While Tom Cruise might never top the one-two stunt punch of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation – in which he both hung out of a plane midflight and held his breath for six consecutive minutes – Cruise is not ready to kick back and hand things over to a stuntman just yet. Earlier this week the bonkers trailer for his next film, American Made, hit the web. It looks so bonkers, apparently, because Cruise made sure it would be when he decided to get stunt crazy. Again.
So, what did Cruise do this time? Well, in the role of real-life CIA gunrunner and pilot Barry Seal, Cruise did all of his own flying for the film. That’s not surprising, as he’s been an avid pilot for years. What was surprising was what Cruise wanted to do for the scene in which Seal is flying a small plane alone at low altitudes while dumping cocaine out of the cabin. Instead of filming the scenes in which he’s running around midflight on a soundstage with a fake plane up on rockers, Cruise just flew the plane himself…then left the controls to dump the fake coke. And no, this was not an autopilot situation.
“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,“ director Doug Liman told Yahoo! Movies. "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.”
Movies have come a very long way since the days when Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton were putting their bodies on the line for the perfect shot because that was simply the only way to get it. Now, if a character is supposed to leave the controls of a plane midflight, you build the plane on a set, set up a green screen and add all the crazy sound effects later. It’s a fun little bit of make-believe with a lot of technology to help the audience suspend disbelief. Movie stars do not run around unpiloted planes for the sake of a single moment of action authenticity. It’s not that they’re afraid. It’s that you don’t do that, for reasons of financial responsibility, safety and good old-fashioned sanity.
But Tom Cruise does.
He might never win an Oscar but one day we may have to invent a new award for Cruise. Before he’s done, the man will probably end up flying a rocket into the sun for the sake of his craft.
American Made hits theaters September 29.