EXCLUSIVE: After directing Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher, Christopher McQuarrie is poised to take on the next installment of Cruise’s signature tentpole. I’m told that McQuarrie is the choice to helm the fifth Mission: Impossible film that is in the early stages of being put together by Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions. They will hire writers before making it official, but he’s the guy that Cruise and JJ Abrams want.

M:I-5 is a big priority for the studio after the Brad Bird-directed Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol grossed just under $700 million worldwide. McQuarrie, who won the Oscar for scripting The Usual Suspects, has more recently become Cruise’s go-to guy as a writer. After collaborating with Cruise on Valkyrie, McQuarrie has had a credited or uncredited hand in most of Cruise’s recent films including All You Need Is Kill, Ghost Protocol (uncredited), and the Top Gun 2 film which is in limbo after the death of director Tony Scott. Paramount and Skydance also have McQuarrie developing to direct Without Remorse, the action thriller based on the Tom Clancy novel.

The Mission: Impossible opportunity comes off the excitement that Paramount and Skydance are experiencing over Jack Reacher, which McQuarrie directed after adapting the script from the Lee Child novel One Shot. Cruise plays the title character, who in the books is a hulking former military cop who drifts around the country and always ends up unraveling conspiracies with his intellect and oversized fists. While Cruise doesn’t match Reacher’s size, the author was the one who felt most strongly that Cruise was the right guy for the job. After seeing Cruise’s work playing killers in Ghost Protocol and Michael Mann’s Collateral, I don’t doubt Child’s judgment. Paramount and Skydance are hoping it leads to another franchise. The film opens December 21. McQuarrie’s repped by CAA, Key Creatives and attorney David Fox.

Here’s a trailer for Jack Reacher: