While filming the famous scene where Tom Cruise drops from the ceiling and hovers inches above the ground, Cruise's head kept hitting the floor until he got the idea to put coins in his shoes for balance.
Reza Badiyi, the person responsible for directing more episodes of the original Mission: Impossible (1966) TV series than anyone else, was asked by the head of Paramount to be present on the set for consulting and advising. Brian De Palma approached him and told him how much he had enjoyed the original series. He also added that the movie would be nothing like the TV show and that by him being present on the set, would only result on making both of them uncomfortable. Badiyi thanked him for his honesty and left the set never to return.
The plot of this film hinges around the potential release of the NOC list. Traditionally, when a spy is caught, the spy's home country will admit that the person was a spy, and get that person back by releasing a spy they have captured from the same country that captured theirs. A NOC agent, or Non-Official Cover, is disavowed by his or her own country should he be captured - which essentially means he would be executed as an unauthorized spy. Thus, this list falling into the wrong hands would result is several spies being killed. The concern about blowing such an agent's cover is also no longer just a fantasy concocted for a film: Valerie Plame Wilson was a NOC agent, and her public outing as a spy jeopardized many operations she was working on, as shown in the film Fair Game (2010).
The formidable task of lighting Prague at night presented cinematographer Stephen H. Burum and his crew with a complex array of logistics. Two miles of riverfront on either side of Prague's historic Charles Bridge had to be predominantly back lit in order to best evoke an atmosphere of old Europe. The preparation alone consumed some two weeks before the 12-day shoot along the banks of the Vltava River even began. Eleven generators were used to power hundreds of lights, and so impressive was the end result, amateur and professional Czech photographers appeared in droves, eager to capture their city's night scape as it had never been seen before.
When Jim Phelps is getting his mission on the airplane, his team is shown one by one. In the dossiers there are aliases. The aliases are as follows: for Jack Harmon (Emilio Estevez), his alias is "Tony Baretta" (the character from the cop show Baretta (1975). For Sarah Davies (Kristin Scott Thomas), her alias is "'Sarah Walker'", Hannah Williams' (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) alias is Pauline Brady, and Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) alias is Phillipe Douchette.
The scene in which the water tank explodes and Ethan Hunt escapes from the restaurant were shot at two different locations. The tank explosion and Hunt's jump through the restaurant window were shot at Paramount Studios. The portion of the scene in which he is running into the streets of Prague with the water running behind him were actually shot in Prague.
Alan Silvestri was originally hired to score the film, and had written roughly twenty-three minutes of music before he was taken off. He recycled the material he had written and used it for the score to Eraser (1996). Bootleg copies of his "Mission: Impossible" score are in circulation.
The main lobby of CIA Headquarters at Langley was actually shot inside County Hall, London. The helipad next to Tower Bridge where Kitteridge lands does not exist and was specially built for the film and removed afterwards. The site is a public park.
The helicopter in the climactic action scene is an MD Helicopters 520N NOTAR. NOTAR (an acronym derived from the phrase "no tail rotor") generates torque-countering thrust by creating laminar air flow around its tail boom instead of by using a traditional tail rotor.
Peter Graves, who played Jim Phelps in Mission: Impossible (1966), turned down the opportunity to reprise his role in the movie after he learned that his character was to be killed off at the end of the movie. He also turned the role down because of the negative handling of the character, which in turn led to the other cast members of the old series to turn down their cameo offers as well. Greg Morris, who played Barney Collier in the original series, walked out of the film halfway through, citing displeasure with the turning of the Jim Phelps' character and the overall production.
Emilio Estevez was cast in the role of Jack Harmon to create a sense of shock in the audience when he died early in the film. The film makers felt that casting a well-known actor in the role would increase the impact of Jack Harmon's death.