Stunt work in big spectacle movies are a critical element to making or breaking a film at the box-office. Audiences love to be dazzled, thrilled and amazed at the newest visual trick or sequence that has the potential to take their breath away. And while many actors help accomplish this feat with stunt doubles and production techniques to make it look as believable as possible, none of them can hold a candle to the work done by Tom Cruise over the course of his long career.
The actor/celebrity has garnered quite the reputation for his dedication and commitment to performing his own stunts for films, some of them so phenomenal in scope that it’s rumored to have caused seizures for insurance companies. The star has shown this time and again, taking on even bigger challenges visually on screen the older he gets and over the course of five Mission: Impossible films (the latest; Rogue Nation was released on Blu-ray & DVD December 15th, 2015) he has defied expectations by literally scaling gargantuan heights and risking his own life to make the shot great regardless of what is required.
To mark the video release of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, I recently had the pleasure of discussing this very subject with the film’s Stunt Coordinator; Wade Eastwood from the set of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.
Ryan Young: How challenging was executing the stunt work for ‘Rogue Nation’ in comparison with other films you have worked on in the past?
Wade Eastwood: “Well, there are different aspects that are challenging. On Mission, you got Tom Cruise and Tom Cruise does 100% of his own stunts. In other cases the stunt could be too dangerous for an actor and you use a double when needed or cut the shot at a certain point, but Tom does it all in this case. The challenge starts in the preparation; looking at very carefully what is involved to do the stunt. Every film I’ve worked on has been challenging in its own way because you are delivering to audiences these amazing spectacles that seem to get more elaborate, so you try to make it safe and reduce the risks as much as possible. From that side it’s normal, but having this element of Tom; someone who has been brought up riding horses all his life, is unique. Tom has developed so much professionalism and discipline over a long period of time. Most cases with an actor you’ve got to teach them how to act and perform while the stunt is happening, that is the most challenging aspect and Tom rises to it every time.”
RY: Tom has developed an incredible reputation for his commitment to stunt work in his films, what can you tell us firsthand about his dedication to that aspect of the job?
WE: “We rehearsed a scene just last weekend for Jack Reacher 2 and there was a big crowd watching down in the French Quarter, I can’t say too much about it and you’ll have to wait until the film comes out but he runs, jumps and does these very athletic and gymnastic feats for the film. You’ve got to remember the guy is over 50 years old and their are crew employees who wouldn’t even dream of doing half of the stuff he does, even just the basics. Tom keeps himself in tip-top shape so he doesn’t have to protect or guard anything. He’s got a good team of people around him that makes sure he stays fit and strong so he doesn’t injure himself and that he can still carry on doing the stuff he’s been doing since he was a teenager.
The guy is a machine. I had a special trainer come in for Tom for riding the motorbike and taking what he had already learned to a whole new level. The more training he received, the better he got and the more excited he became. He got safer as a result with the drifting and what not. There was a lot of initial frustration for him because he wants to be a pro on day one and hour one, but he was off and riding in no time. Now we’re on Jack Reacher 2 together and then the next Mission: Impossible film for next year, so we can carry on from where we left off as opposed to starting anew. We can take it further.”
RY: One intense sequence is the underwater heist that submerges Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt for a long period of time without air. What details can you give about filming that sequence with Tom and were there any significant concerns you had?
“I hated the underwater stuff in Rogue Nation and Tom knows it because we did underwater scenes together for Edge Of Tomorrow. We’re very competitive him and I and he’s one of the very few people in the business that I get along socially with, so he knows what gets my back up. When we’re out socially it’s different, there’s no pressure and no studio to contend with, but when we are back at work there’s certainly a separation between work and play. And he holds his breath extra long in those cases and I told him he didn’t need to.
We didn’t need more than 30 seconds, the shot was often over in 10 seconds but he would do it on purpose anyway. I would have to get divers to drag him up to the surface and see that he’s nearly out of breath, but he would do things like that to mess with me. For Rogue, he actually did an over 6 minute breath hold for real. No joke, I was there and I saw him do it. When he did that it was horrible, like I said I hated the whole underwater sequence even though we had divers and signals. There’s always a system with the team, Tom and myself that I’m very strict on in regards to safety. If there is a signal or a sign there is no joking with it. Even with that said the process was still painful for me to watch sometimes.”
RY: The ‘Mission: Impossible’ series carries a tradition of a signature stunt scene and in ‘Rogue Nation’ it was Tom Cruise hanging onto an aircraft thousands of feet in the air. What kind of preparation went into a stunt like that?
There was a lot with the plane sequence. I have the best stunt team in the world behind me and we all got together and did the drawings for what we want to do to keep the airline happy and put our rigs in their plane without damaging a multi-million dollar aircraft. We had to convince them it would work and we did that by doing our homework on the body of the plane and the G-forces. I was very worried about what I couldn’t control which was bird strikes or fragment strikes. We had massive camera rigs on the side of the plane to capture the moment and I was concerned about something breaking off at some point. Once I was happy that all the concerns had been met that it became an amazing experience. We often look back at it, in fact just the other night I was sitting with my whole stunt team and Tom had taken us out for a steak dinner and we ended up discussing it again.
It’s having the trust in a team. Once you have the trust in a team then you can deliver performance. Tom knows we have his back the same as we would have anyone’s, whether it’s an actor big or small it doesn’t matter to me. They’re a human being and they are going to be made safe to do their job. We’ve developed a trust that allows us to push the envelope together because it’s there and we’ll carry it to each new film we do to make it bigger and better.”
RY: I can’t thank you enough Wade for taking the time to speak with Examiner today and good luck with your upcoming projects!
WE: You are welcome it was my pleasure, audiences and fans should look forward to what we’re cooking up for Jack Reacher 2 and Mission: Impossible 6. Based on what I’m seeing, Tom has no intention at this point of slowing down!