HTF at the Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol Blu-ray Launch - Interviews, Director Q&A + More!

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Neil Middlemiss, Apr 14, 2012.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer

    Nov 15, 2001
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    Neil Middlemiss

    HomeTheaterForum was recently invited to attend the launch of Paramount’s

    Director Brad Bird answered questions moderated by the International Spy Museum’s founding Executive Director Peter Earnest. Brad talks about working with Tom Cruise, setting up the now famous stunt sequence as Tom Cruise scales the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and how his experiences working on The Simpson’s informs his work to this day.

    Dale Shelton – Technical Advisor Interview


    Dale is a relatively slight man who fell somewhat happenstance into the role of technical advisor to some of Hollywood’s biggest productions over the last few years. In addition to providing technology advice on Brad Bird’s live-action directorial debut, Dale gave technical advice to Michael Mann on 2010’s Public Enemies and most recently consulted briefly on the upcoming Superman reboot, Man of Steel. Trained as a forensic accountant, Dale is quickly becoming a go-to contact leveraging his experience in SWAT, weapons, espionage technology and clandestine technique.

    Dale Shelton and I spoke in a large but mostly empty room on the second floor of Washington DC’s International Spy Museum, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year (and celebrating the more than 7 million people who have taken the splendid tour).

    HTF: Thanks for taking the time to talk to HomeTheaterForum today. What type of weapons expertise did you offer for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

    Dale: Well first let me say what I've done with prior films is really focus on weapons, tactics and weapon-related accessories, whether it's aiming systems or illumination systems or that kind of thing. Although I did provide some of that information for Mission Impossible I branched off from that. They had the good fortune of having Harry Lou and he is a fantastic wealth of information. I got more into other aspects of the film; biometric systems, the nano air vehicles and that kind of stuff. Some gadgets didn't quite make it in the film because the script evolves over time. There were some early versions of the script where we worked on target designators and fusion vision which is fusing night vision, thermal vision and that kind of thing. Also remote heartbeat sensors and a few other things

    HTF: So did you keep them grounded in reality or were you there to help bridge the gap between some future-looking technology?

    Dale: Well that was a question early on that we all needed to resolve. And ultimately that was a decision of Brad Bird and the decision was to try as much as possible to ground the technology with what we currently had available but take it another generation ahead. Now some of the technology in the film is admittedly more than one generation ahead like the sticky gloves, but even with those, there is research actively going into that type of technology, but it is a very long way off probably. Some of the technology is much closer such as the ability to take a mobile DNA sample, or do a retinal scan and have a result very quickly. We do have that ability with retinal scans but we don't have it with DNA yet, but it's getting very close. Who knows what the top secret units of the government that might be a lot like IMF are using (laughs).

    HTF: So are you privy to some technologies that you couldn't share even if you wanted to?

    Dale: I share what I can (smiles)

    HTF: Delicately put. So, when you watch films do you ever get frustrated watching Hollywood productions that don't seem to have put in the time and effort that productions like Ghost Protocol did in hiring you?

    Dale: Well, I think we all do. Whether you're an attorney or a doctor or a police officer or whatever you do for a living you're going to scrutinize. I do think that in Ghost Protocol they, they went the extra mile. I've been very fortunate for all the films that I've worked on that it has been important to the production. It's been important to the director. It's been important to the prop master or the property department to get it as right as you can within the parameters of what the director's trying to show in the film.

    HTF: Right. So, were you on set? Did you do it in pre-production or, how did it work…

    Dale: It has been different with each film but with Ghost Protocol it was not on set, although I was asked early on if I would be available to go wherever. I was told they're gonna be filming in various locations around the world and would I be available on very short notice to go and provide training, which I've done in the past to provide training on set. But for this particular film it ended up being Internet, telephone and some video chats in there.

    HTF: And you're, you're working on Man of Steel now.

    Dale: I had a very small job on that. I'm not really sure what I can disclose. Again, you sign these non-disclosure agreements

    HTF: Right.

    Dale: So I don't know exactly what I can say about it.

    HTF: I won't ask you any questions to get you in trouble.

    Dale: But I'm done with that film. It was a small peice of the film that I worked on.

    HTF: Anybody talked to you about Mission Impossible 5 yet?

    Dale: No

    HTF: But you'd be willing to come back if they did?

    Dale: I think that we have some technologies that may be good for Mission Impossible 5. We'll see.

    HTF: Favorite movie?

    Dale: Favorite movie…Any genre?

    HTF: Anything.

    Dale: Other than Ghost Protocol? (laughs)

    HTF: Obviously. (laughs)

    Dale: I'm a big fan of Die Hard.

    HTF: Ah, outstanding.

    Dale: Yeah, a big fan of Die Hard.

    HTF: So, was it Die Hard that got you interested in liaising with Hollywood productions, or were you just called out of the blue

    Dale: It was literally out of the blue. I met someone and was introduced to Michael Mann and we started talking and he is very detail oriented and we spoke about the Colt Model 1911 A1 pistol – about different variations and advancements. We probably spent 45 minutes talking about it and the next thing I know I get a call asking me if I'd be willing to provide some assistance with a film. It's nothing I ever really aspired to so I thought it was a joke, quite honestly. But we got it worked out and and I worked on that film and, and met a lot of people through that film.

    HTF: And were an extra on Public Enemies as well.

    Dale: Uh –

    HTF: At least you're credited as such.

    Dale: Yeah. I actually appeared in a film and I got a SAG card and everything, so.

    HTF: Quite the journey.

    Dale: I had a line in a film and it was cut, but

    HTF: Such is life.

    Dale: – such is life.

    HTF: Well, thanks very much for speaking with us today.

    Dale: You’re welcome, thanks


    Props from Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - All Images Neil Middlemiss

    Intelligence Community Q&A

    A panel of experts in espionage, weapons, spy gadgetry and disguise took part in a Q&A moderated by Peter Earnest, the founding executive director of the International Spy Museum (and 35 year veteran of the CIA). The panelist included Dale Shelton, the film’s weapons and technical expert; General Oleg Danilovich Kalugin, retired Major General in the 1st Chief Directorate of the KGB, Jonna Hiestand Mendez, former Chief of Disguise for the CIA and specialist in clandestine photography, and David G. Major, former Director of Counterintelligence, Intelligence and Security Programs for the FBI)


    Director Brad Bird listens as a handwriting expert details how his written word reveals a great deal of information about his personality. This image courtesy of Paramount Pictures (I can be seen in the background in the beige sweater ;).
  2. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer

    Nov 15, 2001
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    Real Name:
    Neil Middlemiss
    Additional Q&A sessions provided courtesy of Paramount Pictures:


    Q: Hey Jeremy. Congratulations on Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Not only was it a huge box office success in its films release, but you actually managed to survive making the film. That's a surprise considering the amazing stunts in the movie.
    A: (Laughs) Yes, it's good to be alive. There are some amazing set pieces, my friend.

    Q: Let's talk about the biggest one. It involves Tom Cruise hanging outside the tallest building in the world - the Burj Khalifa - which stands almost 830 metres (2,723 feet) high in Dubai. Can you talk about the stunt?
    A: Yes. As you say, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. It's twice the size of the Empire State building in New York. We were on the the top of it and it is so high that when you look down it is like the view from a plane. It's intense. All the stunts are practical and that made that a lot of fun. There's a lot of challenges to overcome, but luckily we had a man like Tom to lead the way.

    Q: I think the best thing about the stunt in respect to you is while Tom Cruise is hanging outside the building 800 metres above the Earth, you are actually safely tucked away in the building. Good for you!
    A: Exactly (laughs). We just had to sit inside and sip on some tea. We didn't have to do all of that.

    Q: The craziest thing about that stunt is it is actually Tom Cruise. It's not a digital Tom Cruise or a stunt man posing as Tom Cruise hanging off the building.
    A: That's right. It's Tom.

    Q: So while you were inside sipping tea, how was Tom? Was he freaking out being outside and so high up or was he having fun?
    A: Oh yeah he was having fun. He was smiling ear to ear between takes.

    Q: That's incredible.
    A: I think he has a lot of mountain climbing experience and one of the stunt guys behind him was one of the top mountain climbers, so being on a wire, he was as comfortable as hanging on a rock. That's strange enough in itself. But hanging off a building like that? Maybe it's not new to him. Maybe it is, but he certainly was enjoying himself (laughs).

    Q: Tom Cruise, of course, returns to the Mission: Impossible franchise as Ethan Hunt, team leader of the Impossible Missions Friends (IMF) espionage agency. Can you tell us who you play and a bit about the movie's plot?
    A: Sure. I play Will Brandt. He's the chief analyst for the secretary (Tom Wilkinson) who is the head of the IMF. The IMF gets shut down essentially right after all of our characters converge - Ethan Hunt, Will Brandt and the secretary. Things go awry. Then everything shuts down, we become rogue agents essentially and hence 'ghost protocol'. We are thrust together to overcome great obstacles and within that dynamic of the four agents you realize that not everybody is who they say they are or who they appear to be. It's a spy franchise and you never know with spies. If they are good, bad or where their allegiances lie. That's the case in this movie.

    Q: You must be happy with your career. You first came on to Hollywood's radar in 2002 in Dahmer, playing the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and had some great roles in the years after. But, your life changed in 2009 with The Hurt Locker. You were nominated for an Oscar. The film won best picture. How do you feel about the ride you have been on since The Hurt Locker?
    A: It's amazing. The Hurt Locker definitely changed everything for me. I'm getting opportunities now that are just amazing. Roles that I could only dream about and big, huge films like Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

    Q: And you're taking over as the face of the Bourne franchise from Matt Damon. How do you feel about climbing to what some would say is mega stardom in Hollywood?
    A: I have no idea (laughs). I have certainly enjoyed working. I can tell you that. There have been a lot of wonderful of opportunities I have seemingly stumbled across with Mission being the first big monster out of the gate. I enjoyed the heck out of that and ever since then it has been more action movies after that. Who knows what the future holds?

    Q: You definitely have been busy.
    A: Yeah. I know what I do need. I need a nap (laughs).

    Q: Can you talk about growing up in Modesto, California, and what made you want to be an actor?
    A: Modesto is a small town. I love the place. I love going back there. It is my community, but it is a long way away from Hollywood in many respects. As a young man in Modesto, I found acting very therapeutic. I could become other people. I could explore different characters. The more I acted the more I fell in love with it.

    Q: Is it true your first paid acting job was with the local police?
    A: (Laughs) Yeah. I was at school and this man came in and told me he would pay me $50 if I helped train some police academy cadets. So I went along and they told me I had to act like someone resisting arrest. That's what I had to do. I had to freak out and kick and punch. It was a fun way to make $50 back then.

    Q: Thanks Jeremy.
    A: Thanks mate.


    Q: Hey Paula. Let's start with the obvious question. What is it like working with Tom Cruise?
    A: Amazing. Honestly, it was a dream come true. I always thought he was an amazing actor from the first time I saw Risky Business. The movie that had a huge impact on me was Born on the Fourth of July. I was blown away how he played the all-American charming guy, goes away to Vietnam, is crippled and what he goes through. It blew me away. I remember very distinctly the moment I was told I would have a screen test with Tom. It was very old Hollywood the way they did it. It was at the Paramount lot, I had my own trailer and hair, make-up and costume. I have never had that before for a screen test. They put me in a golf cart and took me to the sound stage and I said to myself 'OK, don't freak out'. It was a great thing. We met each other and I was immediately at ease. We had great chemistry and a connection. It is because he is very human in that way. He is so kind to everyone whether it is a personal assistant, grip or gaffer. He just has great humanity about him and that's why he's so special.

    Q: Who do you play in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol?
    A: I play Jane Carter, an IMF agent. I have had a mission that went awry. Myself and Simon Pegg's character have to break Ethan Hunt out of jail. There's a bombing at the Kremlin and it gets pinned on us even know we did not do it. We get disavowed from the IMF and that's where Ghost Protocol comes into it. We are still working, but the government won't save us. It is a scary place to be. Also, because we are all thrown together as a team and Jeremy Renner's character joins us we don't know the other's motivations. We don't know who to trust. Jane is great character to play. She is very strong and lives in a man's world. She's vulnerable because she has experienced failure and loss and has to prove herself again. She is in a place of turmoil and also she is living on the edge because she has one chance to make what is wrong, right.

    Q: The stunts are amazing in the film?
    A: The great thing was I was able to do all of my own stunts. It was very physical. I got to have fights and gun play. I wasn't forced to do all of my own stunts, but I'm a very competitive person and once I heard Tom was doing it I had to do all of mine. My stunts weren't as death-defying as Tom hanging off the Burj Khalifa, but it was really fun.

    Q: What was that like watching Tom perform that stunt on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world?
    A: I remember doing my make-up the first day he did it and praying that nothing happened to him. I knew I was replaceable and the rest of us are replaceable, but if anything happens to this man this movie is over (laughs). Thank God nothing did (laughs).

    Q: The Burj is 829.84m tall. Were you up there with Tom?
    A: I was. They took the window out of the room we were in on the 134th floor. It was a few below the top. Tom was truly hanging out the window. Jeremy was in a harness but because my dress was too tight I could't be in a harness. They had a little ankle strap and a man hanging on to that.

    Q: Did you suffer any injuries during filming?
    A: I did get a few bruises and scrapes, but the most challenging thing in the end was the fight I had with the beautiful French actress Lea Seydoux. Usually they don't have actors doing the fight together because they are afraid we might scratch each other (laughs). We did it together and worked really hard to make it look as real as possible. It was like a dance. It was fun. We gave each other a few scrapes and bruises but no black eyes (laughs).

    Q: How important is this time for you? You have been in some great films like Precious, the blockbuster Mission: Impossible and you also have a young son, Julian.
    A: My son was five-months-old when I got Mission: Impossible so I call him my lucky charm. I didn't expect this role. When they asked me to read I didn't think I had a chance. I thought 'I have other things to do'. But they said 'Go in. They really want to see you. See Brad Bird the director'. I read for Brad and thought I did a terrible job. I cried and said 'Why did I do that? I'm embarrassed.' But, they called me the next day and said they wanted me to do a screen test with Tom.

    Q: Why did you think you did a terrible job?
    A: It was hard to tell with the people in the room. You do it and they said 'Great, thank you'. That's it. I wanted to jump off the nearest balcony. That's life as an actor. The next day they call you and you say 'Yes, yes, yes. Of course they liked it' (Laughs). I'm so insecure.

    Q: What kind of roles would you like to do in the future?
    A: I don't know. I'm on a journey. I hope one day I get to a place where I choose everything myself and create roles. Right now I am at the mercy of what comes my way, so I'm just trying to enjoy the journey. I can't say what the result will be. I love acting and what will be will be.

    Q: This is the first time Brad has made a live action movie. He's known for his Pixar animated films Ratatouille and The Incredibles, so what was he like on set?
    A: Everybody maybe was a little bit nervous about that, but he is a visionary beyond. When you think about Ratatouille and The Incredibles and he created both universes, all the characters and even some of the voices, he is a really unique individual and impressive. He doesn't raise his voice. He got angry a couple of times but still very low and knows exactly what he wants. All an actor wants is director who is decisive.The difficult thing is I heard him say 'In animation you have perfection and with human beings you can't do that' so you just try to please him. I learned a lot from him about sound design because that is important in animation. He would talk to us a lot about the rhythm of the dialogue, fast and slow, or the musicality of it. I never thought about it before and changed my approach as an actor for the next movie I did. He is a brilliant man.

    Q: This was a global film. What places to did you shoot in?
    A: They shot in Moscow, Mumbai, Dubai, Prague and Vancouver but most of our work was in Prague, Dubai and Vancouver. It was an incredible experience, especially Dubai because I have never been to the Middle East before. As liberal as I see myself to be and not prejudiced, we are influenced by the west, but I was blown away. It opened my heart and mind in ways I couldn't possibly have imagined.

    Q: In what way?
    A: In terms of the culture. I think it is easy to judge people when you are in the west. I saw families, mothers and children living a life that is not normal to us, but was clearly satisfying and beautiful. I just thought it was terrible to judge people based on what you know. I saw people there happy. You see men who are very family orientated with children walking to the mall. I found it to be a beautiful place.

    Q: Did you ask Tom for any advice?
    A: It's interesting. I learn a lot from observing. I said to him 'Please, if you think I shouldn't do anything the way I'm doing it, please tell me' and he said 'Of course'. He's very generous that way. He wants everybody to do a great job.

    Q: How do you juggle your career with motherhood?
    A: I have an amazing Mum myself and she comes with me. I also take my son everywhere with me. The thing is you live with less sleep. The lunch break you have on set you don't have by yourself. You just learn to live without sleep and time for yourself never exists. It's OK because my son is the best thing that has ever happened to me. He's my good luck charm.

    Q: It was a physical role so I bet you had to work out a lot to be prepared.
    A: Yeah. To be an IMF agent you have to be fit and my son was only five months old. I had some work to do. The first month was the hardest thing to do. I couldn't breathe, then after a month I got into this other place.

    Q: What was your exercise regime?
    A: It was two-and-a-half hours of physical training and and hour to an hour-and-half of weapons training five days a week. We continued it when we began training so when we weren't filming we were training.
  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    Great coverage, Neil. Really enjoyed looking through all of this.... much so I actually preordered the film through Amazon.

    Wasn't going to buy it blindly (have yet to see this film) but based
    on your coverage and a nice price drop from Amazon today, I went
    ahead and bought it.

    I'm certain I'll enjoy this film.
  4. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

    Mar 16, 1999
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    I see that Best Buy has an exclusive 3 disc set. The second disc being extra supplements and the third disc being the DVD. And the price is $3 more then the Amazon price.
  5. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

    Nov 15, 2004
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    The basement of the FBI building
    The day of release (today), Best Buy has their version on sale for $20 and then it goes up to $23 for the rest of the week.
  6. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

    Mar 16, 1999
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    Oh yes, that's true Travis. Makes it a great deal on par with Amazon, unless they try to undercut BB.
  7. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

    Oct 31, 1997
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    No idea Renner was from Modesto. We have so few celebs come from there you'd think I'd have known that, especially since he's only a few years older than I am. Of course, unlike Jeremy, I don't look forward to going back and visiting family (the family I love, the city...not so much).
  8. NY2LA

    NY2LA Screenwriter

    Nov 3, 2011
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    I've heard there is a supp on the BB edition where the director talks about IMAX and movie presentation. That interests me more than the movie so I wonder if it will be on a disc I can rent from Netflix or if it will end up on youtube...
  9. Adam Gregorich


    Nov 20, 1999
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    The Other Washington
    Real Name:
    Thanks Neil! All through the movie I kept thinking the building scenes were some of the best CGI I had seen, figuring they would never really find a building or actor to really hang in the wind so to speak only to find out that they found both!

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