Thandie Newton for “Mission Impossible 2”

Fans of Brit actress Thandie Newton will see a new side to her playing a sexy jewel thief to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in the $100m blockbuster MI2. For the actress, kissing up to megastar Cruise was all in a day’s work, as she explained to Paul Fischer from the set of the Australian-made action pic.

Thandie Newton had recently married by the time she was in Sydney shooting the all new Mission Impossible. “It’s such a great feeling, knowing that you found the one who fulfils you”, yet her new hubbie might find certain scenes in Mission Impossible a bit hard to take. “Yeah there’s a bit of snogging going on in this one”, Newton responds laughingly, including a sexy bathtub scene with her superstar leading man. “It’s a tough job I know.” When we last spoke, Newton was on the last leg of shooting Mission.

For the British raised Zimbabwean, doing Mission in Sydney means that she has come full circle. “I have my fondest memories being in Australia shooting Flirting”, Newton’s first film. Her track record is hardly the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, with the likes of The Leading Man, Beloved and Besieged among her latest credits. MI2 has come about “at the right time in my life”, and it’s a film that is destined to put the actress firmly on the map. “But that’s not my agenda”. After all, she [wisely] turned down the big-screen Charlie’s Angels to do a small English film.

Small is not exactly the word to describe MI2, budgeted at the $US100m, shot on location in Australia, and plagued with controversy from the outset. This time around, Cruise returns as international agent Ethan Hunt in the sequel to the 1996 action hit, itself based on the popular TV series Mission: Impossible. This time, Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force team are out to retrieve a German biological weapon that has fallen into unsafe hands. Ving Rhames returns as computer expert Luther Stickell, with Anthony Hopkins as Cruise’s new boss and Newton cast as a jewel thief. More she wouldn’t divulge, except to say that “she’s a pretty mysterious character and fun to play.”

Newton loved working with action director John Woo who puts his own stamp on the film. “Watching Woo work is remarkable”, Newton explains. “His technical finesse is unlike anything I’ve seen; he’s amazing in the way he uses the camera, and he works methodically fast.” Newton wouldn’t be drawn into the controversy surrounding the film, the sacking of the Aussie DOP and the so-called ‘creative differences’ between Cruise and Woo. “If there were any, I didn’t notice; I just do my thing.”

Her ‘thing’ did include a fair bit of smooching with Mr Cruise, but she remains nonplussed. “It’s very basic. If you do the same thing over and over again and you start wondering what all the fuss is about. You’re not actually thinking about kissing – you’re thinking, ‘Is my face in the right place, is my hair there, oh my God, you can see my nipple.'”

But she adored working Cruise, who says Cruise’s boyish charm is matched by his single-minded focus. “When they asked me to be in the picture,” says Newton, a friend of Kidman’s, “I remember thinking, ‘Woo and Cruise making a film together? How fantastic.’ Newton further describes Cruise as surprisingly normal. “He’s much more normal than you would imagine,” Newton says. “I think you have to be when you’re working with people for such a long time. But it’s funny, even though I’ve known him for a long time, and I was working with him every day, you always feel that you can’t quite completely relax with him, because he is who he is.”