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Michael Kaplan Talks Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Costume designer for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Michael Kaplan, talks us through his choices and intentions for clothing in the film. Prepare to be disappointed if you want Tom Cruise’s blue silk suit worn in Dubai; it was custom made by Mr. Kaplan himself. At least Cruise’s Persol sunglasses are available to buy, however.

Michael Kaplan is a powerhouse force in costume design. He is guaranteed to have worked on at least one Hollywood movie you fondly remember from the last twenty years or so. If in doubt consider he designed Samuel L. Jackson’s pimp ensembles for The Long Kiss Good Night (1996) and Randy Quaid’s bad taste brilliance as Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). All of those beauteous stage outfits you saw in Burlesque? All Michael Kaplan. Not to mention Fight Club, Flashdance, the list goes on…

Even though Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) is officially in disguise here, costume designer Michael Kaplan wanted to retain his "quirkiness" within the scene.

Currently hard at work on Star Trek 2, Michael Kaplan spared Clothes on Film time in his busy schedule for an exclusive chat about Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. With one of the biggest franchise releases of the last quarter, Kaplan’s own mission was to create fresh and memorable costumes for a series that prides itself on looking very good indeed.

Clothes on Film: Despite its contemporary setting, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has a definite retro 1960s vibe. Was this how you approached the costumes?

Michael Kaplan: Yes, in a very subtle way, as homage to the 60’s TV series I grew up with. I’ve done the same thing on Star Trek, though perhaps not as subtly.

All of the main actors' suits in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol were custom made, including 16 of the above single breasted style for Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt by Dennis Kim, LA, based on Michael Kaplan's design. It was tailored in mohair, hence the sheen.

CoF: Ghost Protocol features some sharp suiting, the lustrous blue on Tom Cruise, the lightweight grey (with purple stitching) on Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg’s double breasted – were these all custom made?

MK: All the principal actors’ suits were custom made. For Tom Cruise, we needed 16 versions of the blue suit, his shoes (20 pairs, custom made) and shirts (24, custom made) all for that one sequence alone. There were so many different circumstances which called for these vast numbers; stunts with various harnesses, stunts with pads, shoes for running, climbing, distressed versions, etc. Hopefully in the end it all comes together and has a seamless look.

When you need to have so many of the same garments for an actor, it is actually more expedient to manufacture them, although finding enough of a desired fabric can be challenging?

CoF: Simon Pegg as Benji’s look is obviously distinctive within the Impossible Missions Force. Was this to establish his eccentric, slightly geeky side?

MK: Although having all the needed multiples is crucial, my actual job is to create characters with the clothing I am designing. Although the suit look for “Benji” was a working disguise, I wanted it to capture some of his quirkiness.

Tom Cruise's Armani tuxedo is actually midnight blue not black; equally as formal and even 'blacker' under dark lighting. Cruise has also been snapped wearing this suit at premieres for the film.

CoF: Are we correct in deducing that Tom Cruise wore a midnight blue tuxedo with black silk lapels at the ball in Mumbai?

MK: Tom and I thought a midnight blue tuxedo would be more interesting and bit more flattering than a black tux. Once again we needed many multiples so we used Tom’s great relationship with Giorgio Armani to manufacture my design.

CoF: Where’s is Tom’s casual jacket worn for the latter part of the Kremlin bomb sequence from?

MK: When Ethan flees The Kremlin he reverses his Russian uniform jacket, creating yet another disguise, that of a tourist – a casual nylon jacket over a Bruce Springsteen T shirt. The uniform jacket was custom built with a nylon “jacket” lining. The T shirt is my own.

The dark olive shirt Ethan dons in the safehouse was purchased locally in Dubai (very inexpensive; not a designer label). 'I love the colour on Tom!' adds Kaplan. All of Jeremy Renner's suits as William Brandt were made by Dennis Kim.

CoF: Ghost Protocol has a very glamorous, glossy veneer but grounded in reality; would this be fair to say?

MK: I think any film needs to be based on a certain level of reality and believability. The stunts and gadgets need to look like they really work or you’ll lose the audience.

CoF: Were Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg both wearing Persol sunglasses in the movie?

MK: I love Persol sunglasses and wear them myself. There is a retro quality to many of their frames which seemed right for Mission Impossible.

Paula Patton as Jane Carter's green evening dress was specifically designed for 'seduction', including a very intentional leg slit to heighten this effect when she steps from a BMW i8 sports car.

CoF: Can you tell us a little about Paula Patton’s two most outstanding ensembles, the pale blue dress with matching jacket and green ball gown?

MK: The light blue dress and jacket Paula Patton wears in Dubai was designed for her. I wanted a business-like ensemble that would separate her from all the men’s suit looks. The pastel color was perfect for the climate and a dress with a jacket that could come off was a nice change when her character was out of disguise. The sleeveless dress also showed off Paula’s beautiful arms.

When setting out to design a piece of movie clothing, I first must review all the characteristics it must have. Paula’s green gown was no different. The scene where it is worn is a seduction scene so a certain amount of décolleté (low cut with mucho cleavage) was necessary. There was also a bit of action and the director (Brad Bird) wanted to see a lot of leg as Paula steps out of a car (a high slit). I chose a colour that was bright enough to follow Paula’s character around a crowded party, dressing no other extra in that colour (of course I selected a colour that looked amazing with her skin tone).

CoF: It is interesting that you did not go with red for the ball dress. Would this have been just too visible for her character?

MK: The colour red is very powerful and important. I use it occasionally. For the India party scene, many of the servers and butlers traditionally wear red; I didn’t want to fight with that.

Cruise's hooded silhouette (seen above in a customised leather jacket) is an intentionally reoccurring theme for Ethan throughout Ghost Protocol. Unlike grey, which is just Kaplan's favourite colour.

CoF: Colour seems important for you in signifying mood. There is a scene in a train boxcar where the new Impossible Missions Force first meets. They are all wearing varying shades of grey; was this to suggest that they are trapped between right and wrong?

MK: Grey is my favourite colour – for a different reason, at home, my nickname is Grey. In the box car scene, those shades of grey seemed right – nothing as deep as being trapped between right and wrong. Sorry.

CoF: Finally then, Ghost Protocol establishes a new silhouette for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, first seen with the hood of his leather jacket pulled up over his head after the Kremlin bombing and then repeated at the end of the film with a hooded sweater. Was this intentional repetition, to show that Ethan is now alone and hiding in the shadows?

MK: In this case you are quite right (I CAN be deep). This was my intent and I am trying to think of an appropriate prize for you for discovering it!

Thank you, Mr Kaplan. We will take a set invite to Star Trek 2.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is released in the U.S. on 16th December (IMAX) and in the UK on Boxing Day. / class=

© 2011 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.


  • E W

    I also noticed the G-Star Raw on Jeremy Renner, Nice touch, since they are known to be military inspired.

    • F. N.

      You mean the jacket he was wearing in the last scene? If so, which jacket is it? Loved the movie btw

    • Space-Monkey

      I’d love to know this as well – any idea what the jacket is? I’ve searched high and low with no joy finding it 🙁

  • el buhali mohamed

    i really liked the grey jean Ethans was wearing with The dark olive shirt Ethan in the safehouse. Could someone let me know which label os that?

  • Marianne

    I love the photograph at the beginning of this post. I love that Paula Patton looks like a real woman (as opposed to a poster girl for anorexia) and, on top of everything else, sits at the table with the men and is BAREFOOT. It’s such a physical expression of her confidence.

  • Leon

    Anyone know what brand of glasses tom Cruise was wearing when he was fleeing the kremlin in the tourist disguise??

    • alan

      no but I was wondering this too! as well as the windbreaker and
      Springsteen T

  • jiquvox

    I hope my questions won’t be perceived as rude, I’m just curious, but two things about tom cruise clothes rile me up :
    1- I was quite startled by the diner jacket : on one hand there is this great insight about the color (as many modern sartorial tip it’s an invention of the duke of windsor) on the other hand it’s a notched lapel! Look at daniel craig in Casino royale (peaked) or QoS (shawl). Now those are the proper dressed up lapel for a dinner jacket. Was there a particular reason for this choice ???

    2- I know it was michael kaplan first tenure on the mission impossible franchise so any complaint about the lack of a distinctive style for ethan hunt wouldn’t be fair. However considering the critical and box office success of MI4 (very soon the most financially successful entry in the franchise) it’s likely they’ll try to keep everybody. So assumed mr kaplan carry on can we expect from now on a definitive style for ethan hunt? Is he the sharply dressed action man james bond (there is some kind of mcqueen style going on in the daniel craig version)? or is he trying to merge into the background like jason bourne but in more stylish way like with this very cool leather hoody?

    • Chris Laverty

      I can’t speak for Michael Kaplan but I presume all his costuming for Ethan Hunt depends on the script. It seems that by the end of this story Ethan is intending to fade into the background, but who knows where they will go for the next film? Personally I doubt Michael will costume the next simply because he is so in demand on other productions. I could be wrong though. Also, I would see Ethan as more 70’s era James Bond than Jason Bourne. Bourne exists in a heightened but believable reality. Ethan’s world on the other hand is verging on science fiction.

      Regarding the tuxedo, I rather liked it myself. I hate style ‘rules’ personally and think that if it looks good, for whatever reason, then it works. That said my own tuxedos both have a shawl collar – but that’s just personal preference.


  • jiquvox

    I fully agree with you about the “if it looks good it work”. My problem is it doesn’t look good to me. Just bear with me for a couple of minutes.

    I think rules are stupid when they’re applied without understanding. You can break them when you understand why they work and how you can make work something different . I think true style only exists when you break the rules . I call it “playing above the rules”. Not knowing the rules and breaking them nonetheless is “playing below the rules” and it’s a bit stupid in my opinion because it’s a game whose rules have been devised over two centuries by smart men who knew what they were doing (how to bring the best of a man in a specific occasion).

    For instance the tux : normally it’s black and white. The power of this outfit lies in its simplicity. I think that’s why british gentlemen have this “no black suit “rule : because they understand at some level that you should save this power for special occasion like funeral or precisely a tux for an evening event .In the latter case this stark contrast is all the more striking that your feminine partner wears a colourful evening dress. But as mentionned above some shade of blue look blacker than black under specific light. So that’s pretty cool and a nice trick.
    As for the “no black suit” rule I think it can also be bended : It’s pretty cool to wear black casually in my opinion if you ‘re comfortable in a character, ready to stand out and you have what it takes to steal the show. Marcello mastroianni : tall ,dark haired italian, EXTREMELY debonaire, wayrafer sunglasses, cigarette . It works. It looks cool because he makes it look like it’s effortless, he never payed attention and just slipped into this formal outfit like if it were pajamas, like he’s always dashing.

    Now the lapel is also all about formality. A business suit has usually a notched lapel (some dapper man knows how to work a peaked lapel). I expect a shawl/peaked lapel in a tux simply because otherwise it looks like a black suit and it pretty much negates that it’s a special event… When you wear a tux you should feel like a million… precisely like james bond going to the casino to face an evil billionaire and take the hot lady home.

    Honestly I don’t think the notched lapel works here . When he wears the tux this way it only makes me think that he’s a james bond poor’s man that doesn’t “belong to the table” to quote vesper. Which is all the more embarrassing that the MI movie franchise because of the one-man army ethan hunt is clearly competiting with the james bond franchise . I can understand he doesn’t want a peaked lapel because it might shorten him but he should have gone with a shawl in this case.
    I know mainstream audience probably didn’t even notice so you could say it work but that’s the reason why there’s only one sean connery,mastroianni,agnelli, etc…
    Anyway that’s just my opinion, I was simply interested to understand why kaplan did that.

    • Chris Laverty

      Jiquvox, this could back and forth forever so you are quite entitled to the last word on the subject. Unless anyone else wants to chip in? Debate away!

  • LB

    I too am DYING to know what glasses Tom Cruise puts on as he is leaving the Kremlin. They are so HOT. They look like two tone Burberry. Can someone please find out? Perhaps a follow up with Michael Kaplan? : )

    • damon

      I’ve been searching for them for quite some time now. Ethan’s (Tom’s) two tone crystal fade is strikingly similar (or practically exact) to Moscot’s Hyman. At first, i was almost certain it was it. But I couldn’t find the Hyman in the two tone fade color. Then I looked at the 3 dot rivets on the front of Ethan’s glasses and compared it to Hyman’s. Hyman’s dots are more spread apart and Ethan’s are more compact. I can’t find the brand. Ethan’s frame goes from a dark (black?) color fade into a light cystal brown. If anyone else has more info, please share!

  • Ryan Burke

    Does anyone know what fabric was used in Ethan’s blue suit(s)? Is it a mohair/wool blend?

  • Jim

    Does anyone know what trousers and jacket Jeremy Renner is wearing in the final bar scene of ghost protocol?

  • John JJ

    No they are not! Sunglasses are:
    Tom Cruise Agent told me. Not PO2935S as it is claimed above.

  • Oscar

    Can i have more information about blue suite? on the fabric, model, as it would let me buy you can not be made to measure by a tailor.


  • sonya

    Did anyone ever find out what brAND and model sunglasses that Paula Patton was wearing in the scene where they are about to get on the plane to India?

  • qwertyforever

    Hmm what about the goggles that tom cruise wears when climbing the tower in Dubai?? I really thought they looked cool for goggles, and especially since it was emphasized so much during the short time it was used in the show.

  • chris

    what kind of jacket is jeremy renner wearing in the final bar scene? i know its been asked but there are no answers.

  • Perry

    I would like to know what shirt he was wearing with the blue suit. It seems to be a very light oxford blue shirt, almost a collegiate light blue.

    Any ideas?

  • Casey

    I need a picture of Tom in those pants above where he is wearing the olive shirt. Specifically I need a pic from the back. All of toms clothes were fabulous but these pants—well both my friend I audibly in the theatre when we caught him from the back. Makes Tom look like a short fleshy woman (from the back). I am trying to prove this point to a friend and cannot find a pic of this anywhere. You would think that someone else would notice at least how short and odd these pants made him look and commented on it. If anyone has the movie and can take a shot of it– I would appreciate it. Live in another country and it is not on Netflix otherwise I would do it myself!

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