When it was first announced that JJ Abrams and Tom Cruise were reteaming to co-produce a fourth Mission Impossible film, a lot of factors were unknown. Would it be a reboot, a spinoff? Would Tom Cruise return as Ethan Hunt? Would JJ Abrams also direct? In October we got a couple answers, as Paramount Pictures signed Tom Cruise to reprise his role as Ethan Hunt in M:I-IV. However, the good news also came with some bad: JJ Abrams is sitting this one out.So who could possibly fill the director’s chair left vacant by Abrams, John Woo and Brian De Palma? How about Brad Bird? That’s right — the two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker behind Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille, in addition to the critically acclaimed 2D animated feature The Iron Giant.

JJ Abrams Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible 3

HeatVision is reporting thatBird has emerged as the top contendor for the job, in a list that included Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer and Shaun of the Dead/Hott Fuzz helmer Edgar Wright. It’s interesting to note that Wright’s frequent collaborator Simon Pegg had a small role in the last film. Wright later confirmed the talks on Twitter but admitted that he didn’t have the time for the film due to post production on his film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

It’s true, though probably a mission impossible to accept since I’m not done with SP and it starts soon. Nice to be thought of.

Bird has been trying to crack the screenplay for his live-action debut 1906, which is set up at Warner Bros. The film has been in development heck since the recession hit, and the three studios involved started to grow worried that the $200 million projected budget which would be required to film Bird’s expansive story might be too much of a risk. Brad has been trying to rework his screenplay, trying to bring the film’s budget down by minimizing the scale of the film.

I’m very excited to see Bird tackle a live action film, and Paramount needs a director yesterday as the movie is gearing up for a Summer 2010 start to meet the announced May 27th 2011 release date.

Ethan Hunt will be the main star of the film, but the new sequel is being looked at as a “reboot” to the series. Here is what we know so far: Tom and JJ developted”a really cool idea” for a fourth adventure, which Abrams turned into “an insanely long outline”. Abrams employed Alias‘ scribes Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec to write a screenplay based on the treatment, which Abrams once joked “is probably longer than the script.” Applebaum and Nemec were well into the second act of a first draft when we last checked in (mid-January 2010), and Abrams seemed very pumped on the project. But who should direct?

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