No title yet for next pic in franchise; Renner signs

Paramount is on a mission to redo the “Mission: Impossible” franchise.

The new Tom Cruise film, directed by Brad Bird, may have a title that goes in a different direction from the previous three and will introduce an agent played by Jeremy Renner who could also be featured in any subsequent pics. But one of the biggest changes won’t be easily seen by audience members: a different financial arrangement.

Deals for the fourth “Mission” are said to be structured to hold down upfront costs, with more potential compensation from the backend. Bird begins lensing this fall, shooting in Vancouver, Prague, Dubai and the U.S.

Details of the plot are under wraps, although insiders said the story brings a fresh perspective to the action-spy franchise and does not pick up where the last film left off.

J.J. Abrams is producing the film via his Par-based Bad Robot shingle. Cruise will also be a producer on the actioner. Skydance Prods., which has a slate financing deal with Par, is co-financing. Script is by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec. Pic hits theaters Dec. 16, 2011.

Insiders disclosed Thursday that the next film in the series won’t be called “Mission: Impossible IV.” It’s possible that the title won’t even include any variation of the familiar moniker (much as Christopher Nolan’s Batman sequel was simply titled “The Dark Knight”).

In the first three installments, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) worked with a team of agents, reprising the premise of the ’60s TV series. In Bird’s film, there will be only two agents, played by Cruise and Renner, who will have a role as big as Cruise’s. While Paramount envisions Cruise returning for subsequent films, Renner could play the central character in future installments.

Par got a lot of attention earlier this year when it decided to bring back Cruise for the fourth installment considering the actor’s very public split with the studio after “Mission: Impossible III” bowed. Viacom topper Sumner Redstone ordered Cruise off the lot, expressing dismay over Cruise’s salary for the pic and the cost of the actor’s first-look producing deal with Par.

“M:I 3,” released in 2006, grossed $397.9 million worldwide ($263.8 million overseas, $134 million domestically). That was less than the 1996 original, with $457.7 million worldwide ($181 million domestic, $276.7 million international), or the second film (released in 2000), which grossed $546.4 million globally ($215.4 million domestic/$331 million international).

Cruise’s current film, 20th Century Fox’s “Knight and Day,” has earned $222.5 million to date, with roughly two-thirds of that overseas.

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