On one hand, hiring someone like Brad Bird, with his extensive (but limited) credentials in animated movies (“The Incredibles”, “The Iron Giant”) would be unexpected, but on the other hand, it would sort of make sense. Let’s face it, a movie with “Mission Impossible” in the title isn’t going to be sold on the basis of a director’s name — it’s a Tom Cruise movie, and as long as Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt, which he will be, the film will live and die on that alone. So having said that, the director, while important, isn’t really that important in terms of getting butts in theater seats, so I could see where the studio might think it’s permissible to take a chance on someone like Bird, who is experienced but has never directed a live-action movie before.
But the job isn’t Bird’s yet. THR reports that Bird is sharing the short list with two other names — “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer, and Edgar Wright, who has the cult-film-in-the-making “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” waiting in the wings. All three directors are said to have met with the producers of the film. Whoever they get to direct it, they better sign him fast, because pre-production is scheduled for this Summer with a 2011 release date planned by Paramount.
Part three director J.J. Abrams will return as producer on part four, and has done some work on the script with writers Andre Nemec and Josh Appelbaum. Cruise, of course, will produce and star.