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In one of those British tabloid stories that we're not necessarily inclined to believe but are still contractually bound to repeat regardless of their dubious veracity, it's been reported that now that Paramount has pushed longtime partner Tom Cruise into a new career as a high-priced amusement park greeter and football mascot, they're trying to get current favorite son Brad Pitt (who, not so coincidentally, has a development deal at the studio) to take over Cruise's once-signature franchise. According to an appropriately shadowy source, speaking on the condition that her identity as Pitt's publicist wouldn't be revealed:

An insider told London Lite: "MI:IV will not include Cruise's character, agent Ethan Hunt. They're considering a brief mention, saying Hunt retired to live a safe life with his new wife.

"They're set on Brad taking over as a gutsy new head operative who puts together his own unique team of specialists."

Sources say Paramount is prepared to do whatever it takes to get Pitt on board, and is even willing to make him the highest-paid movie star in history, with a salary topping 21 million.

We've never been good at currency conversions, especially ones involving speculative British pounds to imaginary American dollars, but we imagine that the resulting, staggering sum would be enough to get him to take the role. Even if the chatter isn't true, it does make sense: Displacing Cruise as the face of the franchise would be the next logical step in Pitt's secret campaign to crush his onetime higher-billed castmate, a carefully plotted strategy that's already included his entering into a publicly accepted relationship with a much more famous actress, as well as the production of a baby that no one doubts is really his.