June 08, 2005 08:00 AM

After repeated delays – some which fueled speculation that the star’s jumping-off-the-furniture behavior in declaring his love for Katie Holmes might cause a permanent shutdown – Mission: Impossible 3 starring Tom Cruise is now set to roll before the cameras in Italy on July 18.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that this is actually the date that the third entry in the action series was supposed to have opened in American theaters. Instead, the finished product is expected to be released on May 5, 2006.

“We’re thrilled to be embarking on this exciting third Mission with the amazing talents of Tom Cruise, (director) J.J. Abrams and the whole M:I-3 team,” Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey said in a statement.

As has been well chronicled, the movie has been plagued by delays, including the withdrawal of its original director, Joe Carnahan, over a disagreement about the movie’s tone; budgetary concerns; and, as the Reporter contends, “intense media coverage of Cruise’s very public declarations of love for Katie Holmes, which some contended was damaging his standing as an A-list star.”

On a much-discussed episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Cruise, 42, bounced on the sofa and flexed his muscles to demonstrate his strong feelings for his new girlfriend, 26. The New York Times quoted industry sources as saying the display might jeopardize the green light for the already-distressed M:I-3.

Abrams, who helped create TV’s Alias and Lost, joined the Impossible project last August. The movie’s locations are set for Europe, North America and Asia.

Besides Cruise, who will open June 29 in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, the M:I-3 cast also includes Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Michelle Monaghan and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

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