. If you get married to the idea of a certain move or piece of choreography, you shut yourself off from fresher ideas. Once that happens, the actor gets locked in to that move and you can’t change it. My approach is to give the actor a skill set so I can change things on the fly, which we did a lot on Ghost Protocol.

They Wanted a Star Wars Movie Release
Brad Bird: There is a level of showmanship that has kind of evaporated from the moviegoing experience. When I was a kid, if you wanted to see a brand new film right when it came out, you had to see it in a really good theater. I mean, very few people remember that Star Wars was only in a handful of theaters when it was first released, and they were all 70 millimeter. So if you wanted to see Star Wars in the first couple weeks that it was out, you had to see it in a great theater, presented perfectly....The decision to do this in IMAX and have it open exclusively on really big screens put some of that back.

You Need a College Degree to Get Beat Up
RA: I’ve been training in martial arts my whole life but I went to college to study film production and animation with the hopes of directing commercials. Once I started working at an ad agency, I didn’t really enjoy it. So I went back to training in martial arts. In doing so, I trained a lot of actors and actresses. They would always tell me to get into the business. I didn’t know anything about it until a producer came in and offered me a job, and one of the actors I was training told me, “Don’t say no to this producer.” So I said yes and that was 18 years ago.

Steve Jobs Was an Inspiration
DS: One aspect that I thought was really cool was how seemingly common devices, in this case a lot of Apple products -- iPhones, iPads -- that a lot of consumers are familiar with are used to showcase that technology. I don’t know if you have an iPhone, but I was guilty of it: I went on the App store and I searched “iris scanner,” looking at various apps and thinking, “I wonder what’s happening?” [Laughs]

The Director Almost Made a Movie About an Earthquake Instead
BB: Actually, the film that I was working on -- and I started working on it right after The Incredibles, jumped off it to do Ratatouille and then went back to it -- was a live-action film called 1906, which is about the characters and events leading up to the earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1906. And that was just a story that I was having a great bit of difficulty wrestling into a movie-sized box and I looked up suddenly and realized that two years had gone by and I was still wrestling with the same beast and I didn’t want that to be the rest of my career. So I looked around and both Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams had had conversations with me about working with them and the timing never worked, and here was a chance to work with both of them on one film. So I jumped at it.

The Girl Fight Took Some Practice
RA: Sometimes actors are very timid and I have to help them come out of their shell. For women, I’ll ask them what life experience they can draw from to give their action more grit and more realistic punches and kicks. The hardest fight I ever had to coordinate was between Paula Patton and Lea Seydoux primarily because you have two women who have never experienced a fight in their entire life.

JJ Abrams and Brad Bird Are Totally Chill
BB: JJ was really around all the events leading up to the filming. When the filming started, JJ was making Super 8, so he wasn’t able to be around at all for that. So I was kind of off shooting it with Tom and everybody while he was making Super 8. Then when we came back he had notes on how things were in the editing. But he was very supportive of me doing the film that I wanted to make, as was Tom. I think that part of the reason there was very little conflict is we all like the same kind of movies. We’re in love with the moviegoing experience and we just wanted to make a great popcorn movie.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is available on DVD and Blu-ray starting Tuesday, April 17th!