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7 things you didn't know about the Mission: Impossible theme song

By
Melody Lau

Action flicks have given us some of the most memorable theme music: Indiana Jones, the Bond films, and one could argue for either Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's "See You Again" or Ludacris' "Act a Fool" for the Fast and Furious franchise. (This writer votes for the latter.)

Then there's the Mission: Impossible theme, one of the most recognizable tunes in film and TV history. The rollicking urban samba track drums up aniticipation, excitement and, when matched with actor Tom Cruise's death-defying stunts, is truly a cinematic experience to behold every time.

To celebrate Fallout, the latest instalment of the Mission: Impossible series, let's take a closer look at the theme we all know and love.


1. It was written in 1967 — when Tom Cruise was only 4 years old

Composer Lalo Schifrin was hired by producer Bruce Geller in the ‘60s to write the theme song for the television series, Mission: Impossible, which the current Tom Cruise film franchise is based on. Schifrin says he had no clue what the show was about when he was first brought on to write the song, only to create something that was “very inviting and very exciting.

2. It took Schifrin just 3 minutes to write it

Schifrin once told the New York Post: “Orchestration’s not the problem for me. It’s like writing a letter. When you write a letter, you don’t have to think what grammar or what syntaxes you’re going to use, you just write a letter. And that’s the way it came.”

3. The theme is written in 5/4 time

While some have assumed this unusual time signature is, in part, influenced by Schifrin’s Argentinian background, he has debunked that in interviews, claiming that he doesn’t associate that time signature with any Argentinian music he knows. He has famously told the press that he chose 5/4 time because “the people in outer space have five legs and couldn’t dance to our music, so I wrote this for them.” Of course, that’s a joke… or so we believe.

4. He didn’t score every episode of the television series

During Mission: Impossible's run on television, Schifrin was busy scoring other projects so he wasn't always available to create the music for each episode. However, he struck an agreement with the show where incoming composers working with Schifrin's original theme would have to split the pay with him. "For me it was a good deal because, without working, I was getting royalties."

5. Bruce Lee listened to this theme while training for Enter the Dragon

Schifrin went on to score the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon and Lee was a fan of Schifrin's before they had even met. "Bruce Lee wanted to meet me," Schifrin recalled. "He was practicing martial arts in his dojo in Hong Kong to the music of Mission: Impossible."

6. Other musicians and composers have reworked the theme for the Tom Cruise franchise

U2’s Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. recreated Schifrin’s theme for the very first Mission: Impossible film in 1996. That version charted in various countries around the world, peaking at number 1 in Hungary, Iceland and Finland. Since then, Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino, Joe Kraemer and Lorne Balfe have taken on the scores of subsequent films, composing variations on Schifrin’s original theme.

7. The theme has become a go-to pop culture reference

The Mission: Impossible theme song has appeared in a number of TV shows and films over the years such as The Simpsons, Wayne’s World, Shrek 2 and Paddington.

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