Since Tom Cruise started the “Mission: Impossible” movie franchise 19 years ago, his reputation as an actor who wants to do his own stunts has become legendary. Each new film for “M:I” seems to bring new spectacular stunts, with Cruise himself doing the heavy lifting.
You probably thought Cruise couldn’t top climbing the tallest building in the world in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”in 2011 — but you’d be wrong.
“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” doesn’t hit theatres until Friday, but you’ve probably already caught a glimpse of Cruise’s latest stunt in which he hangs on the side of a massive aeroplane as it takes off.
And yes, that’s really the actor — not a stunt double.
But according to the film’s stunt coordinator, Wade Eastwood, that wasn’t the stunt he was most concerned about Cruise taking on himself.
At a key moment in the movie, Cruise, playing IMF agent Ethan Hunt, has to dive into an underwater safe to retrieve the computer chip that will lead him closer to the film’s villain. Along with having to hold his breath the whole time, he also must keep away from a large crane that’s circling around the safe.
The stunt first required Cruise to jump off a 120-foot ledge (the bottom was all CGI, but he really did the jump).
Then in an underwater set that was filled 20 feet high with water, Cruise had to hold his breath as he acted out the scene.
“It’s all Tom,” boasts Eastwood to Business Insider, about Cruise doing his own stunts for the movie. “There’s no time you don’t see Ethan in the film and it’s not Tom.”
Eastwood (no relation to Clint) had worked previously with Cruise on “Edge of Tomorrow,” so he was aware of Cruise’s obsession with authenticity when it comes to stunt work. But he still marvels over Cruise’s physical ability.
“It’s been said in other interviews, if he wasn’t an actor he would have been a great stunt man,” said Eastwood. “The difference between Tom and a stunt man is he acts the character after hearing ‘action.’ A stunt person just does the stunt to double the character.”
And that is the aspect that made Eastwood’s job to pull off the underwater scene the most challenging.
Though they had cameras all over the set monitoring the star as he was underwater, and stunt crews at the ready to jump into action if anything went wrong, Eastwood said Cruise still had to act in the scene. This meant it needed to look like he was losing breath and becoming unconscious.
“On two or three occasions I brought him up because I felt he was down for too long,” said Eastwood. “He was like, ‘What are you doing? I was right in the moment. I’m acting.’ And I was like, ‘I know, it was just too real for me and I wasn’t comfortable.'”
Eastwood said the longest Cruise was underwater for a take was over six minutes.
Eastwood recalls Cruise telling him one time after having the actor come up for air, “I got plenty of breath, trust me. I don’t want to die.”
The scene took two weeks to shoot, according to Eastwood. But training for it started two months before production began.
To prepare Cruise for an underwater scene in which he’d be holding his breath for over six minutes, Eastwood brought in a freediving record holder to teach the actor breathing exercises. Basically, as Eastwood explains, teaching your mind “that you don’t have to take a breath.”
Eastwood said Cruise even blacked out a few times during the training.
“That’s how you learn your limits,” Eastwood said.
That was another concern of Eastwood’s — what if Cruise got too into character?
“It’s a very calming and surreal state being underwater, especially when you’re holding your breath for that long,” he said. “You’ve gone through training to let your mind to that place where you can control it. It’s dangerous because you get carried away in the acting and you get in such a euphoric and relaxed state being in character that you forget what you’re doing. That was my worry.”
Thankfully, Cruise kept his head together and pulled off a scene that’s agonizingly claustrophobic yet remarkable to watch.
And that’s after seeing him hang from a moving plane.
NOW WATCH: This ‘Mission Impossible’ behind-the-scenes footage of a 53-year-old Tom Cruise hanging off a plane is terrifying
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