American Made: Director Doug Liman reveals 'hair-raising' Tom Cruise airplane stunt (exclusive)

Tom Cruise plays rogue pilot Barry Seal in 'American Made' (Universal)
Tom Cruise plays rogue pilot Barry Seal in ‘American Made’ (Universal)

No Tom Cruise film nowadays is complete without the ‘Mission: Impossible’ star risking life and limb performing a pioneering stunt, and his new film ‘American Made’ – with ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ director Doug Liman – is no different.

The first trailer for ‘American Made’ (flying into UK cinemas 25 August) suggests a madcap ’80s romp set against the backdrop of America’s “War on Drugs”. Watch it below.

It tells the insane true story of Barry Seal – Tom Cruise in anti-hero mode – an opportunistic commercial pilot turned CIA gunrunner turned drug smuggler for Pablo Escobar so, of course, Mr. Cruise insisted on doing all his own flying.

Anytime you see Barry piloting a plane, Cruise is flying it for real including one terrifying scene where the actor abandons the controls of the aircraft and runs around the fuselage of an unmanned plane.

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“It can be pretty hair-raising,” director Doug Liman (also a pilot himself) admitted to Yahoo Movies at a recent preview.

“Flying extremely fast, small airplanes, low to the ground, is a dangerous environment to be in just on its own. Then, in the story, he’s throwing bales of cocaine out of the airplane, loading them up with guns, so every once in a while in this scene he’s got to climb out of the cockpit and go to the back of the airplane to dump the cocaine out.

Doug Liman and Tom Cruise on the promo trail for 'Edge of Tomorrow' in Japan (Getty Images)
Doug Liman and Tom Cruise on the promo trail for ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ in Japan (Getty Images)

“I’m flying alongside him in a helicopter filming, and that made a big impression on me – there’s nobody in the cockpit of the plane! Tom has gone to the back of the aircraft, and he’s alone in that airplane. It’s one thing to have Tom Cruise alone in the airplane flying it – that’s already outrageous – now he’s alone and he’s not even in the cockpit so he’s gone beyond. It was already a stunt before he left the cockpit, it was already a serious stunt.”

Tom’s “write the theme tune, sing the theme tune” approach to filming was no surprise to Liman though having worked with the ‘Top Gun’ star on ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ where he insisted on shooting his own close-up inserts even though his face wouldn’t be seen on screen.

'The Force Awakens' star Domhnall Gleeson plays Barry's CIA handler in 'American Made' (Universal)
‘The Force Awakens’ star Domhnall Gleeson plays Barry’s CIA handler in ‘American Made’ (Universal)

This isn’t a straight-up-thriller from the director who also brought us ‘The Bourne Identity’ though. It’s a personal story for Liman too. His father, Arthur L Liman, acted as chief counsel for the US Senate’s investigation of the Iran-Contra Affair in the 1980s. Liman Sr. and his team were aware of Barry Seal’s involvement with the Nicaraguan Contra situation, and Doug says his father’s incredulous personal stories of the case helped to add a sense humour to the film.

American Made poster (Universal)
American Made official poster (Universal)

“It’s a comedic look at the ‘War on Drugs’ because at the same time the White House had a ‘War on Drugs’ they also had a ‘War on Communism,” Liman says, “and the people willing to fight the communists were the drug lords, and so you had these two branches within Reagan’s White House working at total cross-purposes. And you had Barry Seal taking advantage of both, and profiting from both.”

'21 and Over' star Sarah Wright plays Barry's wife Lucy (Universal)
’21 and Over’ star Sarah Wright plays Barry’s wife Lucy (Universal)

“[My father] always saw the humour in the details of the story and would come home and tell the outrageous things that he had uncovered that day.”

Although not based on a book, Liman was able to turn to Seal’s second wife to flesh out the story beyond his father’s legal case, but he admits the truth is much stranger than fiction when it comes to the life of Barry Seal.

“It’s the most incredible story, probably today with what’s going with the world, it’s pretty clear that some of the most outrageous things you can’t really invent. The world can create things more outrageous than any screenwriter can imagine.”

Tom Cruise's Barry Seal works with and against law enforcement agencies across America (Universal)
Tom Cruise’s Barry Seal works with and against law enforcement agencies across America (Universal)

‘American Made’ is coming to UK cinemas on 25 August.

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