The Stories Behind Tom Cruise's New 'Mission: Impossible' Stunts Are Seriously Mind-Blowing

by Lia Beck
Paramount Pictures

Twenty-two years after the first film was released, the sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise is hitting theaters July 27. And yep, Tom Cruise does his own stunts in Mission: Impossible — Fallout, just like he's done for the previous movies in the series. He wouldn't have it any other way.

Introducing a screening of the film in New York City on Monday, July 23, the director/writer/producer of Fallout, Christopher McQuarrie spoke at length about the stunts Cruise does in the movie. McQuarrie talked about three of the most impressive stunts in particular: the helicopter sequence, the running scene in London, and the HALO jump out of an airplane.

"We found out that it takes about three months to qualify just to have a license to fly one of these helicopters," McQuarrie said. "Tom asked one of the nice people at Airbus, 'Why does it take three months?' and they said, 'Well, that's working every day, eight hours a day, for three months. And he said, 'Well, what am I doing for the other 16 hours a day?" The director explained that Cruise then decided to train for 16 hours a day, rather than eight, with two different training crews, and was able to qualify in six weeks. No big deal.

Cruise did all of his own flying in the helicopter, and once you see the scene, that's nearly impossible to believe. McQuarrie notes that in the shots of the actor flying, you can see that he's the only one in the helicopter, which meant that the camera could be placed in a way it wouldn't have been able to if a stunt double was used... or if Cruise hadn't been the one actually operating the camera. Because, yes, he did that, as well.

As for the scene that shows the 56-year-old running across rooftops and hopping from building to building, McQuarrie said, "Of course, if it's a Tom Cruise movie, you've gotta have Tom Cruise running." This stunt, though, ended up being the one where Cruise now famously got injured. In August of 2017, news came out that he broke his ankle and that the movie's filming would go on hiatus. McQuarrie recalled that at the time, doctors told Cruise, "It'll probably be nine months before you run, if you ever run again." But this is Tom Cruise, after all, so he ended up filming the rest of the running scene five months later. The actor later spoke about his ankle during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, saying simply, "We have a release date so we got to keep going."

Paramount Pictures

Then there's the HALO (high altitude-low opening) jump that shows Cruise jumping out of a plane at 25,000 feet. This required that a new helmet be built that would allow Cruise to receive the necessary oxygen, but also be clear and lit up so his face could be seen on camera. (Usually a cumbersome oxygen mask would be used for a jump like this.) "Everything you're seeing that Tom is wearing was built for this sequence," McQuarrie explained. This scene also required a special camera operator, who could also skydive. The film used a cameraman who normally filmed people skydiving, but who had to learn to shoot for a feature film sequence. According to McQuarrie, Cruise and the cameraman jumped out of the plane 106 times over many days of filming.

McQuarrie says that Cruise does "all of the crazy things that he does" because he wants to give the audience as much entertainment as he can. Hearing Cruise talk about it on Graham Norton, it sounds like another aspect is that he just enjoys thinking up what the next big thing is. "I think in terms of action, this is probably the largest practical action film ever shot," he said.

After seeing the movie, that sounds about right. As for what's going to be next? Cruise and McQuarrie might be the only ones who know.