Dubai’s efforts to be taken seriously as a venue for film production have received a shot in the arm as filming begins on the fourth installment of the $2 billion Hollywood franchise “Mission Impossible” this week.
The film is to be called "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol", producer and lead actor Tom Cruise told a press conference at the emirate’s Armani Hotel on Thursday. "All I wanted is not to have a number ... I always thought we should have a title aside from 'Mission Impossible'," he said.
As a producer, Cruise said it was hard to find places that appeared fresh on screen but that Dubai offered exactly that opportunity.
"Dubai is very cinematic. We are looking forward to present that on film," he said.
"Dubai is a city I always wanted to shoot in. It's a very challenging film and people here have been extraordinary in helping us get this project going. I would like to thank Sheikh Mohammed," he added, referring to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Cruise said Ahmed Al Sheikh, Managing Director of Dubai Media Incorporated, which also publishes Emirates 24|7, and Jamal Al Sharif, Executive Director of Dubai Studio City were instrumental in bringing the Hollywood production to Dubai. The production is expected to have the support of the municipality, the police and possibly the army.
While refusing to reveal any plot details of MI4, he said that it would be a great "popcorn movie". The project will see Cruise reprise his role as former Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt.
Shooting is expected to take place all around the city and definitely in the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. Sources close to the film told Emirates 24|7 that vital action scenes would be shot at the iconic tower and the Armani Hotel, which occupies eight floors of the building. Filming began on Thursday.
The cast include Jeremy Renner, nominated for an Oscar for his role in the 2009 war film "The Hurt Locker". Other actors include Simon Pegg and Paula Patton.
The film’s executive producer Jeffrey Chernov said Dubai was the perfect location for the next film in the MI franchise. "Every 'Mission Impossible' movie has its own statement and its own city. While we are not trying to make any political statements by filming in these cities they provide great backdrops and we have planned the most spectacular sequence for Dubai.
“Every movie needs a heartbeat, a centrepiece, and the centrepiece of our movie is Dubai.”
In discussing the choice of location, director Brad Bird said the first requirement had been met by the amazing sets created by the city's architecture. "It's a big new city that fortunately hasn't been photographed very much. Dubai has the scale that we are looking for -- these are big movies -- and sets that we could almost never afford to build," he said.
Bryan Burk and JJ Abrams, who are producing the film through Abrams’s Bad Robot company, were introduced to the city while scouting for locations for the most recent Star Trek film. They were on an evening stopover in Dubai while travelling the world in search of locations, they said, when they realised the emirate’s cinematic potential while on a whistlestop tour of the city.
"It is literally a town meant to be filmed in," Burk said.
The film is one of a handful of Hollywood productions to be shot in the UAE, but local authorities have ramped up marketing efforts in recent years to bring more productions to the country. While they have been successful with “Syriana” and “The Kingdom”, other films such as “Sex and the City 2” and “The A-Team”, have been unsuccessful due to financing or cultural sensitivity issues.
Production work on the film moves to the UAE after a stint in Prague, and once things are wrapped up here, the juggernaut will roll on to Vancouver, Canada, for a three-month period. Some sequences will also be shot in Moscow, producers said.
"Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" is scheduled for release across the United States ahead of Christmas 2011. It is widely expected that the film’s UAE premiere will be at the Dubai International Film Festival 2011, although festival chairman Abdulhamid Juma told Emirates 24|7 that no decision has been made on that front yet.