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BIG READ: Above MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL on Granville Island

Published March 4, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Where has Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol been? Sightings of four-year-old Suri Cruise, the adorable fashionista/bookworm daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, have been more plentiful than sightings of TANK production signs in January and February. I wondered if there would be any more big location shoots before the film wrapped this month. And then this week, Mission Impossible 4 (MI-4) lit up west False Creek at night like it’s never been lit before (not even during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics) as a backdrop to Tom Cruise and his co-stars at Granville Market.

Word spread that MI-4 would be filming on Granville Island within hours of the Vancouver Arts Club tweeting a photo on February 16th of Tom Cruise visiting a set under construction on the waterfront nearby. I checked its progress and it turned out to be Pier 47 (not Pier 67) in Seattle. Crew later added King County Water Taxi signs and two prop water taxis which docked during scenes.

MI-4’s dazzling display of light is what made this three-night shoot so extraordinary to see. Half a dozen giant film lights illuminated the area on Tuesday and Wednesday nights until 6 a.m. the next morning, including one placed on a barge floating in the middle of False Creek. Additional flat lights shone down from trucks parked on the Granville Bridge and other flat lights shone up on the bridge girders from trucks parked underneath. One irate, sleepless woman living in one of the condominium towers took her complaints directly to the site where MI4 stored the flat lights during the day. Maybe she got some relief Thursday night, the third and final night of the shoot, although I saw the MI-4 site glow from my home in south False Creek well after midnight.

The MI-4 crew appears to have done all of this – the Seattle set, dozens of flat and other film lights and hundreds of extras — as a backdrop mainly for scenes of Tom Cruise and his co-star Jeremy Renner (Oscar nominee for Hurt Locker and The Town) drinking Dosequis beer at an outdoor table.

I took virtually all of my photographs of these scenes from the Granville Bridge above because MI-4 provided little to no public access to the filming in contrast to its other big exterior shoot at the Vancouver-Convention Centre-dressed-as-Bangalore-India in early January. On the first night at Granville Market, production assistants imposed and enforced a no photo rule on spectators near the Backstage Lounge. On the second night, I couldn’t even see a spectator corridor so I didn’t go down. Last night, orange cones marked a spot for spectators early on and this time without any restriction on taking photographs. One local and two American paparazzi trained their 300mm to 600mm lenses on the Cruise family taking an hour break from filming with friends on the upper floor of the Granville market (I have uploaded my OK-for-online Cruise family photos on my Flickr pages). But once Tom Cruise resumed filming, crew and police moved the orange cones back, herding spectators to a point where nothing could be seen.

It’s a strange dichotomy. Paparazzi photos of Suri Cruise`s Starbuck runs and the Cruise family outings to the Vancouver Public Library and Science World appear everywhere, but apart from filming sandstorm scenes at a Dubai market set on the Kent Hangary field, MI-4 hasn’t been spotted outside of studio until quite recently. And last week’s exterior scene in the parking lot of a Richmond office complex occurred on the coldest night of the year when no one with common sense would venture outdoors. How did those poor extras dressed for India (again) survive in temperatures of minus 8 degrees Celsius?

Of course some of MI-4’s location shoots did get pushed into studio or delayed when director Brad Bird took ill in late January. But by February 6th, he had recovered: nursed back to health with chicken soup, rest and TLC according to his tweeting wife Liz Bird (@MzLizBird). Maybe the upside of our exceedingly damp, cold weather so far this year will be a pent-up spree of fan-friendly MI-4 location shoots showcasing other city neighbourhoods over the next few weeks.

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