J.J. Abrams and Tom Cruise, <EM>Mission: Impossible III</EM> J.J. Abrams and Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible III

That sizzling sound you hear isn't originating from the iconic Mission: Impossible fuse, but from the red-hot DVD release of Mission: Impossible III, simultaneously available today in standard as well as both (HD DVD, Blu-ray) hi-definition formats. To mark the action-packed escapade's vid store arrival, TVGuide.com spoke with director J.J. Abrams, who divulged secrets from the M:i:III set, shared his awe of franchise front man Tom Cruise (aka IMF superagent Ethan Hunt), and even updated us on that "little" Star Trek film thing he has in the works.

TVGuide.com: First off, I want to say that I really, really enjoyed the film. I have two young sons and dont get out to the theater as much as I would like, so the DVD was my first time seeing it. I thought for sure I knew where M:I:III was going, but it turned out I so didnt.

J.J. Abrams: Oh, thats great. Thank you.

TVGuide.com: Do you think you could you have ever tackled this project not having had your Alias experiences?
Oh, the experience of Alias, and Lost and Felicity, were critical in my not just getting the job but being able to execute it.

TVGuide.com: But specifically Alias, with the espionage theme and staging action sequences....

Abrams: Yes, there was something specific to Alias that familiarized me with the genre, the conventions of the set pieces, and the kind of dramatic tension you get from these sort of stories. It was definitely incredible schooling.

TVGuide.com: In your eyes as a filmgoer and not the filmmaker, what is the most thrilling sequence in M:i:III?
As a filmgoer, I would say the most visceral sequence is the bridge sequence. But there's something about the Vatican sequence, too. While it's not out-and-out action, there's something I love about the connectivity of all these sort of pieces and watching the team work together and pull off this operation. Tom jumping off the building in Shanghai was fun, and when he has the fight in the elevator with the IMF agents.... There are so many moments that stand out in terms of my point of view, in terms of making it. But for moviegoers, my guess would have to be the bridge sequence.

TVGuide.com: I had actually suspected so I found validation in watching the DVD extras that the trickiest stunt was not  any of the pyrotechnic stuff, but Ethan running across fishing village rooftops.
Yeah, that was kind of amazing, because that was just Tom doing that, running across the roofs, jumping down, and running across the bridge. No wires or anything. The hardest thing for us was figuring out how to film it.

TVGuide.com: As important as what you include in final cut is what you didn't. Looking at the deleted scenes, there is one set at a cemetery which, in my opinion, could have tipped your hand a bit....
Exactly. That scene was actually a tricky scene to film. The problem with that scene is made the audience stop and go, "Huh, what's really going on there?" and by doing that, it put you way ahead of the story.

TVGuide.com: And there's one with Keri Russell wearing the hell out of a party dress, but I think that could have muddied up Ethan's motivations a bit.
I didnt mind so much the idea that you think, "Is he having an affair?," but I do feel that including it in the movie would have ultimately slowed things down at a time when you didnt want them to slow down.

TVGuide.com: In retrospect, it's a shame that M:I:III's theatrical release was clouded by the press circus surrounding your star, if only because as the making-of featurette demonstrates, Tom Cruise is, by every definition, a movie star, and an enthusiastically committed actor. I wanted to make a film with him after watching the extras!
[Laughs] It is a remarkable thing, working with him. I am in awe of his work ethic. Not that a good work ethic is unusual to me I've been lucky to work with very hard-working people but at this point in his career, having done what he does for so long, that he still works every day as if it were his first day, hungry to prove himself, is the greatest gift. As a director, it absolutely spoils you.

TVGuide.com: Someone of his stature could so easily just kick back and say, "Cater to me...."
Yet he helps inspire the crew to work equally as hard. It's wonderful.

TVGuide.com: Did you and Tom ever bat around any ideas for a Mission: Impossible IV?
We've thrown around some ideas for a whole bunch of things, and I look forward to the day we can work together again, absolutely.

TVGuide.com: Are you particularly thrilled to have the film merit hi-def DVD releases?
It's cool, and I'm thrilled that it will be available in the format. I want to go out and buy a machine; I havent gotten one yet. I look forward to seeing how it looks in HD.

TVGuide.com: I think you could just about afford one now. Changing topics, where do you stand on the Star Trek feature? Is there any framework in place, a setting, characters...?
The framework is firmly in place, the script is being written now, and we are incredibly enthusiastic about it.

TVGuide.com: Do you have any thoughts yet about going with unknowns versus established TV or film actors?
It's way too early to talk about casting, but the story is incredibly cool. All of us working on it are just giddy about it.

TVGuide.com: My last question is regarding Lost. Do you think that this season's slight ratings dip is reflecting viewer frustration?
Abrams: My guess is it's probably unfair to look at four or five episodes in the season and start concluding anything. I would just say, in terms of the ratings of this show, or the audience, the fact that the show is doing the numbers that it's doing is something thats amazed us, because the show is a very unique and sort of bizarre thing. I feel like you can't analyze everything, every week, every moment, and sort of decide "This is where the show is," because as you saw this past week, we had almost a million viewers we didnt have the week before. The air goes out of the balloon if you start to answer and understand too many things too quickly. If the story is laid out too easily, you lose the fun of the ongoing layers being peeled back and answers being presented when they're earned, not just because people want to know the answers.

Get November sweeps teasers for Lost and many more shows in the new issue of TV Guide.

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.