They say people shouldn't meet their heroes, because they're often left disappointed. This wasn't the case for The Mummy's Annabelle Wallis, who recalls scoring the lead role opposite idol Tom Cruise as a "dream come true." In fact, Cruise far exceeded her expectations. Upon the film's release June 9, I speak with Wallis over the phone, who tells me how her very famous co-star not only treated her like a little sister, but was her biggest cheerleader when it came down to the life-threatening stunts.
"He's a joker. He's very cheeky, which is wonderful and super fun," the 32-year-old says. If she ever was intimidated by the movie star, it didn't last very long. "I have a brother, so, he was constantly teasing me or we'd be pushing each other over and dunking each other under the water," she says, laughing. "It was constant jokes. He's full of life."
Aside from the friendly brother-sister relationship the two developed on set, Cruise, an action movie icon, seems far from egocentric. "He was making sure makeup was real makeup not CGI, in the stunt department that the actors were training, that we're not cheating the experience," Wallis says. He wanted the intense stunts done correctly, no smoke and mirrors, and with Wallis at center stage.
"I'm an adrenaline junkie, a crazy person sometimes," Wallis says with a laugh. "I'm super tomboy, I ride motorbikes, I play polo. I mean, I'll do anything. I'm not precious at all in that space," she says. Although Cruise, star of the Mission Impossible franchise, is an action-scene pro, he totally advocated for Wallis to get down and dirty in stunts often exclusive to the guys.
"Tom even tried to add a motorbike scene in because I love motorbikes so much," she recalls. "He's like, 'You gotta use the motorbike.'" Her motorbike scene sadly didn't make the film, but Cruise reassures her with, "For the next movie."
Thanks to Wallis, who proved she was working hard and game for anything, the movie is way more action-packed than it initially set out to be. "A lot of the stuff was not there to start with," she says. "The underwater stunts were added, the running was added."
Still, she had to push her limits. "The stunts I disliked the most were underwater, it's an element you can't control," she says. "If you panic, you can't take yourself to the surface, you have to wait for someone to come and get you. Your body really believes it's drowning [and] you leave the water really panicked." Wallis was so committed, she legitimately had a near-death experience.
The actor reflects on the super intense airplane scene, where she and Cruise are literally being jolted around inside an aircraft as it crashes. "That was crazy because we didn't have any way to prepare. We knew we wanted to do this in a different way and for real, but no one had ever done it," she says. But she and Cruise were in it together. "What you see on screen is really Tom and I figuring it out as we're going along."
While shooting the scene, she was stuck in equipment and nearly choked to death before Cruise saved her life. "In classic Tom Cruise [form], he kind of waltz-like whisked me off. He saved me. You can't help but feel safe around him," she says.
But Cruise had her back in more ways than assisting with dangerous stunts. "He's kind to people and he works very hard and that's why he is where he is. That's why he stays at the top of his game. There's no cutting corners, it's authentic," she says.
Working with Cruise makes Wallis admire the star even more than she did growing up. "In a generation that's very immediate, 'I want things now,' it's lovely to be around an old-school movie star that works incredibly hard to support a crew and build something together," the actor says. Because of Cruise, she was inspired to give her everything — physically and mentally. "It's a really nice lesson of how things should be for all actors. It's an honor and a privilege to be able to work." Taking on that mindset is perhaps the best action a movie star can do.