Cruise, Abrams to co-produce Paramount sequel

“Mission: Impossible IV,” which once seemed truly impossible, is taking shape at Paramount.

Tom Cruise and J.J. Abrams have agreed to co-produce the sequel, which is aimed at a 2011 release.

The return of Cruise to Par itself is surprising in view of the circumstances surrounding his departure in August 2006. Apparently irked by the heft of Cruise’s deal, among other issues, Viacom chief Sumner Redstone abruptly terminated the 14-year relationship between the star and the studio. Cruise’s then-CAA agent, Rick Nicita, termed Redstone’s decision “shockingly offensive and graceless.”

The rift led to Cruise becoming the chief of United Artists and taking a more active role in production decisions. Redstone, meanwhile, has sought to heal the relationship. At a recent appearance, he described the star as “a great actor and a good friend.”

The “Mission” installment would augment Paramount’s formidable array of sequels, which will include “Star Trek 2″ and a third “Transformers.”

Work on “Mission: Impossible IV” would inevitably be delayed by the busy schedules of the participants.

Abrams will be responsible for guiding the “Star Trek” sequel, while Cruise recently committed to an untitled pic (formerly called “Wichita”) for 20th Century Fox that will be directed by James Mangold and co-star Cameron Diaz.

Cruise and Denzel Washington are also awaiting a rewrite on the David Cronenberg-directed “The Matarese Circle,” the MGM thriller based on the Robert Ludlum novel.

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