J.J. Abrams Owes His Directing Career To Tom Cruise’s Love Of ‘Alias’

Entertainment Features
07.30.18

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Between 2001 and 2005, IFC aired a terrific show produced by Jon Favreau and Peter Billingsley (the A Christmas Story star who is also Vince Vaughn’s best friend) called Dinner for Five. It was a fantastic little series in which five actors, filmmakers, and screenwriters would sit down for dinner and drinks and just shoot the sh*t. Before Marc Maron, Chris Hardwick, and now Dax Shepard came along with their respective podcasts, Dinner for Five was one of the only times fans could gain some real, unguarded insights into their favorite actors.

One of my favorite episodes of Dinner for Five aired in 2005 and gathered a terrifically cool combination of five people. Kevin Smith acted as host in the episode, and he was joined at the table by comic-book legend Stan Lee, J.J. Abrams, Mark Hamill, and Jason Lee, coming off of The Incredibles. This was a few years before the MCU, so Stan Lee was mostly known only in comic circles; J.J. Abrams was strictly a television writer (Lost, Felicity, Alias), and Mark Hamill was a terrifically famous but mostly out of work actor, while Kevin Smith had yet to start his own podcast empire.

One of the neatest ironies about the episode is that J.J. Abrams — who would resurrect Star Wars ten years later — was at a dinner with Mark Hamil talking about his first produced script, Regarding Henry starring … Harrison Ford. Star Wars wasn’t even a consideration at the time, however, because Abrams had never even directed a feature film. Now, of course, he’s known not only for resurrecting Star Wars (and killing off Han Solo), but also bringing back Star Trek and, before that, making the Mission Impossible films relevant again after John Woo’s disastrous Mission Impossible 2.

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