There is a story about Ving Rhames told by David Koepp, screenwriter of the first Mission: Impossible, which explains why it is good to say what we think aloud.
There was a fair alternation of actors between the first Mission: Impossible of 1996 and Mission: Impossible 7 currently filming in Rome. Tom Cruise he has always been the undisputed protagonist and producer of the entire saga, but there is also another character present in all the films. Besides Ethan Hunt, is Luther Stickell to appear in each chapter, always played by Ving Rhames. He risked not being in the fourth film Phantom protocol, in which in fact he is not involved in the mission, but in the end his character was inserted in the epilogue when everyone gathers to have a beer, just before the revelation that closes the story.
About this constant presence, there is a story about Ving Rhames that is worth knowing. To tell it is David Koepp, celebrated American screenwriter who is one of the authors of the first film.
Mission Impossible: Ving Rhames was only supposed to be in the first movie
Conversing with the two podcast hosts Light the Fuse, dedicated entirely to the saga, David Koepp remember that before filming Mission: Impossible a reading of the script had been done with the actors and the director Brian De Palma, all gathered around a large table in the Prague hotel where they were staying.
Let’s imagine the scene.
Sitting with a script in hand there are Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Jean Reno, Emmanuelle Béart, Henry Czerny, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian De Palma and the writers David Koepp e Robert Towne. The reading begins and everyone recites their lines. We arrive at the showdown in which the helicopter chases the train into the tunnel and, in this excited moment, the character of Luther Stickell dies. The last page is turned and the reading ends. “Are there any questions?” he asks Palm.
We are in early 1995 and the popularity of Ving Rhames has never been higher, thanks to images from Pulp Fiction released a few months earlier that are still well etched in everyone’s memory. In short, it is with Marcellus Wallace that here we have to do.
“I have something to say,” he says Ving Rhames, “why does the black character have to die?”. Director and screenwriters look at each other and say “well, a lot of people die in the film”. Rhames he urges, “I want to know why the black character always has to die.” In the next moment of silence, the authors will have mentally focused, from his point of view, that the actor plays the only black character in the story. “Actually you’re right …” they say in chorus, “ok, then Luther stays alive”.
And for having expressed his thoughts at the right time, at a table that could have intimidated anyone, Ving Rhames marked the fate of Luther Stickell extending his life. The irony of fate wanted his character, the only one among the co-stars, to be included in all the films of the saga. Including future ones, chapters 7 and 8, resulting in hefty pay for the actor.