MOVIES : IMPOSSIBLE DREAM? : Your Mission, Mr. De Palma . . .


The script for the film version of “Mission: Impossible” may be turning out to be just that.

The Paramount Pictures remake of the ‘60s and early ‘70s secret-agent series is finally under way, and will be directed by Brian De Palma and produced by Paula Wagner, partner of the film’s star, Tom Cruise. Willard Huyck (“American Graffiti,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”) and his wife, Gloria, are in the midst of a rewrite on their original script, but sources close to the project say there’s a chance that another writer--perhaps Jay Cocks (who co-wrote “The Age of Innocence”)--may be brought in to smooth away the current draft’s clumsiness.

The problem is not the story line, which, sources say, Wagner and crew are happy with. Rather, it’s the “bad dialogue and scenes that aren’t being flushed out. In other words: a bad TV script,” said one project source.


The beginning of the movie, which is slated to begin production later this year, supposedly has members of the old “Mission: Impossible” team, including Peter Graves, embarked on a secret governmental assignment, toting Cruise, the team’s youngest operative, along. All are killed except for Cruise. His mission becomes forming a new team to find out why his colleagues were assassinated. And there is a love interest for the young agent.

For those whose memories are rusty: There were several teams on the TV series, but the most memorable included Peter Graves as the team leader, James Phelps; Martin Landau as the disguise expert, Rollin Hand; Barbara Bain as the beautiful seductress and fashion model, Cinnamon Carter; Greg Morris as the electronics expert, Barney Collier, and Peter Lupus as the strongman, Willie Armitage.

The opening of each episode had Phelps hearing a tape-recorded message outlining his next assignment. The tape would self-destruct and Phelps would scan his dossiers for the best operatives to handle the assignment. But they always ended up being the same agents, except for a few guest operatives. Their mission was always thwarting some corrupt power in an obscure country.

Eventually, the show ran out of little countries, so its writers turned the focus on cleaning up organized crime back home. The team’s success always hinged on split-second timing, sophisticated gadgetry and elaborate plans.

While the familiar staccato theme written by Lalo Schifrin and Bob Johnson’s voice on the tape survived the entire series run from 1966 to 1973, the cast underwent many changes; Landau and Bain, married in real life, left the show at the end of the 1968-69 season.

A Paramount spokesman confirmed that the studio had received the Huycks’ first draft, describing it as having a “lot of theatrical elements” that advance the TV show’s premise. He said that the filmmakers considered the potential for the script “excellent,” and are convinced the outcome will be a “high-octane film.”

As for a reputed meeting between Wagner, Cocks and De Palma (his friend of 25 years), the Paramount spokesman said that the writer is working on another script for Cruise, a love story called “Night Magic.” Any discussion of Cocks’ input on “Mission: Impossible,” he said, could have been brought up in discussions on the other project.*