Arts·Q with Tom Power

Henry Czerny says new Mission: Impossible is 'gobsmacking good'

Canadian actor Henry Czerny tells guest host Talia Schlanger about returning to the Mission: Impossible universe, working with Tom Cruise, and the future of cinema.

In an interview recorded before the SAG-AFTRA strike, he talks about returning to the franchise 27 years later

A man is shown a film premiere, gesturing at a movie poster behind him.
Henry Czerny attends the premiere of Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall on Monday, July 10, 2023, in New York. (Evan Agostini/The Associated Press)

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One isn't just a fun summer blockbuster, according to Henry Czerny. It's an "extraordinary event."

The veteran Canadian actor returns to the Mission: Impossible franchise after a 27-year hiatus, reprising the role of Impossible Mission Force Director Eugene Kittridge. He last played Kittridge in the first Mission: Impossible film, way back in 1996. In an interview with guest host Talia Schlanger recorded before the SAG-AFTRA strike, Czerny said that from the moment studio execs showed him the sizzle reel for Dead Reckoning, he knew it was going to be "gobsmacking good."

"If you thought you were coming to the film with your bar high enough, you just got schooled," he says. "Raise your bar a little higher. The final product clearly is more extraordinary than I thought it was going to be."

It is also, in the tradition of the six Mission: Impossible films that went before it, a film that needs to be experienced on the big screen. To watch it at home, Czerny says, would be the equivalent of "getting takeout from [famous Parisian restaurant] Lucas Carton … you're getting half the meal made." He adds that the people who make these movies, starting with star Tom Cruise and director Chris McQuarrie, go out of their way to "[take] care of their audience in a way that's just extraordinary in my experience." He is consistently impressed by the way that Cruise, now 61 years old, continues to insist on doing his own stunts.

"He loves doing that stuff," says Czerny. "Maybe he's got a bucket list — 'I want to drive a motorbike off a cliff.' But [why] he does it? It's for his audience, because he can get a stunt person to do it."

WATCH | Official trailer for Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One:

He adds that in an age where filmmakers can use CGI to do just about anything, there's still a lot of value in practical effects and real stunts.

"If you watch great filmmaking, there is an analog element to it," he says. "We have digital, we have CGI. That's all great, and it works. It's really good. But when you see the person do [a stunt], there's something that's transmitted that cannot be transmitted through digital.… It keeps you engaged in a way that you wouldn't normally."

Czerny says he didn't start acting with dreams of being in blockbuster action movies. After finishing his training at the National Theatre School in Montreal, he spent a decade as a stage actor before appearing in the two-part docudrama The Boys of St. Vincent, a fictionalized telling of the Mount Cashel Orphanage story. From there, he got his first action-thriller role working alongside Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger, the sequel to The Hunt for Red October. It was shortly after that when he got the call about Mission: Impossible.

Stunningly, he almost passed on the film.

"I was in Brazil shooting a film, and I hadn't slept," he says. "We were shooting nights and just for some reason or other … when I got the call, I was not feeling like I could do it. [The casting director said] 'Brian and Tom want you to come and play Kittridge,' because I auditioned for it. And I said 'Ah, I dunno.' And they said, 'No, no, no, Henry, I don't care what you think. You're doing it.'"

The decision, or lack thereof, to take the role of Kittridge helped turn Czerny into a highly recognizable face, and set his life on a trajectory that he still struggles to comprehend.

"Back when I was in theater school in Montreal, if you had put me on a hallucinogenic trip for a week and then asked me to describe what [my] life will be like, this eclipses that tenfold," he says.

Czerny has one piece of advice for young actors, people who are where he was when he was thinking about passing on Mission: Impossible: "Enjoy the [rollercoaster] ride. Hold onto the lap bar or put your arms in the air. It matters not. Straightaways will be there for you to take a breath."

The full interview with Henry Czerny was recorded before the SAG-AFTRA strike. You can find it on our podcast, Q with Tom Power. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Interview with Henry Czerny produced by Mitch Pollock.


Chris Dart

Web Writer

Chris Dart is a writer, editor, jiu-jitsu enthusiast, transit nerd, comic book lover, and some other stuff from Scarborough, Ont. In addition to CBC, he's had bylines in The Globe and Mail, Vice, The AV Club, the National Post, Atlas Obscura, Toronto Life, Canadian Grocer, and more.