One of the more notable bits of film recasting in recent years was the switching out of the villains on Christopher McQuarrie’s “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”.
In January of 2020, a then 31-year-old Nicholas Hoult was officially attached to play the film’s main antagonist, with shooting set to begin in February/March. Then, of course, the pandemic threw the entire schedule into utter chaos.
By that May, a then 58-year-old Esai Morales took over the role of the villain – a character played as being around the same age as Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, which suggested a retooling of Hoult’s original villain.
Now McQuarrie confirms on the Script Apart podcast that they did reinvent the villain after the recasting. In fact, The change also brought in the film’s big macguffin – the artificial intelligence known as The Entity whom Morales’ Gabriel character serves – which wasn’t in place when filming began:
“The Entity didn’t exist as the Entity when the story began. In fact, neither did [supporting villain] Gabriel. Nick Hoult was originally cast as the villain in our film, because [star and producer] Tom [Cruise] had really liked Nick Hoult in the audition for Top Gun: Maverick… [Cruise] didn’t think he was right for that movie, but he recognized that [Hoult] was a supremely talented actor.
And so we cast Nick based solely on that, not really knowing where our story was going. [Dead Reckoning Part One] would’ve been a very different movie if the pandemic had not taken Nick out of the running.
We replaced Nick with Esai Morales, who I had seen on Ozark – I thought he was a really great villain. That opened up a world of possibility about [protagonist] Ethan [Hunt’s] past because Esai and Tom are about the same age… that opened up a door into this story that we still didn’t understand what it was.”
The film famously went through a number of major challenges, and further tweaks following test screenings and other reactions, with the work ultimately taking years to complete.
“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is in cinemas now with ‘Part Two’ to resume filming once the strikes are over.