If he’s still known for winning a Best Screenplay Oscar for 1995’s Usual Suspects, Christopher McQuarrie’s next best identification is for being Tom Cruise’s go-to-guy. Sometimes that’s as writer or script doctor, but now more commonly it’s as writer, producer, director, and being Cruise’s accomplice in problem solving the star/producer’s many complex screen vehicles. They took it to another level on Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, a cracking good summer movie that heads into opening weekend with strong reviews and buzz, and a clear indication that the 53-year old Cruise can play Ethan Hunt for as long as he cares to risk his life with stunts no other superstar would dare try. Here, McQuarrie shares why they pair so well, and what it is like for a director to harmlessly wonder aloud if it would be possible to survive strapped to the exterior door of an airborne jet plane, and then pray that Tom Cruise is still tethered when the take is done and the plane lands.

DEADLINE: I  watched the opening scene in the movie with that crazy airplane stunt knowing we would speak, and couldn’t help by wonder. As that unfolded and that plane took off, how big a part of you was thinking, I’m going to be remembered as the guy who killed Hollywood’s biggest movie star of the last 50 years?

Tom Cruise Mission Impossible Rogue NationMCQUARRIE: That was the thought I was constantly struggling to push to the back of my mind. Having done some really crazy stuff with Tom over several movies, this was the one where I thought, something truly terrible could happen. There were just so many more variables than we are accustomed to. When Tom is driving a car, Tom is the variable; he’s in control of the car. When Tom is strapped to the side of the plane, he’s at the mercy of so many things, from the pilot to debris on the runway, to birds in the air. That’s really where I was most nervous. I had grown so accustomed to looking at Tom and saying, ‘you got this, you’re sure?’ And he’d look at me like, are you kidding? And take off in whatever car he’s driving or stunt he’s about to take on. Despite appearing to be reckless as a daredevil, he’s very calculated, very careful and smart in the way we prepare these stunts. And we hire the very best safety people in the world. He’s not a fool. But on this one, we were looking at each other and thinking, this is pretty edgy.

DEADLINE: When I once asked Tom about scaling the outside of that Abu Dhabi skycraper 124 floors up in Ghost Protocol, he said matter of factly he’d be just as dead doing the stunt on the 20th floor, so why not get the better high shot? Is there a level of fearlessness in Tom Cruise, an inherent desire to top himself?

missionimpossibleghostprotocolimage01MCQUARRIE: To speak first about what you were saying about him saying what’s the difference being outside the building so far up, you’re looking at it from the perceived danger and we look at it from the real danger. When Tom was doing that stunt, the likelihood of the safety rig breaking was less than the likelihood of Tom smashing his head into the side of the building when he was doing that giant arc leap before he cuts the rope and lands in the window. With each one of these stunts, there is the real danger versus the perceived Hollywood danger. What makes Tom do that? He’s always looking for a challenge, a new way to involve the audience firsthand in an experience they couldn’t otherwise have. He’s at heart an entertainer and that’s always first and foremost in our minds. The audience is in the room with us during every line, in a script meeting, through every moment of pre-production, production and editing. He really wants people to come to the movies and have a good time and part of that philosophy is doing things in the most photo-realistic way possible. Audiences now, more than ever, understand or think they understand how movies are made. There’s a very clear difference between doing something green screen and actually doing it. Even if you’re not fully aware, you’re feeling it subconsciously. That’s really what drives him, the desire to entertain. I liken Tom to Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, actors who were also great filmmakers and great physical comedians. How we designed these sequences is, we always go back to the very beginning. We go back and watch The General, Modern Times. And we use those for the basis for the construction of these sequences.

DEADLINE: Those were silent films done in Hollywood’s earliest days. Beyond watching and saying, well these guys did crazy stunts and survived, what can you possibly learn from them when shooting movies is so sophisticated by comparison?

harold-lloydMCQUARRIE: Structure. Storytelling. The construction of the sequence. Most importantly, our number one rule for designing an action sequence is, Ethan Hunt never wants to do the things he’s doing. He has to be forced to do those things. He’s not a daredevil, not a thrill seeker. He’s not a superhero. When you go back and look at Keaton, Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, they’re always thrust into those situations and they are overwhelmed.  That’s what makes the sequences in Mission: Impossible so unique. One of the things I love about Tom, going back to the first Mission. When you see him on that helicopter, chasing that train through the Chunnel, the helicopter explodes and Tom is blasted towards the camera. Look at the expression on his face. There is genuine terror. He’s not a steely eyed hero. He’s a guy who does not want to be there. As I told Tom at our first meeting, nobody sells, ‘Oh, sh*t!’ better than you do. He’s not afraid to look afraid. That’s what I mean when we look back at those sequences. As serious as they are, you never lose sight of the fact that Ethan Hunt would rather be anywhere else.

DEADLINE: You’ve done several movies with Tom, as writer, producer, director. What’s the hardest conversation you’ve had with Tom over something he wanted to do that was just too risky for a superstar?

misson impossibleMCQUARRIE: There is never a difficult conversation about that. It’s the opposite. You strive to come up with ideas that utilize that unique weapon you have in your arsenal. You have this guy who’s willing to do anything that physically can be done. The way the A-400 came up was, we were looking at a model of the plane as a piece of machinery that we could use in a sequence and I joked, hey that thing can take off and you can be on the side of it. He said, yeah, I can do that. Definitely I can do that. The problem with Mission: Impossible is when you say that in front of a room of people, they immediately start getting out their slide rules, figuring out how to do it. The only difficult came early for us. Tom will come with a suggestion that seems so out of left field, a narrative left turn. A lot of times it felt very challenging, consumes a lot of resources and feels like a diversion. But he was never adamant, him putting his foot down and saying, this is what I want. I realized it was Tom saying, trust me, this is going to work. I’ve learned to ignore the instinct where I would go, really? I just do it and one or two things happened. Either it enhanced the story by taking it in an unexpected direction or we both got to a place where we say, this just doesn’t work. Tom never suggests an idea and because it’s his idea he keeps drumming it. It’s never that. It’s about expanding a story and enhancing an audience’s experience when they’re watching it.

DEADLINE: Is there an example where that paid off?

MCQUARRIE: The opera house rooftop. We designed the opera sequence and I knew how big it was going to be and I was happy having Ethan and Ilsa walk out of the back door, get in the car and driving away. Tom says, it’s not enough. Anybody can walk out a back door. This is Mission: Impossible. We’ve got to make it harder for them to get out of the opera house. The led us to the rooftop, which was very challenging and had me reassessing, was this going to work? But I trusted all along that one of those two things was going to happen, that Tom was going to say, nah, it doesn’t work, or I was going to spark and say I was so glad we did this. Ultimately, it was the latter and if he hadn’t pushed me we wouldn’t have done it. And the sequence would have been so much less for it.

rogue nationDEADLINE: Mission: Impossible has established a distinctive tone, even stacked against series like The Bourne Identity and James Bond. You know those other series are what you are measured against, what were the keys that were important as you as you and Tom Cruise were constructing this?

MCQUARRIE: What Tom and I discussed at the very beginning, was about keeping the tone fun. If the audience is telling the industry anything right now, it’s that they just want to go to the movies and have a good time. We wanted to deliver on that. As far as comparisons to those other spy movies in the genre, we really just didn’t think about it. We put it out of our minds as best we could.

DEADLINE: Why?

MCQUARRIE: The truth is, if you start to think too much about it, you wind up in one of two mindsets. Either you’re trying to top whatever it is you’re comparing yourself to, or you’re desperately trying to avoid whatever it is you’re comparing yourself to, and it just leads to a dead end either way. We just kept drumming story and character, and having a good time.

DEADLINE: Your villain, played by Sean Harris, felt more like a Bond villain than the bad guys we’ve seen in previous Mission: Impossible installments. Theatrical, exotic looking, a megalomaniac. How did you end up there?

sean harrisMCQUARRIE: It started first and foremost with wanting to create a real rival for Ethan Hunt, somebody who was ahead of Ethan Hunt all the way. What Tom and I were interested in creating was a chess match between these two characters. And the villain had the upper hand and was beating Ethan at every turn. We started out by aiming toward some sort of physical confrontation between these two guys, I was really interested in something I hadn’t seen in the franchise, a villain that presented a physical threat to Ethan. But the more the movie involved, the more he became an intellectual threat. It became more a game of wits between the two of them, which is why the film ended the way that it did. Every time we tried to come up with a more classical confrontation between these two guys, the more it felt really hollow, action for action’s sake. Tom and I were adamant that any time there was action in the movie, it had to propel story, that the sequences themselves were stories within the story. Then, casting became the key. I maintain that the secret to a good villain is casting the right actor. You can write the greatest villain on earth; if the wrong person is playing him, you are dead in the water. I had seen Sean in Harry Brown and he was absolutely fantastic. Sean took some convincing. He was not interested in being in some franchise movie, or being a franchise actor. He was very reluctant in taking the role and I was grateful he trusted us.

DEADLINE: How do you convince an actor who wants no part of the blockbuster game?

rogueMCQUARRIE: By not trying to sell him. At first, Sean didn’t want to take the meeting, because he didn’t want to do a franchise movie. I said, please, just ask if he’d have a general meeting. I won’t even talk about the movie. I took an opportunity to meet an actor I admired, and I don’t usually do that. The only time I’d done a general meeting I requested, was with Tom. I sat with Sean and we just talked about everything but the business, for two hours. At the end of the meeting, I wished him luck and his representation reached out to us and said, okay. Now that he’s talked to Chris and knows who he is, Sean is interested in finding something they can do together. That led to a conversation about this character. My one regret is there is one real showcase scene with Sean and it didn’t make it into the finished film. Ironically, it was the scene that enticed Sean to do the movie in the first place. For a lot of reasons we ended up cutting it from the film. To his credit, Sean saw the finished film and was very understanding of it. Sean is a real pro, someone who came in with an apprehension of what kind of movie it was, the tone, and what the film was asking him to do. He tackled the role despite it being more or less against his religion.

DEADLINE: When he sat with you, was it because of the cred you had for your Oscar winning screenplay for The Usual Suspects? In this movie, you are constantly guessing the motivations of each character, and that sleight of hand that was done seamlessly in that film. Does that script still buy you currency?

MCQUARRIE: It does, for everybody but me.

DEADLINE: Why?

usual suspectsMCQUARRIE: The success of that movie was something I felt I had to earn, after the fact. I’m very appreciative of the praise that script received, but when something like that happens so early in your career, you’re burdened by it, in everything I do. That’s a real challenge. What emerged for me in this film, and perhaps not consciously, is it’s really not about a villain, but a world of forces that Ethan is against. Sean is merely one facet. He’s confronted by Ilsa (a shadowy agent played by Rebecca Ferguson), he’s confronted by Alec Baldwin, the CIA chief determined to destroy Ethan on one level, he’s confronted by Sean Harris, who’s determined to use Ethan on another level, and then there is Simon McBurney, as the head of MI6, another antagonist in the movie. Having time to look back at it now, I can see that it was not about one villain, but three. It’s the intelligence community as a whole that has turned against Ethan.

DEADLINE: It’s interesting to see Alec Baldwin playing the suit, the CIA bureaucrat. Call me a fossil, but It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Alec played that Ethan Hunt type role.

MCQUARRIE: Yes. Alec and Tom worked together on Rock of Ages and when I first suggested him, Tom felt there was nobody else who could play this like he can. Alec and I had an hourlong conversation over Skype. He loved Tom and was very trusting. He brought a remarkable insight to the character. He was really good at taking the script…he would come in and there would be some paragraph I had written for him, and he would rearrange it and do it in an almost musical way. He was a collaborator and so fun to watch.

DEADLINE: Your scripts are intricate and you seem good at solving creative problems on the page. That must get more complex when you’re now involved in these logistically big films. Media reports had you guys hitting the pause button to figure out a new ending when the first didn’t work well enough. How much of a struggle did you actually have?

MCQUARRIE: I’ll tell you exactly what happened. We started with a very good script by Drew Pearce. Then, Drew had to go on to another project. Once you start making small changes, it sets off a chain reaction that rearranges everything until you’re almost reinventing the script from scratch. At that point, we were in pre-production, moving down the road. The process of writing the screenplay was one of constant discovery and reinvention. We had certain things we knew we were going to do, but every ending we created felt almost perfunctory and obligatory as opposed to what the story was really asking for. It was very late in the game when we let go of the things we thought we had to do because it was Mission: Impossible and a big summer movie, and simply responded to what the movie was asking for. The events we set in motion were leading to a very specific, inevitable conclusion and we were ignoring it because it wasn’t the end of the world scenario. I was constantly writing and prepping the pages I was writing, while I was directing the movie. My schedule was Monday through Friday, shooting, Saturday scouting, Sunday writing, and the process would start all over again. At a certain point, we were simply running out of material to shoot, when we figured out the ending. We needed time to prepare the ending that we ultimately shot. It required us to shut down so we could prep the ending. What happened was, as if often the case with movies involving Tom, that wasn’t newsy enough. There was no sport in reporting on a very simple logistical challenge in the movie. It was reported that we’d shot an ending that wasn’t satisfactory and the studio didn’t like it and they were sending us back out to shoot another. You’ve been reporting on movies long enough to know, when in the world has that every happened, that somebody looked at raw footage during production and said that it’s not good enough. Go back and shoot it.

DEADLINE: Well, that’s pretty much what happened right there at Paramount on World War Z, a film which you had a hand in fixing…

wwzMCQUARRIE: In the case of every movie I’ve ever worked on, no. They finish shooting the movie, they look at it and they assess what needs fixing and they go back and fix it. They certainly don’t do that in the middle of production, where you’re taking valuable resources and shooting a movie twice. That would just be suicidal. I’ve worked on a number of movies where you look at the footage and say, none of this is ever going to work. There’s still the process of editing that has to deliver you. Nobody’s going to make that assessment, based on raw footage. The truth of the matter was, Tom and I weren’t satisfied. And we weren’t satisfied with any of the endings we had written because they simply weren’t delivering on story and character. They delivered spectacle, but they just felt empty to us and so we didn’t do it. The studio, much to their credit, was incredibly supportive during this process of discovery.

DEADLINE: I interviewed your Usual Suspects and Valkyrie collaborator Bryan Singer at Comic-Con and he explained his affection for communicating on social media by saying he wished he had it during Valkyrie when all these cataclysmic reports surfaced and the picture moved out of Germany. He said he would simply have Tweeted, We need to shoot in a desert and there are none in Germany. How much pressure does it put on you, all this press scrutiny over every setback. You’re reading all this stuff and in the old days, people watched your finished film and either liked it or didn’t?

valkyrieMCQUARRIE: In the long run, it means absolutely nothing. In the short term, when I was working on Valkyrie and it was my first big movie in the post internet age, I would stand next to Tom Cruise and read how that event was reported, 6000 miles away, as a pack of outright lies. I turned to Tom and said, what do you do, how do you respond to this? He said, you don’t. You just keep on working. Just keep doing the work. This is all white noise and none of it matters. What I find so incredible, with very few exceptions, people report on rumor and innuendo, rather than in the old days, people actually did the legwork. They had access and contacts and they would dig up real facts and report them. We’re far enough away that the things one could have reported on Valkyrie, had one actually had a connection with the production, are hair raising and people would have feasted on those stories. Instead, they simply reported on rumors generated on the internet by someone who was just having fun. When I read it now it’s amusing. You can be absolutely certain that if you’re reading something about Tom Cruise, it’s almost 100% of the time total horseshit.

DEADLINE: Help my readers understand your hair raising comment. Can you give an example?

MCQUARRIE: [Long pause]. If Bryan and Tom were sitting in the room to give me the nod, I would tell you. One of these days you and I will sit down and I will tell you a story and you will not fucking believe it. Well, here’s a good example. When we were finally granted access to the Bendler Block, where we shot the finale of the film. We held a moment of silence for all the conspirators who were executed, and it was truly solemn and beautiful. It was also the culmination of a singular effort of statesmanship on behalf of Tom, Bryan and everyone on the production, assuring the Germans that we were there to celebrate and not exploit this one moment of national pride that they had during this terrible time. Just being granted access to the Bendler Block was an incredibly delicate process. Tom insisted there be no food and no chewing gum on the set, that we treat this as sacred ground. We did and it was beautiful, a great coming together of this American production, the German government, and the German people. Somebody thought it would be fun to report that, during this moment of silence, someone farted. And set off ripples of laughter, and that Tom Cruise went absolutely crazy and was determined to find out who this person was, and was analyzing the videotape of the event. That was the story I brought to Tom, saying, what do we do? How do we respond to this? Here was Tom, being made to look like this humorless person, and here was this moment we were so proud of, being denigrated as opposed to being celebrated, simply because of who the central figure in that drama was. Tom said, just ignore it and move on. It didn’t affect him for a second.

DEADLINE: I remember in the run up to the last movie, rumors were Jeremy Renner was being groomed to eventually replace Tom. Ghost Protocol was terrific and so is this, the rare franchise that seems to get better as it goes along. Tom was reported saying he wants to move quickly on the next one. Are you going to be back with him?

MCQUARRIE: It’s certainly something we have talked about. I’m being completely honest when I tell you that even considering the next 24 hours of my life is so daunting now, that I haven’t given a moment’s thought as to what’s next. Coming out of this process and making this movie, I feel like I had a near death experience. When you’re in the midst of it, it’s so big and so overwhelming. When I finish a film, going back to Valkyrie, I feel like, that was great and I don’t need to every make a movie again. If that was the last movie I ever made, I’d be satisfied, and I’m in that sunset mode of enjoying where we are in that process. Not even thinking of what’s next. So much of my career post-Usual Suspects and leading up to Valkyrie was focused on the future, the results of my career. I learned after Valkyrie to live completely in the moment and not think about the future. Something will be offered to me and I will spark to it and that will be the thing I do. If, after all this is over, if it’s a movie where I’m only the writer, or the writer/producer, editing, doing second unit, I don’t care what it is as long as I’m passionate about it and I can have fun with the process.

DEADLINE: Speaking of perception, I am a fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books and every time I have written about that movie or the sequel, you see such harsh assessments. What about the performance of that movie do people not understand when they try to marginalize that movie that when, if you judge it by its production budget and how much it grossed, the film was a success?

Jack ReacherMCQUARRIE: That doesn’t fit the narrative, it doesn’t fit the narrative that people wish to promote. There isn’t an industry in reporting Tom Cruise is doing just fine. There’s no click bait there. You’ve heard the expression, tall poppies? You see a field of poppies and one stands taller than the others, and your inclination is to cut it down. Jack Reacher made three times its negative cost. It was very successful on home video. But it didn’t hit an artificial barrier, which is $100 million domestic. The death watch that now exists on every Tom Cruise movie is, does it hit $100 million, and how quickly does it hit it? That barrier doesn’t mean much anymore, in a global marketplace where North America is becoming less and less the dominant figure. But it doesn’t mean they can’t take glee in saying it isn’t doing as well as people wanted it to, and it factors into another thing they steadfastly ignore.

DEADLINE: What’s that?

MCQUARRIE: Tom is constantly being bagged for not taking risks. People harken back and put on a pedestal Magnolia, where they say Tom took a risk. The truth of the matter is, Magnolia is far less a risk in that he was not the star of the movie, the budget of the movie was small and the vision was from Paul Thomas Anderson and Tom was part of an ensemble cast. Valkyrie, that was a risk, especially at that point in his career. Edge of Tomorrow and Oblivion were risks. Jack Reacher was a risk, him backing me as a director. Look at what he’s done with Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation. Each one of those was a risk. The narrative that gets spread is, he does a couple movies, and when they don’t work out, he comes to Mission: Impossible. Ghost Protocol was an enormous risk, not only from where he was in his career, but also because he took an untested feature director, coming from the world animation, and entrusted that person to direct this franchise. Tom backs his director to the wall. It’s not something where he says, I’ll just have Brad Bird come in and do his thing and we’ll make the movie around him. He puts the director on this movie and gets behind him. He takes enormous risks and uses his own personal clout to promote and expand the careers of others. Look at everybody he’s worked with and what he’s done with directors and for original films at a time when originals don’t exist anymore. It’s extraordinary and something for which he gets no credit.

DEADLINE: Edge of Tomorrow was a terrific, original summer film, daring and audacious, but it was an unsung movie. It is possible to say that Cruise is underrated, still?

Edge of TomorrowMCQUARRIE: I think he’s enormously underrated and misunderstood. As only Tom knows, none of that really matters. He refuses to let that noise get in the way of what he does. His philosophy is very simple. He wants to make entertainment and he wants to make it in a way where those who invest in it see a return on that investment. It’s really that simple. Tom and I talk about doing small movies, doing a hard R movie, those things that his audience is asking for. It just has to make sense where the people we go to to invest in that film are rewarded as well. The image of Tom being this crazy daredevil, it’s quite the opposite. He’s very calculating and responsible. He’s not playing with fate, either. He’s not interested in risking the lives of people around him. That’s the difference. Tom’s not worried about what’s going to happen to Tom. He’s worried first and foremost about what’s going to happen to his creative partners and he’s very protective of them. That’s why his career has lasted as long as it has and why his career will go on, long after this movie. He’s in it for the long game. It’s very easy for somebody who’ll never take a risk in their life, with hundreds of millions of dollars of other peoples’ money to say, he’s playing it safe. That’s absurd.

DEADLINE: It seems unfair that an actor should have to answer for his religious beliefs, but there was this HBO Scientology documentary Going Clear that got a lot of attention. If this is uncomfortable, you don’t have to answer. How did it factor in the promotion of this film?

MCQUARRIE: It’s just another version of the white noise I mentioned. If you are going to take any of the noise you hear and let that factor into whether or not you are going to come to our movie and have a good time, that’s your loss.

DEADLINE: You are on two ends of the spectrum here with Rogue Nation and the small indie film The Stanford Prison Experiment, which you produced. This is a case that has fascinated Hollywood forever and big stars like Leonardo DiCaprio circled. How did you find your way into that film?

the stanford prison experimentMCQUARRIE: Tim Talbott came to me when he was writing the script. He struggled with it as many had before, when they tried fictionalizing different relationships in the scripts, trying to—I have no better word for it—bitch it up and make it sexy. It was a point I could not get arrested as a director and was in this desert of rewriting movies that weren’t getting made. I was feasting off the heyday of Hollywood development, much to my own detriment. Stanford was the one thing I was offered to direct. I came in as producer with the option to direct. Tim was an old friend of mine and an extremely talented writer. He was struggling with the sheer magnitude of the material and had been adrift for awhile. I brought him to Seattle and knew him well enough that I knew what particular torture he needed. I put him in a very small hotel room about ten minutes from my house. I paid his hotel bill and for all his room service. I told him he couldn’t leave until he finished the script. The bigger the hotel bill got—Tim is this very responsible person—he began squirming. He felt this enormous sense of obligation and he just really wanted to get out of that hotel room. I just left him there, the bill kept mounting, bigger and bigger. And the room just kept getting smaller and smaller. Finally, Tim produced this massive draft of the script. He called me about day eight and said, I’m on page 150 and only day three of the experiment. You have to let me go home. I said, you’re not leaving till the script is finished and I don’t care if it’s 1000 pages long.

DEADLINE: What happened?

MCQUARRIE: He handed me a 250 page script at the end of that experience and I sat with my Valkyrie writing partner Nathan Alexander, and in a weekend we cut Tim’s script down to 120 pages. Tim had written it all there and it just needed to be distilled. That was 90% of what became the finished script. I was going to direct. They urged me to cast it but there was something I couldn’t identify that was not allowing me to fully commit to directing that movie. Before I had to make the decision, Valkyrie happened. I went away to Berlin for eight months, came back and sat with a writer friend of mine for our weekly Nate and Al breakfast. He said, I want to direct the next thing I write and want your advice. I asked why he wanted to direct and he said, ‘to protect my screenplay. I’ve made several films now where I’ve been burned by the director, who really fucked up my script and I don’t want it to happen again.’ I said, then don’t do it. As I tried to explain what I meant, I understood what was nagging at me with Stanford. I said, your job as the director is not the protect the screenplay. It’s to challenge the screenplay, it’s to elevate the screenplay, to attack the screenplay. Writers who defend the screenplay aren’t directors. They are writers who are directing. You have to have a vision, separate from your vision as a writer, to take that material one step beyond.

12 angry menAs I was saying it, I was thinking, my God, this is what I couldn’t articulate for myself. I knew how to shoot Stanford and how to execute the screenplay on the page. I didn’t have the thing in my bones that made it unique. All I had was, I was going to rip off the way Sidney Lumet directed Twelve Angry Men. I was going to take his shooting style, which he explained in detail in his book Making Movies. That’s what I was going to do. That’s not directing and it’s not a good enough reason to make a movie. The reason I sat on Stanford was, I was afraid of somebody taking a script that had my name on it, and running off and exploiting my name to get the movie made. What I decided was, it was Tim’s thing from the beginning, and it was something I wanted to happen, for Tim. My name on it was only going to make it less about Tim. They’d say, McQuarrie wrote it and who’s Tim Talbott? Well, Tim did the work, the agonizing research, developing the relationship with Dr. Philip Zimbardo. So I took my name off in any capacity and said go with God. Brent Emery brought in Kyle Patrick Alvarez and they got the movie made and did a fantastic job. I’m especially happy for Tim, who struggled so long, and won the Waldo Salt Award at Sundance. Had I won that award at that stage of my career, it would have been a dream come true.

DEADLINE: That was unexpected. You’ve distilled here what’s important in the creative process and what’s white noise. I will see Rogue Nation again, because I can see the creative puzzle a little better and how you and Tom solved things to get where you needed to be. Sounds like what movie making is supposed to be.

MCQUARRIE: It’s the part of the process that Tom and I really love. You’re confronted with an obstacle that seems so insurmountable and Tom always says the same thing. If there’s any two people who can figure this out, it’s us. We’re gonna figure it out. And, usually we do.