No-one is more surprised by the rise of Benji Dunn in the Mission: Impossible franchise than Simon Pegg, the actor who plays the former lab technician that is now one of Ethan Hunt’s trusted allies in the field.
“It just happened,” Pegg recently told me over the phone. “I did ‘Mission Impossible 3’ and I thought it would just be a cameo, because J.J. Abrams had seen ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ and he wanted me to come in for a couple of days.”
“Then ‘Star Trek’ happened and J.J. asked how I would feel if Benji was a part of the team for ‘Ghost Protocol.’ And I was intrigued and excited by that idea.”
“The character has grown enormously. We have sort of watched him grow on camera really. Because when we first met him he was just a lab-technician and then he made a decision to go into the field and we have seen him on successive missions since then became more capable and more experienced.”
“It has been fun to portray. Because he has grown up on camera. When you do the movie you never think about the one after. So every time you do it you think about the journey so far and evolve it from that.”
“That’s how it goes. If we do another one that will be the same. I don’t know if we are doing another or not. But I imagine it is likely.”
As well as Abrams, Pegg also credits Christopher McQuarrie with the evolution of Benji , as the filmmaker did an uncredited re-write job on “Ghost Protocol” and has since written and directed the most recent “Mission: Impossible” installments “Rogue Nation” and “Fallout.”
“I trust Chris’ instincts completely. And that goes back to ‘Ghost Protocol,’ because he came in to fix some of the issues with the script.”
“He had a really good understanding of Benji as a character, in terms of his growth and his journey to becoming a more capable player in the IMF.”
“He made a few decisions in terms of Benji and ‘Ghost Protocol’ that I really liked. So I feel like the character is in good hands with Chris. Because he is not just going to become a super-agent.”
“Initially in ‘Ghost Protocol’ there was a bit where Benji was Ethan levels of cool. But it just wasn’t the right time for that. The whole thing with Benji wearing a mask, the buildup to Benji wearing a mask has actually been over two movies.”
“That has been really fun to play. Chris has a really good idea of how to build up a character gradually and meticulously. I offer up things for him to say in terms of dialogue, but I am happy to leave the grand arc to Chris.”
“He is the over-seer as the director and writer, he holds the executive power because he sees the big picture more than everyone else.”
Benji’s rise in prominence reached its pinnacle during “Fallout.” So much so that Pegg admitted this wasn’t just the longest he has ever been on set for a “Mission: Impossible” film, but is actually the most time he has spent shooting any film.
“It was the longest shoot. It was 144 days over a year. That was for the shoot, I wasn’t involved in every one of those days. It’s the longest film I have ever been involved with.”
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is in cinemas now.