American actor Tom Cruise and the film crew behind the next Mission: Impossible movie are being accused in Norway of dazzling local politicians and authorities, and getting special treatment while filming on location amidst some of Norway’s equally dazzling mountain scenery. Not so, objects the head of the Norwegian Film Institute, who rejects assertions that Norwegian officials have fallen under “Cruise control.”
Cruise & Co are in Norway’s mountainous district of Møre og Rømsdal this month, and they’ve grabbed lots of attention with death-defying helicopter and parachuting stunts and personal appearances. Cruise has mostly been wearing a black face-mask, especially when greeting locals, posing for photos and even showing up at a birthday party at an historic local hotel.
What irritates some other Norwegian film producers, however, is how the Mission: Impossible crew seems to have won exceptions to rules around everything from Corona virus containment measures to labour laws applying to foreigners. “There’s no lack of action when we want Hollywood to make movies in Norway,” wrote commentator Jo Moen Bredeveien in newspaper Dagsavisen. He cited around NOK 50 million worth of financial incentives from the state, exemption from Corona quarantine regulations and allowance for Cruise and around 200 crew members to even be allowed into Norway.
Bredeveien and other commentators have also reported on how Cruise himself called Norway’s government minister in charge of culture, Abid Raja, to make his special requests early this summer. Raja reportedly got so excited that he videotaped the phone conversation and shared it with newspaper VG.
Norwegian film producers also griped that the Hollywood crews secured financial incentives that they can only dream about, and then one wondered in newspaper Klassekampen why he hadn’t received similar exemptions to Corona rules. “You don’t pose a lower risk of infection even though you’ve received state support,” Rolf Pedersen of Encore Film told Klassekampen. When his company wanted to film a commercial in Lofoten this summer, the American director had to follow the shoot by video from Los Angeles, while the Chinese firm behind the commercial sat in Shanghai.
“It functioned surprisingly well, but it feels unfair when Tom Cruise gets to come with a big team of people while I can’t invite four or five people,” Pedersen said. The only answer he got was that government changed its rules based on “a concrete request.”
Then more complaints were lodged, this time by Norway’s labour union representing seafarers, Sjømannsforbundet. It claimed that the already troubled Hurtigruten cruise line violated labour laws when it chartered one of its cruise ships to the Mission: Impossible crew to house all its people who needed a place to stay while in Norway. The cruise ship MS Fridtjof Nansen (recently found to have had Corona on board last spring) served as a floating hotel staffed by its Filipino crew that’s used on international cruises.
Then the government toughened up, with Trade Minister Iselin Nybø agreeing earlier this week that the lodging arrangement did indeed violate Norwegian laws covering foreign labour. Hurtigruten objected, but announced on Wednesday that it wanted to “be constructive and find solutions” for the ship that’s been docked at Hellesylt near the famed Geiranger Fjord. Hurtigruten, poised to receive as much as NOK 350 million in state Corona crisis aid itself, clearly didn’t want to bite that hand that feeds it.
Truls Kontny of the Norwegian Film Institute, which promotes filming in Norway and administers the state’s film incentive program, fired back at all the criticism on Wednesday. He claimed the Mission: Impossible crew had “started a dialogue” with Norwegian authorities back in June after the EU had recommended opening up for some individual arrivals from countries outside the European Economic Area. He downplayed the significance of Cruise’s phone call to Minister Raja.
“The production is following all recommendations (also) from a unified film branch,” Kontny claimed in a commentary of his own in Dagsavisen. “We all sympathize with sporting and cultural events that are suffering the consequences of the pandemic, but that has nothing to do with this (film) production.”
He also rejected any notion that the Hollywood crew has received any financial sponsorship. Rather, he stressed, the NOK 50 million in incentives means the crew can apply for up to a 25 percent rebate on purchases of Norwegian goods and services while in Norway. He further objected to any association with the “social dumping” alleged on board the crew’s floating hotel. That, he said, was up to Hurtigruten to sort out, not the film crew.
The exemptions and state “rebate,” meanwhile, have long been justified as a means of attracting investment and portraying Norway to an international audience. Parts of the last Mission: Impossible movie were also filmed in Norway, on the iconic mountaintop known as Preikestolen. In the actual movie, however, the scene was made to look as though it took place in India.