LAS VEGAS — Tom Cruise may be a crazy person. No, we’re not suggesting that because of his “religious” choice or his infamous couch-jumping skills, but because of the insane stunts he continues to do in one film after another. Among his more recent exploits, he hung onto a plane that went airborne for “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and last summer delayed the release of the next “Mission” movie, “Fallout,” after breaking his ankle while jumping onto a roof. And today the audience at CinemaCon discovered even after that very public injury he wasn’t done going all out for the sixth “Mission: Impossible” installment.
Director Christopher McQuarrie revealed that just a few weeks ago Cruise and co-star Henry Cavill were working on a high altitude skydiving stunt that was complicated on a number of levels. First, the production had to design and get approved a clear mask so Cruise’s face could be visible during the scene. The mask was necessary to give him oxygen while at the high altitude and light his face so the cameraman could pick it up as they fell almost 30,000 feet in the air. The goal was to do the jump for real and that the moviegoing audience wouldn’t think he was replaced by a stunt person or the sequences was pulled off as a CG effect.
Second, they built the largest wind tunnel in the world in London to test the jump choreography which had neighboring productions asking them to turn it off while they were trying to film their own scenes (Cruise apologizes to these unnamed other films).
Third, the camera operator who was also jumping had to be within three inches of Cruise’s face at one point or even with the lit mask it wouldn’t register as him (the goal was for the audience to completely believe the jump was real). This led to weeks of rehearsal to get it just right. Especially as the rig did not allow the camera person a viewfinder so they had to do complicated choreography so Cruise or Cavill weren’t “lost” in the shot.
Fourth, the decision was made to shoot the jump during twilight so effectively there was just a three-minute window every day and just one minute to capture it.
Fifth, the scene was broken up into three sections which were all recorded over 106 different jumps (Cruise had only jumped 50 times before this). We’re going to assume other scenes were shot over the 100 or so days they waited to jump at sunset but admit we’re slightly confused on how that occurred. The three sections began with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) having his oxygen hose pulled out by rival CIA agent August Walker (Cavill) as the “Man of Steel” star jumps first and Hunt reattaches the hose before jumping for the close-up shot mentioned previously. The middle section is Hunt’s character being struck by lightning (the one visual effect that will be added later) and then falling through the sky before he discovers a seemingly unconscious Walker nearby (also falling). The final section has Hunt pulling Walker’s parachute so he’ll land safely (we did not see Hunt pull his own shoot).
The raw footage was startling as you began to wonder what broker would insure the production and Paramount for letting Cruise do this. It’s some insane dedication and here’s hoping the addition of the lightning effects don’t somehow diminish Cruise and Cavill’s real-life accomplishments. Additionally, we’d expect Paramount to release video of the three jumps (including an angle from the EPK crew also jumping to capture the entire thing) sometime before release.
With co-stars Cavill, Simon Pegg and Angela Bassett on hand, Cruise and McQuarrie also debuted an extended scene from “Fallout.” The at least 10-minute sequence follows Hunt and Walker and they attempt to steal a known murderer and terrorist, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), from the French authorities. The calculated operation takes place in the streets of Paris and, at one time, finds Cruise jumping on a motorbike to evade Parisian police cars. It was very patiently directed and almost Nolan-esque in its execution (that’s a compliment).
Before they departed Pegg admitted to the audience that he often isn’t sure whether Cruise is going to live while making a movie with him. There are so many stunts he assumes could be Cruise’s end that he and co-star Rebecca Ferguson would often be freaking out watching the 55-year-old actor do one death-defying act after another. The audience laughed after Pegg’s comment, but he wasn’t laughing. And that’s all you might need to know about Cruise’s commitment these days.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” opens nationwide on July 27.