"Mission: Impossible" turns 20 years old this month. Besides launching a series that continues to have box-office success, the movie featured a sort of strange way to present intensity for a blockbuster: squeezing actors very, very close to each other and the camera.
When Henry Czerny took on the role of Eugene Kittridge, the Impossible Missions Force Director, the actor had only appeared in one other big-budget movie, "Clear and Present Danger," starring Harrison Ford. With the direction of Brian De Palma (of "Scarface" and "Carrie" fame), Czerny had a much different experience his second time around on a major production.
"I'd never acted with a camera that's basically hooked under my chin," Czerny told The Huffington Post in a conversation for the 20-year anniversary. "I didn't know what to do with it, but Brian was at the monitors and if he didn't get what he wanted I'm sure he would have told me."
The most extreme close-up Czerny experienced was when his character accused Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt of being a mole. The two sat in a restaurant surrounded by aquariums. Czerny wasn't sure, but he thinks De Palma's desire to feature those trapped fish led to the memorable camera angles. "He didn't want the [viewers] to forget about the fish tank," said Czerny. "So by putting the camera below, you have the character in close-up and the fish tank in the background hovering if you will."
So, did Czerny worry about how he'd look with a camera so close to his face?
Czerny laughed in response to the question. He didn't even know the camera would be there.
"If they'd told me, I would have paid more attention to those nose hairs. Maybe the hair department or the makeup department knew what was going to go on and then did that for me. [But] I had no idea."
How do you think the hair and makeup departments did?
Czerny also recalled a scene when De Palma told him to get almost impossibly close to another actor.
After Hunt breaks into the CIA, Czerny's character is telling an intelligence co-worker (played by Dale Dye) that they should send the CIA employee responsible for the mishap to Alaska.
De Palma apparently told the actors, "I need you a little closer," so they shot again. Then, De Palma said something like, "No, no, closer! Like you're almost kissing!"
"I just remember thinking, 'I hope I brushed my teeth thoroughly,'" Czerny laughed.
Although Czerny thought it was sometimes "weird" to work within this method, he enjoyed being a part of what's now considered De Palma's signature style. "He'll do a long tracking shot and then jump in for close-ups. It doesn't allow you to leave the scene."
In addition to starring in the movie, Cruise also began his career as a producer with "Mission: Impossible." Czerny recalled how Cruise would regularly take out members from the cast as a tension releaser. "He would host an evening in Prague or London at some cool establishment."
In particular, Czerny once joined Cruise and Nicole Kidman, his wife at the time, to play show tunes with a few ofter members from the crew.
They all went out to dinner at a Prague restaurant, where they commandeered the piano.
"I found myself sitting on a piano bench singing show tunes with Nicole," said Czerny. "That was not something you normally get to do."