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16 Feasible Facts About the Mission: Impossible Movies

The Tom Cruise-starring Mission: Impossible movie franchise brought new life and peel-off faces to the classic television series that inspired it. With its fifth installment, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, in theaters now, there’s no better time to look back—from a dangerously fast-moving vehicle for style points if you wish—at how we got here.

1. IT WAS TOM CRUISE'S IDEA TO TURN THE SHOW INTO A MOVIE.

The TV series Mission: Impossible aired on CBS from 1966 to 1973, and was briefly revived on ABC for two seasons in the late 1980s. Cruise was a fan of the original show and wanted to adapt it to the big screen for Paramount Pictures, who owned the rights.

2. THE TV ACTORS WEREN'T HAPPY WITH THE FILM VERSION.

Greg Morris, the man who played Barney Collier, left the first movie early, and presumably didn’t see any of the sequels. Peter Graves wasn’t pleased that the one character name they kept was the name of his TV character, Jim Phelps (played in the Mission: Impossible movie by Jon Voight). Martin Landau (Rollin Hand) revealed that in an early script, the old TV gang was supposed to appear briefly before getting killed, which he didn’t appreciate.

3. THE TV DIRECTOR WAS TOLD TO GO AWAY.

Reza Badiyi was behind the camera for more episodes of the Mission: Impossible series on ABC than anyone else, and was invited by Paramount to consult on the movie. Director Brian De Palma (very nicely) approached Badiyi on set and told him the movie wouldn’t be anything like the TV show, and that having him on set would make things uncomfortable. Badiyi thanked him for his candor and never came back.

4. JULIETTE BINOCHE AND RACHEL MCADAMS TURNED DOWN LEAD PARTS.

Binoche—who won an Oscar for The English Patient, which came out the same year as the first Mission: Impossible film—said no to playing Claire Phelps, not wanting to become completely known for appearing in American blockbusters (Emmanuelle Béart said yes). For M:I-3, McAdams opted not to play Ethan Hunt’s fiancée Julia Mead (Michelle Monaghan's part).

5. CRUISE AND VOIGHT DEALT WITH BIG WIND MACHINES IN THEIR FACES.

Cruise and Voight’s faces were up against a wind machine blowing gusts of up to 140 miles per hour. Cruise had dinner with the owners of the French high-speed TGV train service to convince them to let them film on it.

6. APPLE PAID $15 MILLION TO HAVE THEIR PERSONAL COMPUTERS IN THE FIRST MOVIE.

The money was also for print and TV ads, and Apple also launched an online game related to the movie. The company claimed that the 1996 agreement was the first partnership between a studio and a major high-tech firm to promote a movie.

7. SIR IAN MCKELLEN TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF SWANBECK IN MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II.

He felt that he couldn’t determine if the movie was any good after only receiving the parts of the script with his scenes in it, so McKellen turned the producers down (they ultimately went with Sir Anthony Hopkins). The next day, the actor was offered the part of Magneto and then Gandalf.

8. ROBERT TOWNE WAS STILL WRITING THE SCRIPT FOR THE SEQUEL AFTER FILMING HAD BEEN COMPLETED.

After needing to write around the big action sequences that were already planned, the Oscar-winning screenwriter was repeatedly flown in to continue rewriting the script during filming. This continued even when the movie was being editing.

9. SCARLETT JOHANSSON, KENNETH BRANAGH, CARRIE-ANNE MOSS, AND RICKY GERVAIS WERE ALL SLATED TO STAR IN M:I-3.

When production on the movie was pushed back because Cruise decided to work on War of the Worlds instead, original director David Fincher left due to “creative differences,” then another director—Joe Carnahan—walked away. Johannson left officially due to a scheduling conflict, and Gervais eventually left, too (Simon Pegg got his part instead). 

10. CRUISE MET KATIE HOLMES WHEN SHE AUDITIONED TO PLAY HIS FIANCÉE.

The role Holmes auditioned for (that McAdams initially turned down) eventually went to Michelle Monaghan.

11. J.J. ABRAMS GOT THE DIRECTOR GIG FOR THE THIRD MOVIE THANKS TO ALIAS.

Cruise binged on DVDs of Abrams’s spy show and liked it so much that he offered him his first job directing a movie.

12. ETHAN HUNT’S HOUSE WAS MADE TO LOOK JUST LIKE ABRAMS’S HOUSE.

When needing Cruise’s character to have an average, middle-class abode for the start of M:I-3, the director asked the production designer to design it just like his Los Angeles home. Abrams apparently found the similarity “a little disturbing.”

13. MAGGIE Q LEARNED HOW TO DRIVE FOR M:I-3.

The actress learned how to drive with a Lamborghini, which she said meant that driving was a downhill experience ever since: "What do you do after that?"

14. PARAMOUNT’S PROMOTION FOR THE THIRD MOVIE LED TO PANIC AND DESTRUCTION.

Paramount placed digital audio players that played the Mission: Impossible theme song when the doors to 4500 random vending boxes containing copies of the Los Angeles Times were opened. When some of the players came loose and landed on top of stacks of newspapers visible to anyone walking by or opening the boxes, they were confused for bombs. One newsstand was blown up by the Los Angeles County arson squad for precautionary reasons.

15. CRUISE CLIMBED THE TALLEST BUILDING IN THE WORLD FOR GHOST PROTOCOL.

Usually performing his own stunts, Cruise topped himself by scaling the 2722-foot-tall Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai without use of a stunt double.

16. HE ALSO WAS ACTUALLY OUTSIDE OF THE PLANE IN ROGUE NATION.

Similar to France’s TGV train employees for the first film, France’s Airbus Group plane company initially refused to loan a plane out of safety concerns for Cruise, until ultimately relenting. After testing with a dummy, Cruise performed eight takes of the scene in which he is tethered to the side of the plane—5000 feet up in the air, going 184 miles per hour. If something went wrong, the door was assembled so that he could be pulled inside the plane.

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Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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10 Fascinating Facts About Ella Fitzgerald
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Today marks what would have been the 101st birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, the pioneering jazz singer who helped revolutionize the genre. But the iconic songstress’s foray into the music industry was almost accidental, as she had planned to show off her dancing skills when she made her stage debut. Celebrate the birthday of the artist known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, or just plain ol’ Lady Ella with these fascinating facts.

1. SHE WAS A JAZZ FAN FROM A YOUNG AGE.

Though she attempted to launch her career as a dancer (more on that in a moment), Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz enthusiast from a very young age. She was a fan of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, and truly idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. “She was tops at the time,” Fitzgerald said in 1988. “I was attracted to her immediately. My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I tried so hard to sound just like her.”

2. SHE DABBLED IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES AS A TEENAGER.

A photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Carl Van Vechten - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Fitzgerald’s childhood wasn’t an easy one. Her stepfather was reportedly abusive to her, and that abuse continued following the death of Fitzgerald’s mother in 1932. Eventually, to escape the violence, she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. While she had been a great student when she was younger, it was following that move that her dedication to education faltered. Her grades dropped and she often skipped school. But she found other ways to fill her days, not all of them legal: According to The New York Times, she worked for a mafia numbers runner and served as a police lookout at a local brothel. Her illicit activities eventually landed her in an orphanage, followed by a state reformatory.

3. SHE MADE HER STAGE DEBUT AT THE APOLLO THEATER.

In the early 1930s, Fitzgerald was able to make a little pocket change from the tips she made from passersby while singing on the streets of Harlem. In 1934, she finally got the chance to step onto a real (and very famous) stage when she took part in an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on November 21, 1934. It was her stage debut.

The then-17-year-old managed to wow the crowd by channeling her inner Connee Boswell and belting out her renditions of “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” She won, and took home a $25 prize. Here’s the interesting part: She entered the competition as a dancer. But when she saw that she had some stiff competition in that department, she opted to sing instead. It was the first big step toward a career in music.

4. A NURSERY RHYME HELPED HER GET THE PUBLIC’S ATTENTION.

Not long after her successful debut at the Apollo, Fitzgerald met bandleader Chick Webb. Though he was initially reluctant to hire her because of what The New York Times described as her “gawky and unkempt” appearance, her powerful voice won him over. "I thought my singing was pretty much hollering," she later said, "but Webb didn't."

Her first hit was a unique adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she helped to write based on what she described as "that old drop-the-handkerchief game I played from 6 to 7 years old on up."

5. SHE WAS PAINFULLY SHY.

Though it certainly takes a lot of courage to get up and perform in front of the world, those who knew and worked with Fitzgerald said that she was extremely shy. In Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz, trumpeter Mario Bauzá—who played with Fitzgerald in Chick Webb’s orchestra—explained that “she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music … She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."

6. SHE MADE HER FILM DEBUT IN AN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MOVIE.

As her IMDb profile attests, Fitzgerald contributed to a number of films and television series over the years, and not just to the soundtracks. She also worked as an actress on a handful of occasions (often an actress who sings), beginning with 1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy, a comedy-western starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

7. SHE GOT SOME HELP FROM MARILYN MONROE.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Fitzgerald said in a 1972 interview in Ms. Magazine. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard … After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Though it has often been reported that the club’s owner did not want to book Fitzgerald because she was black, it was later explained that his reluctance wasn’t due to Fitzgerald’s race; he apparently didn’t believe that she was “glamorous” enough for the patrons to whom he catered.

8. SHE WAS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN TO WIN A GRAMMY.

Ella Fitzgerald
William P. Gottlieb - LOC, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Among her many other accomplishments, in 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award. Actually, she won two awards that night: one for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.

9. HER FINAL PERFORMANCE WAS AT CARNEGIE HALL.

On June 27, 1991, Fitzgerald—who had, at that point, recorded more than 200 albums—performed at Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she had performed at the venue, and it ended up being her final performance.

10. SHE LOST BOTH OF HER LEGS TO DIABETES.

In her later years, Fitzgerald suffered from a number of health problems. She was hospitalized a handful of times during the 1980s for everything from respiratory problems to exhaustion. She also suffered from diabetes, which took much of her eyesight and led to her having to have both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1993. She never fully recovered from the surgery and never performed again. She passed away at her home in Beverly Hills on June 15, 1996.

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Warner Bros. Entertainment
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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in May
Warner Bros. Entertainment
Warner Bros. Entertainment

While Netflix has got plenty of laughs in store for its streaming customers next month, the loss of several contemporary classic films likes Goodfellas, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Hurt Locker means that if you’re in desperate need of a British rom-com fix or badass Scorsese crime drama fix, you’d better start streaming. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in May.

MAY 1

Bridget Jones’s Diary
Casper
Chappie
Charlotte’s Web
Field of Dreams
Goodfellas
Ocean’s Eleven
Sahara
Silent Hill
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Hurt Locker
To Rome With Love
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

MAY 2

12 Dates of Christmas
Beauty & the Briefcase
Cadet Kelly
Camp Rock
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
Cow Belles
Cyberbully
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 2
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls: One World
Frenemies
Geek Charming
Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas
Hello Sister, Goodbye Life
High School Musical
High School Musical 2
Jump In!
Lemonade Mouth
Little Einsteins: Seasons 1 – 2
My Fake Fiancé
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension
Phineas and Ferb: Seasons 1 – 4
Princess Protection Program
Princess: A Modern Fairytale
Read It and Weep
Revenge of the Bridesmaids
Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure
Special Agent Oso: Seasons 1 – 2
StarStruck
Teen Spirit
The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Seasons 1 – 5
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie

MAY 7

The Host

MAY 12

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

MAY 30

Disney’s The Jungle Book

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