Tom Cruise told Yahoo Movies that a sequence in the upcoming ‘Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation’ is “undoubtedly the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done”.
The scene in question, which can be seen at the end of the brand new trailer, sees his character Ethan Hunt strapped to the side of an Airbus A400M plane as it takes off… and Cruise was doing it for real.
Watch the trailer below:
We spoke to the 52-year-old star, along with director Christopher McQuarrie, in depth about the mind-blowing stunt.
How did the stunt come about?
Tom Cruise: “I knew I wanted to have an airplane sequence. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. As a kid I remember flying on an airplane and thinking: ‘what would it be like out on the wing or on the side of the airplane?!’”
Christopher McQuarrie: “We knew we needed a stunt. The bar had been raised to such a point [with the Burj Khalifa scene in ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’, see below] that the expectations was so high. We kept looking for a location. Unfortunately when you’ve climbed the tallest building in the world you cant have an action sequence on the second tallest building in the world! So any skyscraper was out.
“So we came up with two incredibly physically punishing things for Tom to do and we ended up using both in the film. The first is the Airbus A400M scene, the second has only been fleetingly alluded to in the trailer.
“While searching for different locations, the production designer James Bissell bought me a model of this Airbus airplane and presented it as something we could use in the movie. I suggested to Tom ‘what if you were on the outside of this thing when it took off’. I meant it as sort of a half joke, but he said back to me: ‘yeah I could do that!’”
How did they do it?
Tom Cruise: “The things we had to figure out were: the engineering of putting a camera outside the airplane; figuring out where I could go outside the airplane and the images that we had in mind for it.
“Then it was physically getting the shot because we wanted to climb at a steep angle so you could see the ground rush away from below me. And that’s a very big airplane. So we met with the test pilot and the guys who created the A400m Airbus and we just talked the numbers on how it could be done.
“Then we had to design the rig [for the camera] – because anytime you’re using that kind of power from the engines with that speed you want to make sure the camera doesn’t break off and hit me!”
Check out the camera below.
What were the dangers?
Tom Cruise: “The things we we’re all very concerned about were particles on the runway and bird strikes. We spent days clearing out the nearby grass of any birds, and they brushed the runway as best they could. My stunt coordinator would poke me if he got reports of bird strikes. The pilot had to be on the look out for anything in the air that could impact me in any way.
“I also was testing how to keep my eyes open so you have a shot – I can’t have my eyes closed the entire time. The thing that no one else was thinking about, but I was, was the fuel. You have jet fuel coming right out of the back at me because I’m on the wing above the engine. Even when we were taxying I was also inhaling the fumes and they were going in my eyes.
“So we came up with this idea of a lens that covered my entire eyeball. So that when I opened my eyes my pupils and retina had protection from any particles and hard air from the runway.
“I remember one time we were going down the runway and there was just a little particle that just hit me, it was smaller than a finger nail. I was thankful it didn’t hit my hands or face, if it did I’d have a problem because those parts were exposed, but it still could have broken my ribs!
“Also there was the temperature because we’re in England, because it gets colder every thousand feet. It was so cold, especially because I wanted to wear a suit on the side of the plane!”
Christopher McQuarrie: “As dangerous as the Burj Khalifa was [in M:I 4] - and it was incredibly dangerous - the Burj Khalifa was static. And here you’re moving at such high speeds.
“If a bird hit him at that sort of a speed, that would have been it. That was the one variable that we were constantly aware of.
“But the flying wasn’t nearly as bad as the taxiing on the runway because of the exhaust fumes he was inhaling. You cannot understand how physically punishing that stunt was.
“I read about a guy in the ‘70s who did something similar, whose name was something like “the human fly”, and it started raining and the rain was actually cutting his skin and they had to touch back down. Certainly nobody’s ever done it in a business suit!”
How did they complete the scene?
Tom Cruise: “Once I was on the side of the airplane that was it. We had a loading station where everyone got in and checked the cameras. Then they wire we me up for sound. Then I’m on. There’s no way to get me off the airplane half way through!
“I’m on the side of the plane from the moment the engine starts to the moment the engine shuts down. The climb, the taxi, down the runway, getting the shot, leveling off, turning around and landing. And I did it EIGHT TIMES to get the shot.”
Christopher McQuarrie: “I’ve never been more stressed my entire life than I was watching that plane take off and land. True to form the big note that Tom gave me before we took off was ‘Just remember if I look like I’m panicking, I’m acting! Do not cut unless I do this’ and he touched the top of his head. Sometimes it was difficult to distinguish one from the other. But the truth of the matter is he had a great time doing it.”
Tom Cruise: “I fly warbirds (vintage military aircrafts), I fly aerobatic airplanes, but this was pretty damn exciting and exhilarating. The adrenaline was flowing!
“When that thing was going down the runway it was everything to keep my feet down, then it went up and my body was slamming on the side. I was like whoa, this is intense.
“It’s the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done to be honest. The Burj Khalifa scene [from Mission: impossible - Ghost Protocol] was incredibly dangerous, so was Moab [the climbing scene in ‘Mission: Impossible 2’].
“Motorcycle scenes are dangerous because I can’t wear pads and I don’t wear a helmet. I’m going at high speeds and anything can happen. But I’m in control on a motorcycle… I can put the breaks on.
“But outside the airplane there’s so many factors. Just too many things can happen. You don’t want to do it. Once we had it, it was ‘We’re not doing it anymore’!”
‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ co-stars Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg. It is released in the UK on 31 July 2015.