How Brad Bird Pulled Off His 'Impossible' Mission

by David Weiner 3:42 PM PDT, April 11, 2012
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol pulled in an incredible $650 million-plus at the worldwide box office, making it the most successful film of the action franchise. But it was almost an impossible mission to pull off for The Incredibles director Brad Bird, who chose the Tom Cruise tentpole to make his live-action feature debut and transition from animated films.

"We were kind of shootin' from the hip," the Oscar winner tells ETonline, revealing that he was working in a production environment that "in some ways is exhilarating and in other ways is completely frightening."

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"You were feeding the beast; the money was going to be spent whether you knew what you were doing or not, so you had to rush ahead of the train and lay down tracks," he explains of the mega-budgeted project.

For such a crackerjack, tightly paced film, it's amazing how the 54-year-old filmmaker delivered a truly coherent narrative given how "in flux" the script really was.

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"It was always being thrown up in the air and reassembled, and the set pieces were kind of locked and the overall premise was locked, but how things were presented was always up for grabs, and it was up for grabs while we were making it," explains Bird of working within the framework of producer J.J. Abrams' production style. "It's very scary and I would prefer not to do it that way, but sometimes really wonderful things happen when you're in that position."

Despite the edge-of-your-seat production challenges, Bird adds that it was "an absolute pleasure" to work with the talented cast and crew of Mission: Impossible: "It was really fun to dive into the same pool with all these people whose work that you admire."

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If you look closely at the opening minutes of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, there are some loving tributes to some of Bird's favorite films, from The Great Escape and The Red Balloon to From Russia with Love. So which is his favorite spy flick?

"Probably my favorite one is an old one: It's Goldfinger, which I think is so audacious and silly, but everything I love about a good popcorn movie," says Bird. "It's full of memorable moments, it has a great theme song, it has a great villain, it has a great villain sidekick, it has a great female lead who's every bit as good as the guy, and leading guys don't come better than Sean Connery.

"But I also really enjoy new films, like the Bourne films are really well done," he continues. "[Before Mission: Impossible] I had never gotten to do a spy film before, but I think that anybody that saw The Incredibles could see that I had a certain affection for [the genre]."

Which begs the question, will we ever see The Incredibles 2?

"If I could come up with a good idea that was to Incredibles what Toy Story 2 was to Toy Story, I would love to make it [at Pixar]," replies Bird. "I love working with those guys."

Watch Bird's impossible mission accomplished when Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol hits Blu-ray and DVD April 17.