Cruise, of course, is the face of the franchise, and Abrams used the third Mission: Impossible flick to jump from television to film (as Star Trek demonstrated earlier this summer, it paid off). The writers, Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec, were hired from earlier Abrams ventures, and the expectation is that Cruise will have a starring role in the movie one way or the other.
Abrams’ intentions are anyone’s guess, but it seems unlikely he would return, given his other commitments and the stratospheric expectations for his future film career. (The original film was helmed by Brian De Palma, and John Woo directed the first sequel.) According to Variety, the hope is to get M:I IV in theaters by 2011.