Christopher McQuarrie: Oscars Should Prioritize Stunt Awards, Not Popular Film

"I don’t care, revoke my Academy membership," McQuarrie told Collider as he detested the currently-on-hiatus Best Popular Film category.

The Academy is not moving forward with its controversial Best Achievement in Popular Film category this awards season, but that doesn’t mean Christopher McQuarrie isn’t still riled up about the thought of the addition to the Oscars. During an extended interview with Collider, the “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” director detested the idea of a Best Popular Film category, saying it represented a backwards way of thinking films that make money can’t be tastefully done (ahem, see “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”).

“I can be diplomatic, but fuck it,” McQuarrie said. “There was talk of a popular film category. I’m really glad they’re not doing that, because I think the notion of that is to shy away from the fact that a — I don’t care, revoke my academy membership…I think that there’s a point at which we’ve lost sight of the fact that what we’re here to do first and foremost — sorry if this sounds offensive to anybody — is to entertain people and to move people. A part of me looks at that and says, ‘Well, there are big movies that do that too.'”

Much more attractive to McQuarrie is the idea of introducing a new Oscars category that recognizes stunt workers and stunt teams. Certainly McQuarrie’s own “Mission: Impossible” entries would have been contenders for a stunt Oscar, which is a category fellow directors like Edgar Wright and actors such as Helen Mirren have advocated for in the past on social media.

“I can’t think of a film recently that might qualify, but, that’s an art, that’s a skill, that’s a craft,” McQuarrie said. “Those are people risking their lives and doing things that are absolutely and utterly truly amazing and are so much a part of an experience like that. Not just in films like this. You go look at ‘Hell or High Water.’ ‘Lone Survivor.’ The stunts in that movie were absolutely incredible. In terms of a new category, I think you need to do that.”

McQuarrie alluded to the fact the Best Popular Film was the latest result of the Academy’s evolution in defining what exactly a “best picture” means. “There was an era that you had to be big and giant and bloviated to qualify as Best Picture,” McQuarrie said, referring to epics like “Ben-Hur” and “Titanic.” “There was a time when you had to be cutting edge and out there to do it.”

“It wasn’t that long ago that a film like that was both commercially successful and won all of those Academy Awards,” the director continued. “I think some of what we see now is a little bit of a backlash from that. There’s a morning after and people say, ‘We did what? We gave the two billion dollar earning movie an Academy Award and not these other movies?'”

Mission: Impossible – Fallout halo jump
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”Paramount

McQuarrie said the inclusive new members of the Academy will be a good thing in “sharing the wealth” among all the different types of worthy Oscar contenders, be them small art films or well-made commercial hits. Ironically, the upcoming Oscars are set to spotlight moneymaking movies such as “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “A Star Is Born.”

As for McQuarrie’s advice to the Academy, the director said, “It might be nice if they had a bunch of screenings where they talked about what a Best Picture is. How do we define it? Really, if they look at what their mission is. I think ultimately you’ll just see the pendulum swing. Some film will do it. Some change in the audience will do it.”

Following the success of “Fallout,” which became the highest grossing “Mission: Impossible” entry over the summer, McQuarrie is currently working with Cruise on “Top Gun: Maverick,” in which he is credited as a co-screenwriter. The film hits theaters June 26, 2020.

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