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"Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation" Director Christopher McQuarrie talks about Jeremy Renner and William Brandt (Empire)

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie recently spoke about the film with Empire magazine.  He mentioned Jeremy and his character, William Brandt, several times during the interview.  We have transcribed those portions below, and included the relevant audio from the interview.


On Brandt's Back Story in Ghost Protocol:

McQuarrie: When I came on board Ghost Protocol, she [Hunt's wife, Julia] was dead. And I remember reading that first draft and wincing when I read that. It's like . . . I remember reading the script and thinking, "You can't ever recover from this. I'm gonna be left at the end of the movie, however happy the end of the movie is, I'm gonna be left thinking, 'But his wife is dead. And it's his fault.'" So my first notes on that draft were, you have to find a way to save Julia. And you have to find a way to integrate Brandt's story into that.



Brandt had a whole different back story. It had nothing to do with Ethan. It had to do with a mission that had failed, and people had died on that mission. And I thought, rather than anonymous characters that we never hear about, he believes he's responsible for Julia's death. And Ethan, we find out at the end of the movie, has faked Julia's death in order to protect her. And now you have . . . this really nice moment where Brandt believes he's responsible for the death of Ethan's wife, and he's just waiting for Ethan to put two and two together, and what's going to happen.

Unfortunately, I came up with that idea ten weeks into a 17-week shoot, and Jeremy Renner had been acting a whole other back story. So Jeremy was like, "What are you talking about?" Like, "I've been doing this whole other thing." And I said, "I know. And I went and watched all your dailies, and it's all gonna cut together, and nobody's gonna know the difference." And he's like, "But I'M gonna know the difference!" And I was like, "It doesn't matter! 'Cause nobody else will know the difference!"



 On Jeremy's Acting Style:

McQuarrie: I learned a lot in terms of where suspense, humor, and all of those things really come from. They come from a place of hard work. You don't ever take them for granted, because everything that we thought was funny, we thought was emotional, we thought was romantic, wasn't. And things that we took for granted within the thing turned out to be much funnier.

Every one of Jeremy Renner's lines -- laugh lines -- in the movie was Jeremy Renner improvising on the day. And breaking with the script. You're just like, "Just say the line, just so I can get outta here!" And whereas every laugh line that I wrote for him fell completely flat. We just threw them out. And I learned -- that's again, Tom is one way, Simon is another, Jeremy's -- you know, another. And Jeremy is someone who . . . you give a greater deal of latitude. The more freedom you give Jeremy, the more raw material Jeremy gives you. Jeremy is just . . . he's this thoroughbred animal who is struggling against the constraints of . . . rigid plot mechanics. Sort of, color in between the li -- inside the lines -- moviemaking. He gets you that stuff, but just every now and again, his whole being goes, "F*** THAT! I JUST--" And he says something . . . crazy. And those are the things that end up in the movie.

So there's-- you get a very real, very primal thing from Jeremy, much of which comes from the stress of Jeremy making movies like Mission: Impossible, which constrain him. And don't give him a bounty of the things that he loves to do and plays best with. And we used that. What I like to do is sort of look at the actor and study that actor, what makes them tick. I get their voices very much and all that, and write very much for that actor. I don't think about it in those terms when I'm writing a script, but once I've cast the role, I begin shaping the role and tailoring the role for that actor. And what we realized with Ghost Protocol was that, that element of just acid indigestion that Brandt has, is informed so beautifully by Jeremy Renner going just . . . "Let me, just let me swing for the fence just one time!"


On the ending of Rogue Nation:

Empire: Brandt's very interesting in this movie because (a) he gets the last line of the film . . .

McQuarrie: Yes.

Empire: Which I thought was--

McQuarrie: Sacrilege!

Empire: Not sacrilege. Just an interesting direction.

McQuarrie: Again, we shot that moment thinking that there was one more beat at the end of the film. But we killed ourselves trying to come up with the beat, because we really believed it's a Mission: Impossible movie, and Mission: Impossible's gotta end on Ethan Hunt. And so we were talking about what that ending would be right up until the second test screening. We were gonna go back, and we were gonna shoot some ending in which-- but we couldn't figure out what the content of that scene would be. Is he reunited with Ilsa on a beach somewhere? In which case you just said goodbye to Ilsa, and now she's back? Are they going off on another mission? And it felt like-- there was one version where I took the A-400 and made it a post-credit sequence. Or rather, the plane is taking off and you cut to credits, and post-credits you see Ethan get on the plane and get sucked out. All of which was just-- we felt unclean while we were doing it, but we tried all that stuff. And it was when we tested the movie, and that ending got a great response from the audience. So we just decided, well maybe that's-- maybe that's it. End of the movie is just . . . over. And you don't need anything else.



On Brandt's lack of fight scenes in Rogue Nation:

Empire: Brandt in this movie, in the last film he was very very physical. There was almost the sense that he might be set up to eventually take over from Tom one day. But in this movie he's very much a bureaucrat. He's very much involved with Hunley. He does get some physical stuff towards the end. That seems like a very clearly deliberate decision. Can you talk about that?

McQuarrie: It was . . . well, it was a consequence of, again, just . . . not understanding globally what the movie was while we were making it. The shape of the movie was getting clearer every day. And we always had this idea that at the end of the movie, you would have Brandt, and Luther, and Simon, they would all be part of this big physical sequence. The problem was, they didn't have a whole lot of people to be physical against. It was really hard to find stuff for all of them to do. And again, I felt an obligation to do it. It was a rule that I had created for myself. It was only when I looked at it and said, "This movie's really about Ilsa and Ethan. And by letting that stuff go, I'll have more room to focus the end of the movie," everything else just felt right. It was giving everybody their moment for the sake of their moment, and it felt like . . . the movie just felt like it kept ending.


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