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Interview: Henry Czerny Talks Returning to the ‘Mission: Impossible’ Franchise in ‘Dead Reckoning Part One’

July 10, 2023Ben MK

As Dr. Vladimir Nekhorvich, the scientist behind the Chimera virus in M:I-2, said, every hero requires a villain. And while that principle has certainly proven true across all seven, espionage-filled installments of the Mission: Impossible franchise, so too has it also held up as one of the tenets of cinema in general. It's a belief that Henry Czerny also understands, having played many an on-screen antagonist himself. And in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, the iconic Canadian actor is making his long-overdue return to the action-packed franchise, reprising his role as Impossible Mission Force director Eugene Kittridge and giving Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt plenty to chew on, as he embarks on the series' most daring mission yet.

I caught up with Henry Czerny to chat about Dead Reckoning Part One, what it was like working with Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie, and why the film deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

It's been 27 years since moviegoers last saw you as Eugene Kittridge in the Mission: Impossible franchise. What was it like coming back to the role you made famous so many years ago?

Czerny: Coming back to the franchise [was] actually 25 years, almost to the day. They [originally] called me in January of 1995. I was in Brazil working on a movie, they wanted me to come [be] their Kittridge. And then 25 years later almost to the day, in January 2020, I got a call from my reps that Chris McQuarrie wanted to talk to me about bringing Kittridge back for the last few installments of the franchise. A day or two later, I was on a phone call with Chris, and he thought [it was] the perfect time to do it. I asked if there was a script, and he said, "Not really. We have an idea, we know what we're doing with the stunts and what the storyline generally is, but we want to bring the actors in and we want to work with them to find out what they want to bring, and how we can use that." And he was true to his word, in that regard. Because what we have here is a graver, weightier, wiser Kittridge.

Speaking of which, in the first Mission: Impossible, Kittridge was very much an adversary to Ethan Hunt, whereas in Dead Reckoning Part One, he leans closer to being an ally, albeit one that always has his own agenda in mind. How has Kittridge changed between the first movie and this one?

Czerny: Kittridge has gone back to school, if you will. Because he'd been schooled by Ethan Hunt [in the first film]. And so he figured, "Well, ok, I'll go around and study all the intelligence community. I'll work in all of them, if I can, at the highest echelons, if I can. And I'll get a wider view of how everything works and why it's working the way it is, and what the American people expect and what's possible." So 25 years after [all] that, he's again the head of the IMF, but he has a lot more wisdom about how the situation works. His relationship with Ethan is far more compatible. However, his concern is that the greatest asset he has is a human being, and that's fallible. So his job is to make sure that Ethan's on point, in terms of what he expects from Ethan; and Ethan expects Kittridge to be on point [as well]. So they have a camaraderie, but at the same time, there is tension, of course.

Last but not least, one of the most memorable scenes from the first film was the Akvarium restaurant scene. And in Dead Reckoning Part One, one could argue that almost every scene is noteworthy. Did you have a favorite or most memorable scene to shoot this time around?

Czerny: Working face-to-face with Tom again [in that scene that's] evocative of the first one, by the aquarium, was an absolute treat. [Tom]'s focused, he asks for focus, and Chris asks everything you have as an actor, so that when they get it into the editing room they can pick and choose, as they do. And after working with Vanessa Redgrave in the first one, working with Vanessa Kirby for a few days on a train was heaven as well, in a very different way. She's extraordinary to work with and an extraordinary human being. I'm very fortunate to have worked with both of them on this, in the way that I have. And the film, if you watch it on the big screen, bears that out. It is to be watched [on] as large [a screen] as possible, because every inch of the frame has information for you.

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One is in theatres July 12th.

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