At 52, Tom Cruise is still happy to try ridiculous action movie stunts that other actors his age have probably long since handed over to doubles, particularly for the Mission: Impossible franchise that he’s been the star and guiding force of for nearly 20 years. His past M:I feats include free-climbing a cliff in Moab, Utah without a safety net in Mission: Impossible II and climbing the Burj Khalifa tower (the world’s tallest building) in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. For the stunt that would top them both in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Cruise didn’t really have to climb anything. He just had to hold on … to a plane … as it sped down the runway and then took off.
Yes, that Holy Shit! moment at the end of the Rogue Nation trailer, which hit over the weekend, is real. Cruise is really hanging on to that plane, and it really is taking off. As with most Cruise movie stunts, he did it for real, without a stunt double, and he had to do it eight damn times.
Cruise, who flies classic and aerobatic planes in his spare time because he’s just cool like that, told Yahoo! Movies that he’d been hoping to do a scene outside of a flying plane for a long time, but when it came time to pull it off there were a lot of factors to consider, even beyond making sure he didn’t fall off mid-flight. A special camera rig had to be mounted under the massive Airbus A400M’s wing, and it had to be secure lest it fly off and smash into Cruise. The runway had to be clear of debris that could fly up into Cruise’s face, and the area had to be as clear of birds as possible. Plus, Cruise had to wear special contact lenses so he could open his eyes amid the high winds, he had to endure temperatures that dropped increasingly as the plane climbed, and he had to breathe jet fuel fumes even he wasn’t in the air. What it all amounted to was, as Cruise called it, the “most dangerous” stunt of his career:
“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 was incredibly dangerous, so was Moab… 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 brakes 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!’“
Well…let it never be said that Tom Cruise isn’t willing to do absolutely batshit dangerous things on camera to earn that movie star money.
For more details from Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie on how they filmed the plane sequence, head over to Yahoo!. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation hits theaters on July 31.
Matthew Jackson is a freelance pop culture writer/nerd-for-hire and Contributing Editor at Blastr.com. Find him on Twitter at @awalrusdarkly.