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
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.’’