LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The “Mission: Impossible” movie franchise has become synonymous with daring stunts where lead actor Tom Cruise climbs the highest building in the world or hangs off the side of a speeding plane.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” which starts its global rollout on Wednesday, sees Cruise become the first actor on camera to perform a HALO (high altitude, low opening) skydive from 25,000 feet.
Reuters spoke with the film’s stunt coordinator, Wade Eastwood, who has also worked on the James Bond and Jack Reacher movies, about how stunts are devised and what drives Cruise, 56, to perform them himself.
The following excerpts are edited for length and clarity.
Who comes up with the ideas for “Mission: Impossible” stunts?
We get an outline (for the movie), then I will try and come up with the style, and it’s really Chris (McQuarrie, director), Tom and I who will sit down and hash out a bunch of ideas. The big difference between ‘Mission: Impossible’ and other movies is that all the action is very character-based. Tom is playing a character who isn’t superhuman.
What kind of training do you put Cruise through?
I lay out a training schedule – this is how much driving we have to do, this many sessions on a bike, and he will adhere to it 100 percent. And then I will push his training harder and harder. The harder you push, the more the training is grueling – he will suffer but he will never quit. We employ some of the world’s best to take Tom to the next level. You are trying to teach someone to get as close to that world class level as you can, not in 20 years but in two months.
How much training was there for the HALO stunt?
We built the largest outdoor wind tunnel in the world. In lunch breaks, if Tom had an hour between scenes, we’d just run down to the wind tunnel. I did 500 hours in the wind tunnel working out the moves. We came up with a helmet that didn’t have an ugly oxygen attachment to the nose and mouth and that would work for real. We did 150 jumps in Abu Dhabi and 102 different takes to make it perfect.
What other stunts will audiences see?
There’s a helicopter stunt in New Zealand. It’s the biggest helicopter sequence ever shot – 30 helicopters in the air. There’s a mountaineering sequence in Norway. That was pretty hairy, hanging off the side of the rock and dropping, freezing snow everywhere. There’s a big car and motorcycle chase in Paris and with a truck and a boat.
Has Cruise ever turned down a stunt because it’s too dangerous?
“No. He would have been one of the best stunt men in the world if he wasn’t an actor, for sure. With stunt men and women it doesn’t matter how your face looks. But with Tom, he is also playing a character, so he has to jump out and act the character while trying to be a professional. That’s the challenge that to me stands him above the rest.
How many actors insist on doing so many of their own stunts?
It’s quite rare. There are a few actors who are quite athletic, who do a lot of their own stuff. Hugh Jackman is a mega athlete. Tom is a very physical person. He never approaches it from an egotistical point of view. He approaches it very much as “it’s cool for the character and the story and I’ll have a lot of fun training and getting to do this cool stuff.”
What sets the “Mission: Impossible” franchise apart from other stunt-heavy movies?
The Tom factor. Tom is just an energy ball. He lifts you up, he lifts the crew up, he makes everyone want to make a great movie. You just feed off his energy.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Sam Holmes