Show no fear

Acrophobia was not an op­tion for ac­tion man Tom Cruise on the set of Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble – Ghost Pro­to­col, write Adam Schreck and James Wigney

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TOM Cruise might seem larger than life on screen but when it came to stunts on the side of the world’s tallest tower, his thoughts were def­i­nitely down to earth.

Asked about his big­gest fear dur­ing scenes out­side the 828m- high Burj Khal­ifa in Dubai, Cruise was quick with an an­swer: ‘‘ Fall­ing.’’

Cruise said film­mak­ers had to mon­i­tor tem­per­a­tures on the spire’s sun- baked fa­cade so he wouldn’t get burnt. That wasn’t the only chal­lenge. The ac­tor says he didn’t an­tic­i­pate the cross­winds.

‘‘ I had to fig­ure out, ac­tu­ally, how to fly,’’ he said on the 124th floor ob­ser­va­tion area of the Burj Khal­ifa, which rises dozens of storeys higher.

‘‘ I had to fig­ure out how to use my feet as a rud­der . . . the first cou­ple of times I was slam­ming into the build­ing.’’

Cruise said he spent months train­ing on a four- storey struc­ture to hone his moves on the Burj. Most of the shots on the ac­tual build­ing were done in the shade to pro­tect him from the sear­ing sun.

His first thought as he launched out­side the build­ing for the first time? ‘‘ I hope I don’t fall,’’ he said. Cruise said his wife Katie Holmes was sup­port­ive and ac­cus­tomed to him tak­ing risks with stunts. But that didn’t make it any eas­ier to watch.

Di­rec­tor Brad Bird said Holmes watched Cruise do a cou­ple of takes on the side of the Burj be­fore declar­ing: ‘‘ OK. We’re done.’’

‘‘ When you see it and he’s out there, it’s nerve- rack­ing,’’ Bird said.

The film also sees the re­turn of Bri­tish co­me­dian- turned- Hol­ly­wood- ac­tor Si­mon Pegg, who has be­come some­thing of a reg­u­lar in J. J. Abrams’ films hav­ing ap­peared in Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble III in 2003 ( which Abrams di­rected) and on the sub­se­quent re­boot of Star Trek. Pegg’s role in the Abrams- pro­duced

Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble – Ghost Pro­to­col has been greatly ex­panded and he is proud to call ma­jor Hol­ly­wood player and fel­low sci- fi geek Abrams a friend. Af­ter Cruise, he was the sec­ond per­son cast in the film.

‘‘ We have be­come friends since we did the third one and it’s nice that he has faith in me,’’ Pegg said of Abrams.

‘‘ I have done Star Trek for him and now two Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble films. It’s good to have friends in high places.’’

This time around his char­ac­ter has been pro­moted from his desk job to be­ing a fully- fledged field agent, ne­ces­si­tat­ing seven months of train­ing.

The film was shot in spec­tac­u­lar lo­ca­tions around the world in­clud­ing Prague, Dubai and In­dia.

Bet­ter known for boozy, slacker roles such as his star­ring role in cult movie

Shaun of the Dead, Pegg is now in top phys­i­cal con­di­tion hav­ing kept up the ex­er­cise regime af­ter the film­ing fin­ished.

‘‘ I did lots of taek­wondo, fight train­ing and weapons train­ing and ba­sic fit­ness train­ing and got in re­ally good shape,’’ he said.

‘‘ In Prague last year, I spent a cou­ple of months just train­ing and it was great to be given the space to get in shape.’’

Not that he thinks his new- found skills are ter­ri­bly use­ful.

Thanks to his stand- up com­edy ca­reer, he’d rather drop a heckler with a sting­ing come­back than a right cross.

‘‘ I don’t know if I have ever learned any­thing par­tic­u­larly use­ful,’’ Pegg said.

‘‘ I can draw and fire a firearm but I hope I never have to do that.

‘‘ Sim­i­larly I can fight quite well with a cou­ple of half a broom­stick length sticks, but I wouldn’t ever want to do that ei­ther.’’

For the ac­tion scenes, Pegg was learn­ing at the feet of the mas­ter.

Some of Cruise’s stunts in the film are sim­ply stag­ger­ing, par­tic­u­larly be­cause the mega- star in­sisted on do­ing as many stunts as pos­si­ble him­self. Pegg has noth­ing but praise for Cruise. ‘‘ He is an in­spi­ra­tion, Tom, be­cause he brings his A- game 100 per cent of the time.

‘‘ I have never seen him down on set or un­der­per­form – he just un­der­stands that it re­quires full com­mit­ment to get some­thing like this made but also make it good.’’

While Pegg con­cedes the al­waysgrin­ning, oc­ca­sion­ally couch- jump­ing, Scien­tol­ogy- spruik­ing Cruise can have some­thing of an im­age prob­lem, the Bri­tish wit has no time for the haters.

‘‘ The trou­ble is that he is sur­rounded by this nox­ious cloud of mythol­ogy that has been gen­er­ated be­cause peo­ple just de­cided they would vent their bit­ter­ness at the fact they are not him,’’ Pegg said.

‘‘ So he came in for some­thing of a

He is an in­spi­ra­tion, Tom, be­cause he brings his A- game 100 per cent of the time. I have never seen him down on set or un­der­per­form

back­lash and it came at a point in his per­sonal life when he was vul­ner­a­ble and peo­ple just leapt on it.

‘‘ As a re­sult, his pub­lic im­age suf­fered and I think that just has to heal. I think this film will go a long way to­wards re­mind­ing peo­ple just what an amaz­ing movie star he is and what a fun and com­mit­ted ac­tor he is.

‘‘ I have noth­ing but praise for the guy. I don’t suf­fer fools gladly but I also hate to see peo­ple ma­ligned un­fairly and I think he re­ally has been.’’

Pegg de­scribes him­self as be­ing not

par­tic­u­larly am­bi­tious but ad­mits his life has been full of ‘‘ did that just hap­pen?’’ mo­ments in re­cent years, in­clud­ing meet­ing his child­hood hero Steven Spiel­berg.

The mas­ter di­rec­tor’s films Close

En­coun­ters of the Third Kind, ET and Raiders of the Lost Ark were for­ma­tive in­flu­ences on the young Pegg, so to meet the great man on set in Los An­ge­les to dis­cuss writ­ing for and star­ring in his adap­ta­tion of the Tintin comic books, bor­dered on the sur­real.

‘‘ I walked in and there he was, ex­actly like I had seen him in ev­ery ‘ mak­ing- of’ doc­u­men­tary I had ever watched about

ET and Close En­coun­ters and Raiders and I some­how felt quite at ease with him for that rea­son,’’ Pegg said.

When Spiel­berg sug­gested that Pegg and his mate and fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor Nick Frost would be per­fect to play the bum­bling de­tec­tives Thom­son and Thomp­son in the ground- break­ing, mo­tion- cap­ture film he was mak­ing with Kiwi di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son, there was only one thing for the awestruck ac­tor to do: Phone home.

‘‘ I left the stu­dio and sat on the bumper of my rental car and called my mum and said ‘ guess who I just met’,’’ Pegg said.

‘‘ It was bril­liant and a re­ally cir­cu­lar mo­ment for me be­cause I re­mem­ber ex­plain­ing the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark to my mum when I was a kid. I was 10 then, so to be phon­ing her at the age of 39 and tell her I had just been hang­ing out with the guy was some­thing else.’’

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