22. Ving Rhames first met Cruise at the Pulp Fiction premiere in 1994. After the screening, “he runs up to me, and he hugs me like we really knew each other. But really, I’d only met him two hours earlier, in the men’s room!” Rhames recalled to Spotlight Report in 2018. Soon afterward, Rhames got a call from De Palma, who had previously directed him in Casualties of War.
Fast-forward 25 years and the 62-year-old actor, who plays cool-and-collected hacker Luther Strickell, “disavowed” no more, is the only other actor aside from Cruise to have been in the whole series, including Nos. 7 and 8—although it turns out he was supposed to be one and done.
“I feel very blessed to have been involved for so long,” Rhames said. “Especially because originally my character died in the first 10 or 12 pages of Mission: Impossible. I said to Tom and Brian De Palma, ‘Why does the Black man have to die in the first 10 pages of most movies? You know, normally there’s only one Black guy in each of these huge-budget films. There aren’t too many—quote-unquote—African-American films that are going to be over $100 million. And when there are some, I can’t even say it’s a Denzel… It’s a Will Smith, basically. You’ll have Will Smith, and he’ll be damn near the only Black guy in the film. He’s the star, but it’s not a Black storyline, he may not even have a family in it…’
“So, Tom and Brian obviously thought about that, because then I noticed that my character didn’t die. A lot of things happen and I’m always appreciative, you know?”
It didn’t go unnoticed, however, that his appearance in Ghost Protocol was Marvel-post-credits-level brief.
“I may be doing something very small in Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, but I will just say that the budget changed dramatically and I’ll leave it at that,” Rhames told Movieweb in 2010. “Cha-ching could create [a part] but it’s up to them.” They eventually realized it would behoove them to pay up and keep Luther’s streak alive.
And Rhames was indeed back for meatier parts in Rogue Nation and Fallout, the latter featuring his favorite moment to date. “Chris McQuarrie wrote a scene where I really get to show how Luther feels about Ethan,” he told Spotlight Report. “It takes into account all the time the two of them have been together. And it’s pretty emotional and powerful.”