On September 6, 2020, the first day of principal photography on Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Tom Cruise drove a motorbike off a mountain.
Specifically, he drove a custom-made Honda CRF 250 off a purpose-built ramp on the side of Norway’s Helsetkopen mountain, a vertiginous rock face at some 1,200 metres above sea level. Then, he plunged 4,000 feet into the ravine below before opening his parachute barely 500 feet from the ground.
When he landed, director Christopher McQuarrie and the small crew of his Mission co-stars who had assembled to watch the seminal cinematic sequence from the safety of video village, breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Then Cruise picked himself up and did it all again another seven times, just to make sure the footage was perfect.
Talking about the stunt, Tom Cruise says, “Every time I went off the ramp, it was dangerous. It was risking my life. And we wanted to keep that to a minimum. We have a saying on Mission: Impossible movies: ‘Don’t be safe. Be competent’.
As is Cruise’s now standard practice, the motorbike jump – in which Ethan Hunt zooms off the edge, ditches the bike and executes a high-risk BASE jump in the six-second window he has before impact – had been long in the planning.
He had been rehearsing for a year in the UK during pre-production and by the time the cameras rolled, he had completed over 500 skydives and 13,000 motocross jumps in readiness to prepare for the most dangerous stunt he has ever completed on screen.
The truth, though, is that the stunt had been in Cruise’s head for considerably longer than that. He says, “When I was a little kid, I used to make my own jumps, building ramps to jump my bicycle over garbage cans.”
When Cruise was eight, – a child he now acknowledges “was always looking for dangerous stuff to do” – he found some plywood in a local construction site and assembled his biggest makeshift jump yet.
“I started down a hill on my bicycle, hit the ramp, split the wood in two and smashed into some garbage cans. There was blood everywhere,” he laughs.
“I’ve had a lot of blood and broken bones and teeth from doing that over the years, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
And, when it comes to the actual shoot, every sequence has also been rehearsed to – literally – molecular detail.
The perfect example of Cruise’s constant quest for competency is his speedometer. Or, rather, his lack of one. He says, “I needed to be at a certain speed when I jumped off the ramp [in the BASE jump stunt], but I couldn’t have a speedometer on the bike because the ramp was so narrow that if I looked down, I could come off it. So, I had to gauge the speed of the bike through the sound and vibration of the engine and by feeling the molecules in the air over my body. That was the level of competency that I had to get to,”
A Paramount Pictures and Skydance Presentation, A Tom Cruise Production — Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is all set to release pan India on July 12 in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.