By the time the still-untitled eighth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise hits theaters in 2022, star Tom Cruise will have been playing Ethan Hunt on the big screen for 26 years. That’s incredible staying power for a franchise in modern day Hollywood, especially when you consider the sheer number of big name properties that have been rebooted multiple times during that period. Put it this way; when the first Mission started filming, Val Kilmer was Batman.
Not only has the espionage series shown impressive longevity, but Mission: Impossible is now arguably more popular than it’s ever been. After struggling to maintain an identity over the first three installments, Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol and Christopher McQuarrie’s continued work on the brand have established Cruise’s signature style of high-octane stunts and face-swapping technology as one of the most critically-acclaimed action franchises in the business today.
There are also few signs of Cruise or McQuarrie slowing down, with the seventh and eighth installments set to shoot back-to-back, which will no doubt include several set-pieces that will have the actor’s insurers running for cover. However, once Mission Impossible 8 finally wraps, Cruise could very well call it a day on the adventures of Ethan Hunt.
At least, that’s according to sources close to WGTC, who tell us the actor plans to step away from the series after M:I8. And given that these are the same sources who also told us Bill Murray was returning for Ghostbusters 3, and that J.J. Abrams had been offered a Green Lantern and/or Superman film by Warner Bros., both of which were true, we have no reason to doubt it.
At one stage, Jeremy Renner was reportedly being positioned to take over as the franchise’s lead after joining the cast of Ghost Protocol, but that clearly didn’t happen, with the actor’s only involvement since being a cameo in follow-up Rogue Nation. The argument can be made that there is no Mission: Impossible without Tom Cruise, but as Jack Reacher creator Lee Child recently claimed in an interview, the 57 year-old might be getting a little too long in the tooth for continuing his action-driven exploits.
By the time Mission: Impossible 8 is released, Cruise will be 60 years old, and surely can’t continue his death-defying antics for too much longer after that. While there’s every chance that the franchise could continue with Ethan Hunt-less spinoffs, or perhaps a TV series that’s long been rumored to be in development, it remains hard to predict if audiences would even have any interest in the property without the marquee star being front-and-center.