‘Mission’ impossible for helmer

Carnahan ankles but launch still on target

HOLLYWOOD — Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible 3” has hit another bump, losing Joe Carnahan as director due to “creative differences” less than two months before cameras are due to roll.

But Carnahan’s ankling, which had been rumored for several weeks, will not change either the expected launch of production or the June 29 release date, according to studio vice chair Rob Friedman.

No official word had emerged Sunday on a replacement for Carnahan. Par and producers Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner were reviewing a list of about half a dozen candidates and were expected to tap a new helmer shortly.

Paramount decided three weeks ago to move the release date seven weeks later from the planned May 6. That sets up a confrontation between its tentpole spy franchise and 20th Century Fox’s “Fantastic Four” over the Fourth of July weekend.

Par initially hoped to release “M:I 3” as a 2004 summer tentpole but dropped those plans a year ago when Cruise orchestrated a deal under which Paramount would co-finance Michael Mann’s “Collateral” with DreamWorks as a condition of his starring in that pic. “Collateral” opens Aug. 6.

Carnahan came on to “Mission: Impossible 3” in early 2003 when David Fincher opted out to do “Lords of Dogtown.” At that point, Carnahan had received considerable acclaim for “Narc”; Cruise and partner Wagner came on as producers in 2002 and helped persuade Paramount to release the gritty cop thriller.

The “Mission: Impossible” pics, with Cruise portraying agent Ethan Hunt, have been a lucrative series for Paramount. The first pic, directed by Brian De Palma, grossed $454 million worldwide in 1996; the second, helmed by John Woo, cumed $546 million worldwide in 2000.

Ving Rhames, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kenneth Branagh and Scarlett Johansson are set to co-star in the third installment.

The script has gone through several high-profile scribes, including Frank Darabont, Dean Georgaris, Dan Gilroy and Robert Towne, with Darabont the most recent. Plot details have been kept under wraps; producers have obtained permission to film at the Reichstag in Berlin.

Carnahan’s handling of “Narc” led to his being attached to several other projects, including crime dramas “Killing Pablo” for Par/DreamWorks and “Void” for Universal.

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