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.
The scene in which the water tank explodes and Ethan Hunt escapes from the Akvarium 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 street with the water running behind him were actually shot in Prague's Old Town Square.
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 his presence on the set would only result in making both of them uncomfortable. Badiyi thanked him for his honesty and left the set, never to return.
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.
The trick with the disappearing/reappearing CD, that Ethan Hunt does to fool a crew member, is not a camera trick or any other SFX, but a "genuine" slight-of-hand trick (and a fairly simple one at that).
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.
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 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).
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.
In the scene where Ethan Hunt studies Senator John Waltzer appearing in a TV interview, in order to impersonate him later, it is (of course) Tom Cruise himself on the TV screen. So, strictly speaking, it can be maintained that Cruise actually has two roles in this film, as Ethan Hunt and as the real Senator.
Martin Landau, who portrayed Rollin Hand in the original series, expressed his own disgust concerning the film. In an MTV interview in October 2009, Landau stated, "When they were working on an early incarnation of the first one - not the script they ultimately did - they wanted the entire team to be destroyed, done away with one at a time, and I was against that. It was basically an action-adventure movie and not Mission. Mission was a mind game. The ideal mission was getting in and getting out without anyone ever knowing we were there. So the whole texture changed. Why volunteer to essentially have our characters commit suicide? I passed on it." He added, as a condemnation of the writers, "The script wasn't that good either."
The scene that takes place in a glass-walled restaurant with a big lobster tank in the middle and three huge fish tanks overhead was Tom Cruise's idea. There were 16 tons in all of the tanks and there was a concern that when they detonated, a lot of glass would fly around. Brian De Palma tried the sequence with a stuntman, but it did not look convincing and he asked Cruise to do it, despite the possibility that the actor could have drowned.
There were rumours that Tom Cruise and Brian De Palma did not get along and they were fuelled by the director excusing himself at the last moment from scheduled media interviews before the film's theatrical release.
Apple Computer had a $15 million promotion linked to the film that included a game, print ads and television spot featuring scenes from the TV show turned into the feature film; dealer and in-theatre promos; and a placement of Apple personal computers in the film. This was an attempt on Apple's part to improve their image after posting a $740 million loss in its fiscal second quarter.
Paramount Pictures owned the rights to the television series and had tried for years to make a film version but had failed to come up with a viable treatment. Tom Cruise had been a fan of the show since he was young and thought that it would be a good idea for a film. The actor chose Mission: Impossible to be the first project of his new production company and convinced Paramount to put up a $70 million budget.
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.
The film went into pre-production without a script that the filmmakers wanted to use. Brian De Palma designed the action sequences but neither David Koepp nor Robert Towne were satisfied with the story that would make these sequences take place. Towne ended up helping organize a beginning, middle and end to hang story details on while De Palma and Koepp worked on the plot.
Initially, there was a sophisticated opening sequence that introduced a love triangle between Phelps, his wife and Ethan Hunt that was removed because it took the test audience "out of the genre", according to Brian De Palma.
Reportedly, David Koepp was paid $1 million to rewrite an original script by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. According to one project source, there were problems with dialogue and story development. However, the basic plot remained intact.
U2 bandmates Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton were fans of the TV show and knew the original theme music well, but were nervous about remaking Schifrin's legendary theme song. Clayton put together his own version in New York City and Mullen did his in Dublin on weekends between U2 recording sessions. The two musicians were influenced by Brian Eno and the European dance club scene sound of the recently finished album Passengers. They allowed Polygram to pick its favorite and they wanted both. In a month, they had two versions of the song and five remixed by DJs. All seven tracks appeared on a limited edition vinyl release.
While the TGV is an electric train powered by overhead lines, no power lines are visible above during the train scene. The TGV was instead pulled by a diesel locomotive for the needs of the movie, making the pursuit on the roof and the helicopter flying behind it possible.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
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 such a well-known actor (at the time) in the role would increase the impact of Jack Harmon's death. Coincidence or not, this would be Emilio's last appearance in a high-profile film for years to come, as his acting career had already started to fall into decline after the highly popular "Young Guns" films.
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.
The script that Tom Cruise approved called for a final showdown to take place on top of a moving train. The actor wanted to use the famously fast French train the TGV but rail authorities did not want any part of the stunt performed on their trains. When that was no longer a problem, the track was not available. Brian De Palma visited railroads on two continents trying to get permission. Cruise took the train owners out to dinner and the next day they were allowed to use it. For the actual sequence, the actor wanted wind that was so powerful that it could knock him off the train. Cruise had difficulty finding the right machine that would create the wind velocity that would look visually accurate before remembering a simulator he used while training as a skydiver. The only machine of its kind in Europe was located and acquired. Cruise had it produce winds up to 140 miles per hour so it would distort his face. Exterior shots of the train were filmed on the Glasgow South Western Line, between New Cumnock, Dumfries and Annan. Most of the sequence, however, was filmed on a stage against a blue screen for later digitizing by the visual effects team at Industrial Light & Magic.
In the theatrical cut, Clare is revealed to be working with Jim and that she helped him carry out the murders of the other IMF team members and that Ethan disguises himself as Jim, in order to confirm his suspicion of Clare's betrayal. If Clare had not been a traitor, it would most like be revealed, Clara had nothing to do with the failure of the Prague mission and the deaths of the IMF team and she does not know Jim is actually alive and Clare sees Jim and embraces him and starts crying, but the real Jim enters and is armed with a gun. Ethan is forced to remove the mask and apologises to Clare. But, as Jim is about shoot Ethan, Clare pushes Ethan out of the way and is shot and killed.
Nicolas Cage, who was considered to play Ethan Hunt, later worked with Brian De Palma on Snake Eyes (1998), which was also written by David Koepp and also involved a conspiracy and the hero's friend who turns out to be the villain of the film just like this one.