Tom Cruise and J.J. Abrams will produce sequel for Paramount

It’s official — Tom Cruise has decided to accept the mission to star as Ethan Hunt in “Mission: Impossible IV.”

Paramount made the announcement Tuesday and set a release date for next year’s Memorial Day weekend against the launch of Warner Bros.” “Hangover” sequel and the second weekend of Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean 4.”

Par’s seeking a director for “Mission: Impossible IV.” David Ellison and his Skydance Prods. is co-financing the fourth “Mission” as part of its slate financing deal to back four to six pictures per year for the studio.

Cruise and J.J. Abrams — who co-wrote the “Mission: Impossible III” screenplay — will produce from a screenplay by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, a writing duo hired last summer to pen the script from an idea hatched by Cruise and Abrams. Appelbaum and Nemec spent four seasons with Abrams as co-exec producers of “Alias.”

The announcement also means that Paramount’s managed to repair its relationship with Cruise after ditching the star four years ago.

The three previous “Mission: Impossible” films have generated combined worldwide grosses of $1.4 billion for Paramount, including nearly $400 million for 2006’s third iteration. But Cruise’s salary and the costs of his deal led to Viacom chief Sumner Redstone ending the 14-year relationship with the star a few months after the thid film launched.

Though Par had no comment, it’s understood that the deals for the fourth “Mission” have been structured to hold down upfront costs with more potential compensation from the backend.

“Tom and J.J. are great talents and we are excited to be working with them to re-launch this legendary franchise,” said Paramount Pictures Chairman & CEO Brad Grey.

Cruise will be seen next in Fox’s action comedy “Knight and Day,” directed by James Mangold and co-starring Cameron Diaz. “Knight” is out July 2.

Cruise is represented by CAA. Abrams, Appelbaum and Nemec are represented by WME.

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