We've heard that Tom Cruise does most of his own stunts, but this is ridiculous. While piloting his private jet to Mexico on Aug. 16 for the Latin American premiere of ''Collateral,'' Cruise was simultaneously surfing the Web for info on ancient Mayan and Aztec ruins as well as trying to secure a decent air-to-ground connection for his phone interview from 30,000 feet with EW. Somehow he managed to avoid crashing as he talked about what's going on with the long-troubled ''Mission: Impossible 3'' (now set to be directed -- starting next summer -- by J.J. Abrams, the mastermind behind TV's ''Alias'') and how excited he is about his next big project, an adaptation of H.G. Wells' ''War of the Worlds'' (directed by some guy named Steven Spielberg) that's just been fast-tracked to start shooting in November. We're not absolutely certain, but we suspect Cruise was also juggling bowling pins and organizing his sock drawer during the flight.
David Fincher and Joe Carnahan have come and gone on ''M:I-3,'' making J.J. Abrams the third director attached to the movie. What’s made finding a director so seemingly, well, impossible?
I'm not going to comment on the other directors because I really do have respect for them. It's deceiving, these kinds of movies. They're very complex. It's not just action, it's not just suspense, it's not just the spy genre -- it's all of that.
And J.J. Abrams?
He's the first guy I went through the movie with who absolutely clicked in terms of being able to discuss the intricacies of character and story and tone. He's had these conversations [in making ''Alias''] that I've had for over a decade on ''Mission: Impossible.'' I just think he's enormously talented.
Are you an ''Alias'' fan?
I don't watch a lot of TV. I'm not a snob about it; I just don't have time with the kids and work. I heard about ''Alias'' because different friends were like, Man, this is a great show. I got the ''Alias'' DVDs and watched what he did with story and character and what he accomplished episode after episode, and I dug it. So I just called him up.
Is the movie being completely reworked now?
We don't know yet. We're just now talking about story. But it's J.J. Abrams' ''Mission: Impossible'' that I'm interested in. The conceit for [the movies] was always that each one is different; it's the director's ''Mission: Impossible.'' You want the director to come in and own it. So when we have script meetings, one of the first questions is, What excites you? Where do you think the characters are? What would you like to see?
What about the cast? Are Carrie-Anne Moss, Scarlett Johansson, and Kenneth Branagh still involved? Or is it just you at this point?
[Laughs] Just me. With the cast, it's like any film. I want to work with Carrie and Scarlett, and Kenneth is someone I've been wanting to work with for years, but you have to start with the director and see where he's going to take us.
Are there recent action films you like, and is there anything in them you’d like to emulate?