Mission Impossible Prague Filming Locations
Unbelievably it’s been 25 years since the original Tom Cruise Mission Impossible was released in 1996. I personally did not see any of the filming because that was done in 1995 and I arrived the following year but I do know all the locations so I thought it might be fun to show you what was real and what was not. It’s all in the editing. I’ll use the character names from now on.
Jim Phelps Arriving at the Safe House
The first shot of the Mission Impossible Prague filming locations is a short clip of Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) walking over cobbles with a briefcase in his hand heading towards the safe house and the word “PRAGUE” comes up on the screen. This is all real. The street is called Platnerska and is next to the Four Seasons Hotel. However, all filming inside the “Safe House” was done at Pinewood Studios. Notice that the street level has changed since 1996, this happened during flood protection reconstruction work in 2003. On a side note, it seems that the location scouts were on the lookout for an intro scene which included the iconic Prague Castle but by accident they also found a second location.
The US Embassy
Ethan (Tom Cruise) meets Sarah (Kristin Scott Thomas) at the US Embassy where everybody is standing on staircases drinking cocktails and of course this part is not really the US Embassy but it is Prague. They filmed the staircase scenes in the National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square.
Ethan and Sarah Leave the American Embassy
Again this Mission Impossible Prague filming location is not the US Embassy and it’s not even the Prague National Museum. For this scene they used the exit gate of the Lichtenstein Palace on Kampa Island.
Ethan Runs onto Charles Bridge as Jim Phelps Gets Shot
You initially see Ethan running up the steps and he hears the shot. The part where Jim Phelps got bloody hands and falls off the bridge was filmed in a studio. The part where Jim Phelps hits the water was performed by a stuntman from Charles Bridge.
Ethan Runs Back to See Car Explode
The third of the Mission Impossible Prague filming locations on Charles Bridge sees Ethan skidding to a halt and looking down at the car when it explodes. This is all real. The city had plans to redevelop the Na Kampe square, replace the tarmac road with cobble stones and replace all the trees so the Mission Impossible Prague crew basically had licence to make a lot of explosive light and flame that could damage the ground but without actually breaking any nearby windows.
Sarah Gets Stabbed, the Police Arrive on a Boat and Ethan Runs Away
The double-gate location where the stabbing gets done is real on the embankment of the river. The stuntmen (river police) jump onto a regular tourist cruise boat dock. When Ethan jumps over the double-gate and runs away the location is the same as above when Sarah was stabbed and the effect is that he’s off down a street when in fact in 50 metres this leads to the far end of the same alleyway which borders Na Kampe where the car blew up.
Ethan Calls Kittridge from a Payphone
This Mission Impossible Prague filming location is real but part of the scene is faked. If you look carefully behind the phone box is a boat and steps leading down to the water. The combination of this style of steps and the willow tree is found only in one place. The Malostranska Vodarna (old water tower on the Lesser Town side of Jiraskuv Bridge). This means a fake phone box was positioned by the railings.
Ethan Arrives back at the Safe House.
This is the Mission Impossible Prague filming location that I mentioned earlier. It’s the same general area used to shoot the “Jim Phelps arriving at the Safe House” scene but if Jim had walked past that building he would have gone down these steps so this was the part that the location scouts stumbled across by accident. After calling Kittridge, Ethan walks through an archway and walks up the steps. Slick editing, a high camera angle and some choice lighting increases the drama but in reality only the river and a boat dock are on the other side of the arch.
Ethan Walking to and Exiting the Restaurant Akvarium
When he’s walking to the restaurant he’s really on the Old Town Square. In 1995 the ST Nicholas Church behind his right shoulder was painted white but in the last renovation it was returned to it’s original sand colour.
His entry to the restaurant and jumping out of the window were all filmed at Pinewood Studios but I was mightily impressed with some of the detail to the right of the restaurant including the window and another quick scene where you look past a lamp into a covered passageway. Somebody had obviously photographed that side of the square. The water in that shot is real. The fact that Ethan is high-stepping as he comes out of the window is because he’s trying not to step on a stuntman who was pulled through the window backwards a second or two before.
Ethan Running Away as the Water Explodes onto the Square
For this Mission Impossible Prague filming location the city was not going to allow a chance of any damage to the square. This is all real except that the effect is leading you to believe that this is the water from the fish tank. The film crew actually released a 10,000L tank of water onto the Old Town Square for Ethan to run through. In the picture the ST Nicholas Church is on the left and the base of the Jan Hus monument is on the right.
Ethan Gets a Light from the Man on the Bench
Ethan arranges to meet Max (Vanessa Redgrave) and gets an email with meeting point instructions. The email received by Ethan (corner of Nekazanka and Na Prikopy) is giving a real address although the correct name would be Na Příkopě. The location of the meet is real apart from the bench which was installed for the shot. On a side note, the building on the corner is part of my Prague Architecture Walking Tour.
Ethan meets Max in her Office and the CIA arrive.
In some slick editing you are actually moving between three separate locations. In order, when Ethan has the balaclava removed he’s in a room that Max is using for her office. This was filmed inside the Hotel Grand Evropa on Wenceslas Square. After Max starts running the disk and Ethan warns here about the CIA coming she dispatches a bodyguard to look from the balcony (pictured above centre-left). This scene was filmed in the Municipal House building adjacent to the Powder Gate. One of the views that would be impossible from that balcony is down the side of the building where you see a police car on one side and a white transit van opposite.
The next shot is when the CIA arrive and it’s actually the same white van just like they’d already shot the scene and left everything where it was. They park outside of another entry to the Municipal House building. When the CIA are in a corridor and bursting into the room we are back at the Grand Hotel Evropa.
Max and Ethan Escape
There are two parts to the scene. As the CIA were bursting into the office you see Max and Ethan strolling across a walkway. This scene is back at the Municipal House building and the walkway is what joins that building to the Powder Gate (pictured above in the “balcony pic” centre-right).
The second part is driving away in the Mercedes. This street is called Hybernska and if you look behind them you’ll see the Powder Gate where the previous scene was shot. In the Mercedes scene if you look to the right you’ll see a large “Stars and Stripes” US flag. In 1995 that building was (and still is) owned by a Czech political party called CSSD (Czech Social Democracy) although between 1952 and 1990 it was the location of the Vladimir Lenin Museum. There is no reason for the flag to be there other than the Prague Mission Impossible crew arranged for it.
So that’s it, you can find these places or if you want to hire me to show you around then feel free to contact me or take a look at livingpraguetours.com for different tour content.