Brad Bird


Before you start tugging on the other end of a bon-bon, get down to your local cinema – preferably an IMAX – and drink on the sheer excitement and delectable goodness that comes with the viewing of “Mission : Impossible Ghost Protocol”. One of the most exciting popcorn flicks of the year, and a smart one of that, the film sees Tom Cruise returning to his trademark role of Ethan Hunt, IMF agent in what’s unarguably his most personal mission yet. Director Brad Bird, best known for his family friendly fare like “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille”, gets understandably animated when talking with CLINT MORRIS about his latest venture.

Hi, Brad. How are you?

Good, Clint. How are you? Thanks so much for taking the time out, man!

Pleasure. Thanks for stopping by  Australia and bringing a great movie with you.

Glad you like it! That means a lot!

Yeah, I really did it was great. d I suppose the first question for you is did you like bow at the altar of the original TV series or are you a fan on most of the films?

Well, I definitely saw the series when I was little and I think that when it comes to sort of a pop idea, I mean it’s all summed up in a title Mission Impossible. It tells you everything you need to know about the attitude of the thing and I just think it’s a really great sort of pop concept and so, when I got an opportunity to do one of these films I jumped on it.

Was there one of the films in particular that came before yours that inspired you to chase this job?

Well, actually it was more the people involved. I had known JJ Abrams a quite a numbers of years and we’ve been looking for opportunities to work together and the timing never worked out and I met Tom right after the Incredibles and we ended up talking about movies for two or three hours and what we loved about him and who’re our favourite filmmakers and it was just all it was surprising how comfortable I was with him right away because he talked just like any sincere film lover. I mean he knew a lot about a lot of different movies from all time periods and it was clear that he’s doing it because he loves it so, when I got an opportunity to work with both of them in one project that just sounded great to me.

And I assumed that what they liked about your work specially The Incredibles is that it’s a story of a family, the sticking together as a team and battling against the odds, I guess?

Yeah, well it’s the sense of the movie is not… The Incredibles is not about superheroes per se, it’s more about personalities and then the superhero’s an aspect that brings out the personality. It’s more, as you said, it’s more about the dynamic between the family members than it is about being able to lift up a car or something like that.

Yeah, and in terms of the story was there a script when you came on board or did you help Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemecon put ink to paper?

Yes, there was a script but it was constantly morphing. Tom and JJ had worked on it for about nine months with the writers  and a lot of the big set pieces were in place but the story was still… It wasn’t set in stone and JJ said to me, “Is there anything you’ve always wanted to see in a spy film?” And of course I had several things that I wanted so see in spy films and it was great that I got a chance to get many of them on screen.

] I suppose, I thought it would be interesting to have these really cool gadgets that may be didn’t always work. [chuckle] And another idea that I came up with was we were trying to look for… The sequence on the Burj was always planned, the tallest building on the world, that was planned when I got involved with the project but I was looking for a way to show how unbelievably high this building is visually and I thought about setting it with it sticking out of the clouds because it is that tall. Our executive producer said, “Oh! It shouldn’t be clouds. It should be a Shamal.” And I said, “What’s a Shamal?” He says, “Well, it’s like these giant sandstorms.” And then I said, “Well, let’s not just do it for a shot let’s have a chase scene in the sandstorm.” I was sort of inspired by North by Northwest because Hitchcock was able to take the least atmosphere it gets suspenseful time of day which is high noon and have a very clear field of view and make a suspense sequence out of it. Usually you set those kind of things in the dark or in confined spaces with limited points of view and Hitchcock was able to do it in the middle of a cornfield, in the middle of nowhere, in full sunlight. So, I was wondering what it would be like to have a chase sequence where it’s in the middle of the day but you can’t see. So that’s a couple of examples but don’t make me say more because I want people to see it at the movies.

One of the scenes you just mentioned especially looks a treat on IMAX. It is stomach turning. You feel like you’re up there. That was very effective. Why IMAX and I guess why not 3D because IMAX, I mean, wow!?

Well, I think the thing that people constantly say is the reason for 3D as they say it’s in developing and it’s something you can’t get at home and I sit there and I go, “Three, two, one. Okay, now you can get it home.” And to me, 3D… I think it’s very interesting. It’s getting better all the time. I loved Avatar as much as anybody did. But you take one step forward which is the dimensionalizing of something and then, you put on the glasses and now you’re taking a step back and now because of the light requirements, it’s probably… You lose 40% of the brightness of the image. Now you’re taking two steps back, the screens can’t be quite as large. You know you’re taking three steps back and I think the key to immersiveness in a movie theater is something that’s been around as long as movies had been around. One is a really big screen and the second thing is an audience, and you’ll never be able to get that experience at home unless you’re a billionaire and can afford an IMAX screen at home.

But I think a really big screen is unbelievably immersive. But because of multiplexes, for the most part, we’ve shrunk down the screen size and shrunk down the auditorium sizes and there’s nothing cooler than seeing a really bright, really sharp image on a massive screen with a bunch of movie lovers. That’s going to see the movies and that’s why I wanted to shoot this in IMAX. IMAX to me is the last stand for real showmanship in the way movies are presented.

Would you classify your film as a stand-alone or sequel?

There’s one tiny storyline in there that is a follow through but, I would say, in every other way, it could be a stand alone movie.

Was it important for you to bring in some new faces and then, leave some of the, I guess, other characters on the bench this time?

Well, it wasn’t ever discussed that way. I would say that what attracted me… One of the things that attracted me to the project was the storyline because the storyline… Usually, Ethan Hunt, who is the character that Tom Cruise plays in these films, he usually picks his team. And in this film, the team is thrust upon him and then, that team is isolated which is what the protocol refers to is it’s a scenario where you are cut off and there’s no communication with the main office and you’re on your own. And the idea of having a team that was basically unfamiliar with each other kind of, then, cutoff and put on in extreme circumstances just sounded really interesting to me.

So I really loved it and I loved getting a chance to work with this cast, not only Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg, but also Paula Patton who is a great up and coming actress and Jeremy Renner who’s one of the finest actors around right now.

He is indeed. Now tell me, coming from an animation background can you imagine Mission : Impossible working as an animated series – or animated film?

: I don’t know. We don’t have to repackage it. I think it works fine as it is and… [laughter] But sure, I think an animated film can be anything. I think that people are often somewhat narrow-minded in terms of what kind of subject matter can be done in animation. You notice the Japanese are a little more loose with what kinds of things they take into an animated film. I think that that… I think you can do an animated film about any subject matter. The only difference is you should handle it differently for animation but in terms of what you can make, I think you can make it about anything.

Would you be back for another Mission Impossible should they..

It’s really rough to discuss having another kid when you’re still in the delivery room, recovering from the process, so ask me in about six months [Laughs]. These films involve some wear and tear, you know.

Yeah, exactly. I’ll see you get a rubdown. Then, we’ll talk Mission Impossible 5.

Okay. [laughter] It’s a deal. let’s catch up then.

I have to make one suggestion now. If there is a fifth film, Leonard Nimoy, back from the TV series.

Hey man, what a good idea cross pollinating the bad robot films. You know your stuff!  I’ll bring that up with JJ. I’ll be sure to discuss it. Honest.

That’ll be great. I’ll have my 10% sent here. [laughter] Thanks so much, Brad. Great film.

Okay. Thank you. So nice finally to talk with you, Clint.

Read Clint’s review of “Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol” Here