Plane sailing

Plane sailing
Movie Still: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, starring Tom Cruise.

The mission, should you choose to accept it, is to dangle from the side of a plane mid-flight.

Tom Cruise took it on - and passed with flying colours.

The 53-year-old Hollywood superstar, who has a reputation for tackling all of his stunts, pulled off his most dangerous action scene so far for Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.

The action thriller, which opens here tomorrow, sees Cruise going into spy mode for the fifth time as Ethan Hunt, the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) secret agent who finally meets his greatest threat, a mysterious and deadly organisation called the Syndicate.

Hunt seeks to unmask its puppet master, all the while trying to outwit the group, which has vowed to take out Hunt and his associates.

Much like his alter ego, Cruise has always adopted a never-say-die attitude when it comes to making his films as realistic as possible.

His last Mission: Impossible outing, 2011's Ghost Protocol, saw him scaling the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

"I've always done that, pushing myself," Cruise told the Associated Press at the premiere of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation in Austria last week.

"I'm thinking about the audience and what can I do to entertain them."

Entertain he surely has, ever since the first Mission: Impossible kick-started the franchise in 1996.

Being a producer on Rogue Nation meant Cruise had the power to override those who objected to him doing his own stunts for insurance purposes.

Imagine losing your leading man midway through filming - that was what director Christopher McQuarrie had to deal with for not one but three major action sequences.

But as audiences get hungrier for action, the stakes get higher for the actor.

The stunt, which features in the film's opening sequence (note: do not be late for the movie!), called for Cruise to run along the wing of a military transport aircraft, jump to a side door on the fuselage and hang on for dear life as the Airbus A400M soars to 1,500m.

Because he refused to wear goggles, special contact lenses were made so he could keep his eyes open in the punishing 300kmh winds.

Although he wore a safety harness, Cruise had his stunt coordinators add slack to the line as he felt too safe to act, the movie's stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood told CNN.


What that meant was that should Cruise have lost his grip on the side of the plane, "he actually would have fallen several feet before the harness saved him", said the South African veteran stuntman, who had worked with Cruise in 2014's Edge Of Tomorrow.

The actor admitted in April at CinemaCon in Las Vegas that he was "actually scared ****less" before stepping onto the plane.

In another interview with ET Canada, the daredevil said it was the most dangerous stunt he had ever done and that he actually feared for his life.

But adrenaline kicked in and, ever the professional, Cruise "hung on for dear life" and fear became a by-product.

He said in the same interview: "You kind of realise, 'Okay, the camera's rolling, I got to give a performance here.'"

Simon Pegg, who reprises his role as tech geek-turned-field agent Benji Dunn, was scared for his co-star's life.

"When you see the movie, you know he survived because he's been doing press for it and there's been no national mourning," the 45-year-old Brit told the Daily News.

"But when you're actually on the ground and watching him on the plane, there's a whole other degree of terror because you don't know how it will turn out."

Cruise did the stunt eight times to perfect the sequence. The scene was over in four minutes.

And the actor is just as good underwater as he is in the air.

In Rogue Nation, Cruise held his breath for a lung-burning six minutes in order to disable a high-tech security system - and so that McQuarrie could shoot that scene in one take.

"We wanted to create a suspenseful underwater sequence without cuts. So (that) was really interesting," Cruise told USA Today.

But according to Eastwood, a high-speed car-and-motorcycle chase scene set in Morocco was far more dangerous than strapping Cruise to the plane as it involved more people, including Pegg who was riding shotgun in the car Cruise was driving, and other drivers.

Cruise spent six weeks on an intensive driving course before he was allowed to take the wheel.

In that scene, he also hopped onto a motorcycle and is seen zipping down Morocco's R203 highway, a curvy road with steep drops, going at 160kmh - without a helmet.

"We sort of keep it less safe so that we can keep the bikes drifting and at the edge (of the cliffs)," Cruise joked.

This article was first published on July 29, 2015.
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