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Early Roles That Mission: Impossible Actors Would Like You To Forget About

Adapted from the hit TV series, the "Mission: Impossible" movie franchise launched in 1996 with superstar Tom Cruise as its protagonist. After more than two decades and a half-dozen films (with two more on the way), Cruise's action hero Ethan Hunt has become America's answer to James Bond as the nation's great fictional super-spy. Surrounding Hunt has been his intrepid team of hardened heroes, which has included among others Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell, Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, and Jeremy Renner as William Brandt.

Throughout the series' run, a number of big names have turned it into a star-studded spectacle, while several emerging talents have used it to become household names. But before they reached global audiences in the "Mission: Impossible" series, many had already appeared in forgettable films and major flops that they would love to never think about again, and would certainly like audiences to forget — if they've seen these misfires at all.

But don't worry, "Mission: Impossible" stars, we are here to remind everyone of the films you'd rather we all ignore. From the failed comedies to the low-budget indie groaners, these are early roles that the cast of "Mission: Impossible" want you to forget about.

Jean Reno in Do You Want A Nobel Baby?

Yes, that's Jean Reno — deadly French assassin from the original "Mission: Impossible" and the 1994 action thriller "The Professional" — in a goofy wig, mustache, and lab coat. Before Reno starred in some of the best American action movies Hollywood had to offer in the '90s, he'd already had a long career in his native France. Since the 1970s, he starred in hit dramas, suspenseful thrillers, and action comedies, and while plenty proved to be quality films in their own right, there's at least one that stands out as memorable for all the wrong reasons: the 1980 comedy "Voulez-vous un bébé Nobel?" ("Do You Want a Nobel Baby?").

In the film, Reno plays the small role of Bernier, a doctor working at a hospital with some rather suspect practices. Run by shady businessman Victor Delacroix (Jean Pierre Marielle), who has had the brilliant idea to market men's semen to women, they've abducted a number of different men for their qualities with the hopes of combining their genes for artificial insemination. 

Perhaps if this had been some sort of dystopian sci-fi drama, or a dark thriller, the premise could have worked, but as a comical farce it falls flat on its mustached face. Given the respect he's since garnered, both in France and in Hollywood — and around the rest of the world — Reno would probably like us to forget he was ever a part of this one.

Ving Rhames in Drop Squad

Ving Rhames had already starred in more than a dozen films when he signed up for "Mission: Impossible" as computer hacker Luther Stickell. He returned in every subsequent installment in the series, making him the longest tenured member of the cast alongside Tom Cruise himself. While he's also appeared in other iconic films, like Quentin Tarantino's landmark crime thriller "Pulp Fiction," Rhames also has at least one movie that feels woefully out of place on his resume. 

Released in 1994, "Drop Squad" is a big swing and a miss. Though it has a compelling story, it fails spectacularly at its lofty ambitions. Rhames stars as a member of a black activist group that attempts to deprogram a high-powered black ad executive played by Eric La Salle ("ER"), whose work peddles racist messaging. The film raises some very good points about the way our culture views and exploits marginalized groups, but unfortunately it falls so far into exploitation territory that those messages are completely lost, especially when it tells us that the solution is a kind of fascist mind control. 

Reviews at the time trashed the film for these and other reasons, with Roger Ebert giving it the dreaded half-star for its misguided ambitions. Modern reviewers, like YouTubers BlackTribbles, criticized the film for its dated stereotypes, the idea of gatekeeping the black community, and being just plain boring. In the end, Rhames probably wants to forget "Drop Squad" not just because it was bad, but because despite its noble intentions, it was still managed to be offensive.

Michelle Monaghan in Perfume

We may be forced to give Michelle Monaghan (Ethan Hunt's wife Julia in "Mission: Impossible III" and "Ghost Protocol," then ex-wife in "Fallout") more of a pass on this one than some others on this list, as she's not the only big-name actor who probably regrets the 2001 film "Perfume." Members of the broad ensemble cast like Jeff Goldblum, Paul Sorvino, Mariska Hargitay, Kyle MacLachlan, Michelle Williams, and Jared Harris all probably regret making this one, which is noteworthy for being an entirely ad-libbed film with the barest bones of a plot. The actors wrote their dialogue on-the-spot, altering the story as they filmed, making it one big, bloated — and boring — improv exercise.

As for what little story the film has, it claims to follow a group of models and photographers over the course of a week of work at a New York modeling show. Right away, you can probably see why the film was considered by some to be little more than an ego-stroking effort by those involved. Most of the film is a series of loosely-connected scenes that vary in length and quality, ultimately failing to either entertain or educate in any way.

Monaghan at least has the excuse of this being her big screen debut, not something the rest of the more established cast can say to justify their parts in this putrid, perfunctory project. The improvisational nature at least helps explain why it's so awful, but we are forced to wonder, "What were they thinking?"

Jeremy Renner in National Lampoon's Senior Trip

Good news for the Avengers' Hawkeye: most people have forgotten about this one. But we're here to happily remind everyone that "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" and "Rogue Nation" star Jeremy Renner was once known for playing lovable goofballs long before he was a major multi-franchise action hero. In the 1995 teen comedy "National Lampoon's Senior Trip," the 24-year-old actor played high schooler Mark D'Agostino (nickname "Dags"), who goes on a field trip to Washington D.C to meet with the President of the United States after his class is forced to write a letter to the White House as punishment for their childish pranks.

The film boasts a surprisingly decent cast that, in addition to Renner, also includes former "Max Headroom" star Matt Frewer, hippie icon Tommy Chong as a lazy bus driver, and "Kids in the Hall" alum Kevin McDonald as a teen obsessed with "Star Trek." But even as a lowbrow comedy with some good actors it doesn't get very many laughs, and Renner is almost unrecognizable as a long-haired, dim-witted high school slacker.

More than a decade after "National Lampoon's Animal House" set the standard for these kinds of films, and a few years before the '90s hit "American Pie," a film Renner would like us all to forget got sandwiched in between and was promptly smoked out. It was both a bomb in theaters and a flatline with critics, with a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Henry Cavill in Hellraiser: Hellworld

Jeremy Renner's fellow superhero actor Henry Cavill reached stardom as DC Comics' big blue boy scout, Superman, before he starred opposite Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible — Fallout." But the actor has a long list of credits from his early days that he'd probably like to wipe from IMDb, including "Hellraiser: Hellworld." 

The film was the seventh sequel to the classic 1987 Gothic horror film based on a short story by legendary writer Clive Barker. By 2005, the franchise had fallen to little more than a series of bad direct-to-video sequels. The plot of "Hellworld" bore almost no resemblance to Barker's original, except for the appearance of the cenobite Pinhead. It pathetically attempted to put a cyber-spin on the horror concept, with Cavill starring as an avid gamer (as he is in real life) who plays a "Hellraiser" online video game called Hellworld, unwittingly unleashing the real demon at the center of the fictional franchise.

While its meta and almost fourth-wall-breaking story might seem kind of clever, with Lance Henricksen and Katheryn Winnick turning up too, the movie is just an excuse to kill some college kids in gruesome ways. The characters are lifeless cardboard cliches, the story is trite, and the effects are of the bad early 2000s variety. It was so bad, in fact, that it effectively killed the direct-to-DVD series, which had released four films in six years. 

But do see it, because we want to make sure Cavill knows we haven't forgotten.

Rebecca Ferguson in Drowning Ghost

If any member of the "Mission: Impossible" family can succeed in making us forget an early failure it might be Rebecca Ferguson. That's because her biggest flop, "Drowning Ghost," was a little-seen foreign-language indie entry from 2004, a disastrous slasher film that barely even made its way to America. But track down some images from the film, and sure enough, there's future "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" star Rebecca Ferguson, nearly 15 years before she appeared opposite Tom Cruise as deadly assassin Ilsa Faust. 

In "Drowning Ghost," Ferguson makes her movie debut as Amanda, a student at a prestigious boarding school. But on the eve of the school's 100th anniversary, a group of students become obsessed with an age-old story of a series of murders carried out on campus by a psychotic killer. The murderer was of course never found, and as they dig deeper into the urban legend, the killings begin again. 

Full of twists that don't surprise, a cast that can't act, and production values that would make Ed Wood cringe, "Drowning Ghost" is a debut that Ferguson probably wishes could be buried along with the film's many victims. 

Henry Czerny in Cold Sweat

Followed by the likes of Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, and Laurence Fishburne, Henry Czerny has the distinction of playing the first IMF leader to give orders to Ethan Hunt in the "Mission: Impossible" film series. As head of the IMF in the first "Mission" film, he's also the first to question Hunt's allegiance and force the action hero to go on the run. In 1996, Czerny was already a veteran Hollywood character actor who had played other, similar military executive characters, most notably in the 1994 Jack Ryan sequel, "Clear and Present Danger." But there's one 1993 film that's hardly as reputable as his work in the military and spy genres.

Starring Adam Baldwin and Playboy Playmate of the Year Shannon Tweed, it should come as no surprise that the erotic thriller "Cold Sweat" didn't go on to sweep the Oscars and become a classic. It tells the story of Mark Cahill, who leads a double life as a married family man by day and a secret stone-cold contract killer by night. But guilt over his latest victim, an innocent bombshell blonde, weighs on him so much that her ghost begins to haunt him, sometimes literally, and in the bedroom no less.

Bordering on softcore adult film territory, the movie uses Tweed's Playboy model status to its full gratuitous potential. Even co-star Henry Czerny gets a semi-graphic sex scene, making this a movie he surely wishes he could track down and destroy every unsold VHS copy of.

Paula Patton in Jumping The Broom

Actress Paula Patton joined the "Mission: Impossible" team in the fourth film, "Ghost Protocol," as a new and deadly IMF agent. Every bit as tough as Ethan Hunt, many wondered if she might become a fixture in the series, until she failed to make a return in the sequel, "Rogue Nation." While we're still wondering if her character Jane Carter could a descendant of the MCU's Peggy Carter, the actress herself is probably wondering if she can delete at least one of her pre-"Mission: Impossible" films from every fan's memories. 

The 2011 romantic comedy "Jumping the Broom" put Patton into the stereotypical role of sad, lovelorn Sabrina Watson, a smart, successful, and gorgeous woman who just can't seem to find a husband. She keeps falling for lame guys one after another, but soon stumbles onto a new man, Jason Taylor, who in classic screwball fashion she meets after she hits him with her car. Soon they're engaged, and wouldn't you know it, their mismatched families cause problems for them.

An unfunny rom-com, "Jumping the Broom" tries desperately not to be cliched and fails miserably. Patton took a detour into action fare later that year with "Ghost Protocol," but has since gone back to making romantic comedies ... all of which are way better than this one.

Ving Rhames in Striptease

Perhaps one of the 1990s' most notoriously bad box office hits, the film "Striptease" was, believe it or not, based on a best-selling novel. At the time it was expected to be a big success, with superstar Demi Moore headlining the adaptation. Instead, the film — in concert with a couple of other duds — nearly killed Moore's career. But while people often fixate on the leading actress at the center of the film, and how it tainted her after it bombed in theaters, few seem to remember it also starred Ving Rhames. Perhaps because it was released the same year as the smash hit "Mission: Impossible" in which he also starred, "Striptease" failed to hurt his career in the same way.

In the film, Moore starred as former FBI agent Erin Grant, who has turned to exotic dancing to support her daughter during her custody battle with her ex-husband. She soon becomes the obsession of a major politician (Burt Reynolds) and gets embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy that puts her in danger. Rhames stars as Shad, the chief of security at Grant's strip club, the Eager Beaver. He gets some good lines, but even he can't help this cheesy sex schlock.

In the end, "Striptease" is a movie that we'd wager pretty much everyone involved with wishes they could erase.

Jeremy Renner in Fish In A Barrel

Six years after he was a teenaged loser in "National Lampoon's Senior Trip," future "Avengers" star Jeremy Renner — IMF agent William Brandt in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise — took a turn as an action hero of sorts in just his third film role, as Remy in "Fish in a Barrel." Billed as a dark comedy, the indie production has almost no budget to speak of, but puts the actor into another slacker role. Only this time he's also a big time crook looking to get away with a major score.

The movie centers on a foursome of friends — of which Renner is the only known name today — who pull off a daring jewel heist, making off with four million dollars in diamonds. But Remy accidentally kills a cop during the robbery, and while planning their next move the following day, he and his crew are confronted by another officer who wants the loot. 

A low-rent, low-budget indie movie that tries to be a stylish crime caper by copying other, better pictures, "Fish in a Barrel" is nearly impossible to find online nowadays. But since it offers little in the way of real entertainment value, maybe we're all better for it.

Sean Harris in Trauma

Sean Harris is the only actor in the "Mission: Impossible" series to play a villain that terrorized the IMF twice, doing so in both "Rogue Nation" and its follow-up, "Fallout." Before he was threatening global peace however, Harris had a long career in his native England, appearing in a number of well-regarded films like 2005's "Frozen" with Richard Armitage as well as "Henry Brown" with Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer. One film that isn't so fondly remembered, however, is his 2004 effort, "Trauma."

This psychological thriller stars Colin Firth as a man who begins to go insane after he awakens from a coma and discovers that his wife has died. He meets a new young woman (Mena Suvari), but visions of his dead wife continue to haunt him. Unfortunately, it's a poorly made imitation of movies like "Memento" and "Jacob's Ladder," with an unsatisfying twist and elements pulled from too many other places. It all adds up to a jumbled mess that almost seems to enjoy making no sense. 

Though Firth was praised for his performance (via Eye For Film), and Harris puts in a decent turn, the embarrassment is topped off by a visible boom mic in one scene that makes it painfully obvious that the filmmakers just didn't care.

Henry Cavill in Little Red Riding Hood

Henry Cavill as a dashing medieval warrior in a retelling of a classic fairy tale? What could possibly go wrong? Everything, it seems, as the 2006 film "Little Red Riding Hood" can attest. Mixing elements of "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Princess Bride," the movie is more than just a reimagining of the original fairy tale, as it begins with a teen girl being read the story by her grandmother. As the story unfolds, she imagines people from her life as characters in the story.

Cavill stars as the pizza delivery boy in the real world, who in the imaginary realm of "Little Red Riding Hood" becomes a brave and charming hunter who helps the title heroine survive her adventure. Made on a shoestring budget, the film looks like a rejected Family Channel movie, and the fact that it's also a musical is a cherry on top of the cheesy cake.

While at the time he was happy to get away from the "crying" and "agony" of films like "Hellraiser: Hellworld" (via YouTube) we can't imagine Cavill looking back on this one with much pride today after his high-profile stints in "Man of Steel," "The Witcher," and "Mission: Impossible — Fallout."  But at least now we know Cavill is well-suited to play the early '90s mullet-haired Superman should DC ever want to go that route. Plus, you can watch this one online. 

Tom Cruise in Losin' It

You might think star Tom Cruise would want to erase a film like "The Outsiders," which prominently features his bad tooth, but at least that film was well-reviewed. Not so for the 1980s teen sex comedy "Losin' It," a movie so bad that all it has going for it is the fact that it stars a young Tom Cruise. With a cast of bumbling high school goofballs and a title like "Losin' It," it's pretty easy to guess what this one's about, and we can see why superstar Cruise might wish he could bury this one forever. 

Playing an awkward teen who's struggling to have sex for the first time doesn't exactly fit with his macho sex symbol image today, and the fact that the movie is downright awful doesn't help matters. Also starring a young Jackie Earl Haley ("Watchmen"), it centers on a group of boys who head to Mexico with the hope of losing their virginity. Along the way they meet Kathy, a frustrated — and much older — married woman (played by "Cheers" star Shelley Long) who's fighting with her husband and looking for a quickie divorce across the border. 

Though the 1960s setting gives it some charm, "Losin' It" is contrived, cringey, and ultimately a forgettable entry in a decade awash in other, better films just like it. Of course, the future "Mission: Impossible" star might not even need to scrub this one from history because reviews at the time — like the one in the New York Times — didn't even mention him.