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 / Updated  / Source: Hollywood Reporter
By By Liza Foreman

Tom Cruise’s plan to film “Mission: Impossible 3” this year has become, well, an impossible mission.

The movie, which has been plagued by director problems, will not begin production later this month, as had been planned, and Cruise will instead reunite with Steven Spielberg on “War of the Worlds.” The modern-day adaptation of H.G. Wells classic about a Martian invasion of Earth will replace “M:I-3” as Paramount’s big summer hopeful next year.

“War,” which has been in development for some time, will begin filming in November. Its exact release date has not yet been decided.

Cruise hasn’t abandoned “M:I-3.” It will now shoot next summer, with J.J. Abrams, creator of the TV series “Felicity” and “Alias,” set to make his feature directorial debut.

Paramount had been facing an increasingly difficult situation with “M:I-3.” It had originally been penciled in as a release this year, with David Fincher (“Se7en”) directing. When Fincher bowed out in favor of another project, Joe Carnahan (“Narc”) came aboard. Carnahan, in turn, exited the project last month, with the studio citing creative differences.

With the clock ticking, Paramount already had shifted “M:I-3’s” 2005 release to June 29 from from May 6; preproduction had begun for filming in Europe later this month; and a cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kenneth Branagh and Ving Rhames was in place.

Cruise and his production partner at Paramount-based C/W Prods., Paula Wagner, wanted Abrams to take the reins, but Abrams’ contractual obligations with both “Alias” and a new ABC drama series, “Lost,” prevented him from taking on the “M:I-3” assignment until next year.

At the same time, Spielberg hit a roadblock with a drama he was readying to shoot about the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. With that project delayed while it undergoes a rewrite by “Angels in America” playwright Tony Kushner, Spielberg’s schedule opened up.

Taking advantage of Spielberg’s availability, Paramount shifted course. “War,” which will reteam Spielberg and Cruise, who worked together on “Minority Report,” will be a co-production with Spielberg’s DreamWorks studio.

“These things don’t usually happen with a happy ending,” Paramount Motion Picture Group chairman Sherry Lansing said. “I feel overjoyed. The script for ‘War’ is nothing short of brilliant, and this way Tom will finish ‘War’ first and get his No. 1 choice for ‘M:I-3.’ I quite honestly feel blessed. Spielberg has committed to a movie, a Tom Cruise movie, and Cruise is going to follow that up with a second project. We have two major tentpole projects. It all came out better than anyone could have imagined.”