Mission: Impossible carved a space for itself in pop culture with its first movie, impressing audiences with exciting action and risky stunts performed by Tom Cruise himself.
Since that time, each movie has raised the stakes, now culminaxted in the sixth film, Fallout.
One of the main attractions is Cruise’s increasingly dangerous stuntwork, as he demands every scene be as real as possible. His stunts range from his acrobatic wirework in the first movie to climbing the tallest building in the world to performing a HALO jump from 25,000 feet.
At this point, the most likely explanation is that Cruise is committed to going out in a stunt-related blaze of glory.
Although Cruise’s stunts are a huge attraction in the series, the style and amazing action sequences also keep audiences coming back for every installment.
Cruise also had a hefty hand in setting up these aspects of the series. He has been managing the direction of the movies from the beginning. His clear vision and commitment to the movies have created conflict in the past.
He has occasionally come into conflict with the studio and crew members who do not share his vision. His dangerous stunts have also caused some intense fear on the part of the cast and crew.
This series has been a wild ride, and it’s only getting wilder.
Here are the 25 Wild Revelations Behind The Making Of The Mission: Impossible Movies.
25 Tom Cruise and a stuntman were injured in the fish tank explosion
Even Cruise himself had some trepidation about the stunt in the first Mission: Impossible where a giant fish tank exploded right behind him and released thousands of gallons of water.
It proved to be a little dangerous for both him and a stuntman.
Cruise related, “I don’t remember anything, but one of the stunt guys was knocked down by the water and ended up with a chunk of glass in his leg; it was a gash.”
He continued: “It was a gash; I thought, ‘Oh, jeez.’ My ankle got bruised and I was slightly limping and then I saw this guy–I wasn’t going to mention my ankle after seeing him. It was, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.'”
24 Cruise hung onto an airplane as it took off, flew, and landed
Cruise has taken on some incredibly intense stunts, but one of the most ridiculous was the airplane scene from Rogue Nation.
He hung onto the side of a real plane as it took off from the runway, flew in a circle, and landed. He then repeated the stunt seven more times.
Stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood explained that not everyone was excited about him taking on the dangerous stunt.
Eastwood remarked, “I lose count of how many times we told him not to do it, and saying it couldn’t be done.”
However, Paramount supported Cruise doing the stunt, despite the risks to Cruise.
23 A promotional tactic for MI3 was mistaken for a bomb threat
One marketing tactic for Mission: Impossible III in Los Angeles got too real. Paramount and the LA Times installed devices in newspaper racks that played the familiar theme song when the rack was opened.
However, observant newspaper customers noticed a red plastic box with wires and assumed it was a bomb.
The bomb squad even detonated one of the newspaper racks as a precaution. Federal officials were obviously not happy about the mistake that tied up the bomb squad for no reason.
In the end, their marketing plan looked a little too much like a real mission for anyone’s comfort.
22 The director of MI3 quit over creative differences
After working on the movie for fifteen months, director Joe Carnahan left Mission: Impossible III citing creative differences.
He wasn’t the first to leave the series, as Mission: Impossible II’s director of photography left the movie for similar stated reasons.
Carnahan has been vocal about his displeasure working on the production.
He related, “I didn’t want to spend another year on that movie. So when I quit, I quit probably a week before I was going to be fired… I said [to Cruise], ‘It’s your name on the poster, it’s your face on the poster. You have to make this movie the way you see fit. That’s not going to work for me.”
21 Some of the Fallout crew thought they had watched Cruise have a fatal accident
One of Fallout’s stunts involved a long line drop from a helicopter, where Cruise had to freefall drop down a rope from a helicopter in flight.
The MI cast and crew are used to Cruise taking big risks for realistic stunts at this point, but this stunt caught some of them off guard.
They saw Cruise climb the rope and then fall off of it, and they assumed they had actually watched a fatal accident.
Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Isla Faust, saw him drop and screamed, thinking his fall was real and that was the end of Tom Cruise. One of them said over the radio, “I think we just lost Tom.”
20 Cruise waived his acting fee so he could demand to do his own stunts
Cruise has wanted to do his own stunts since the beginning of the franchise, but it’s hard to convince the studio to risk the life of its star.
He has found ways to arrange their approval, especially since he’s a producer for the series.
In the first movie, he waived his $20 million acting fee to allow more money for the expensive insurance required for his stunts.
He still got a cut of the profits, which probably worked out for him in the end.
In other cases, according to stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood, “he tells the studio that basically if they don’t let him, he’s not going to do the movie.”
19 The entire original television cast was supposed to be offed in the first movie
The Mission: Impossible films had so much material to work with because of the incredible original television series from the ’60s.
However, the movies did not have much interest in continuing the show’s legacy. A
ccording to Martin Landau, a member of the original television cast, the entire original crew was going to be done away with in the first movie.
In an early version of the script, the old crew would appear for a cameo, only to meet a swift end and leave room for Ethan Hunt and his crew to take over.
Landau hated it and turned down the cameo. He later refused to join the film series for anything but a great part.
18 Peter Graves hated the new Jim Phelps
The only character from the television show they kept was Jim Phelps. He’s played by Jon Voight in the movie, but in the series he was played by Peter Graves.
Graves was not happy with the direction the movies chose for Phelps. The only remnant of the old crew turned out to be up to no good, another snub to the show’s legacy.
Graves remarked, “I am sorry that they chose to call him Phelps. They could have solved that very easily by either having me in a scene in the very beginning, or reading a telegram from me saying, hey boys, I’m retired, gone to Hawaii. Thank you, good-bye, you take over now.”
17 Cruise was the driving force behind creating the movie series
Cruise is now inseparable from Mission: Impossible, but at the beginning, he was also the driving force behind getting the series made.
He started his own production company with Paula Wagner with a deal at Paramount.
Cruise found out that one of his favorite childhood shows, Mission: Impossible, was in the Paramount archives. He settled on a remake of the show for his company’s first movie.
Since that time, Cruise’s hands have been on the reins of the series.
He has had a large role in setting the tone and style of the series, right down to his demands about doing his own stuntwork.
16 Cruise did the HALO jump in Fallout over 100 times
Cruise upped the ante on the stunts for Fallout when he became the first actor to do a HALO jump on camera.
The high-altitude, low-opening jump from a plane was risky, and Cruise did over 100 jumps to film the scene.
Cruise had to jump from the plane at 25,000 feet and deploy his parachute below 2,000 feet.
To prevent illness from the altitude and lack of oxygen, the crew even had to design a prop helmet for Cruise that would help him breathe at that altitude.
The crew also had to worry about mid-air collisions and other parachuting mishaps.
15 J.J. Abrams got his MI3 directing gig because of Alias
J.J. Abrams is now a household name in film directing with blockbuster hits like Star Trek and Star Wars.
However, before all that, he got a big break with Mission: Impossible III.
At the time, Abrams was known for writing movies and directing episodes of his series Alias and Felicity, but he had never directed a movie.
The partnership started with a conversation with Tom Cruise where Cruise admitted he had never seen Abrams’ spy thriller Alias.
Abrams gifted Cruise the first two seasons on DVD, thinking he would never actually watch them.
After Cruise watched two seasons, he loved them so much that he hired Abrams to direct his next M:I film.
14 The stunt coordinator thought Cruise was actually drowning during a water stunt
Despite the other crazy stunts in Rogue Nation, the underwater stunt in the movie was the one unnerving stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood.
Cruise trained to hold his breath underwater for six minutes to get the scene. Cruise then had to act while holding his breath, including one part where he had to act like he was losing consciousness.
Eastwood said, “On two or three occasions I brought him up because I felt he was down for too long. He was like, ‘What are you doing? I was right in the moment. I’m acting.’ And I was like, ‘I know, it was just too real for me and I wasn’t comfortable.'”
13 Dougray Scott lost the role of Wolverine because of MI2
Oftentimes, getting a star-making role in a matter of luck, and that luck was not on the side of Dougray Scott.
Scott played Sean Ambrose, the villain of Mission: Impossible II. At the same time, he was offered the role of Wolverine in the first installment of X-Men.
Unfortunately, Mission: Impossible II suffered from delays in production. This tied up Scott’s schedule and forced him to drop out of the role of Wolverine.
Instead, relatively unknown Austrian actor Hugh Jackman was hired to replace him.
Perhaps it all worked out, since Jackman is now nearly inseparable from the role of Wolverine.
12 Cruise climbed the tallest building in the world with no on-site rehearsal
In Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise impressed again by actually climbing the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
To prepare for the scene, he had practiced on a replica of part of the building the crew had built in Prague. Then Cruise and the crew flew off to Dubai to do the real thing.
Stunt coordinator Gregg Smrz commented, “We rehearsed in Prague and never rehearsed in Dubai. We flew into Dubai and climbed the building. Kind of like a military operation, where they’re gonna go in and rescue the hostages; they’ve never been there, they rehearse on a set, then they go in there. The only difference was, don’t look down.”
11 Cruise was nearly stabbed in the eye with a real knife in MI2
It should be clear at this point that Tom Cruise is a particular brand of crazy in how committed he is to getting the shot.
Few examples show it better than the knife fight in Mission: Impossible II.
The scene was supposed to look like Ethan Hunt was almost stabbed in the eye with a knife. However, Cruise insisted the knife be a real knife.
The knife was attached to a rigging that stopped the blade a quarter-inch from Cruise’s eye.
He definitely could have lost an eye here if things went wrong, but such things do not seem to concern him.
10 Ian McKellen turned down MI2 and got to be Magneto and Gandalf instead
Wolverine was not the only X-Men character affected by Mission: Impossible. Ian McKellen was offered a role in Mission: Impossible II, but he was not allowed to see the entire script.
McKellen could not tell if the script was any good from the snippets he could see, so he decided to turn down the role.
The next day, McKellen got a call from Bryan Singer offering him the role of Magneto.
Shortly after that, Peter Jackson offered him the role of Gandalf.
While he would have been great in Mission: Impossible, it would not have been worth missing out on McKellen’s amazing roles as Magneto and Gandalf.
9 Cruise performed advanced helicopter piloting stunts in Fallout
Stunts have never phased Tom Cruise before, so what’s a little helicopter piloting?
In Fallout, Cruise demanded to fly the helicopter himself, even during the dangerous piloting stunts like the 360-degree barrel roll.
Once Cruise decided to take on the stunt piloting himself, he learned how to fly a helicopter and put in 2,000 flight hours.
Because the actor is not usually piloting, the crew had to design special cameras that would look into the helicopter and show Cruise piloting.
Aerial coordinator Marc Wolff commented, “Flying a helicopter takes a lot of skill. To put someone like Tom in a situation like this is almost impossible to imagine.”
8 The writers continued to rework MI2 even in post-production
Mission: Impossible II had a few issues in its production, including costly delays and script issues. The script was barely worked out in time to start shooting.
Writer Robert Towne explained, “We had the script in shape about five days before shooting began. It was not an easy thing to do. The first couple of stabs at it were extremely rocky.”
Even when the script was finished for shooting, Towne was flown in to continue reworking the script through production.
He was still reworking the story in post-production while the movie was in the editing room.
7 Cruise thought he broke a rib while dangling on the side of the plane
It turns out hanging onto the side of a flying plane is exactly as dangerous as it sounds.
The risk to Cruise was great, and he was injured during the stunt.
If a small object or bird hit the plane propellers, it could be thrown back at Cruise with fatal force.
Cruise related, “I remember I got hit by a stone that was so tiny, you cannot believe. I thought it broke my rib. Lucky it went to my vest and not my hands or my face, it would have penetrated and gone right through.”
As bad as a broken rib sounds, it could have been much worse.
6 Fallout prevented Henry Cavill from shaving for his Superman reshoots
When Henry Cavill committed to his role in Fallout, he thought he wouldn’t be needed back in his Superman cape for a while.
However, Justice League was a debacle, and he was called back for reshoots.
He had to work on the two movies simultaneously. His Fallout character’s mustache caused the most trouble, as Paramount would not allow him to shave it for his Superman reshoots.
This meant that the mustache had to be digitally removed from Superman in post-production.
It was not as effective as the Justice League crew might have hopes, and audiences noticed there was something weird with Superman’s face.
5 Cruise went forward with a motorcycle stunt after the safety rigging failed
The Mission: Impossible crew prepares well for the stuntwork, which is largely the reason that Tom Cruise is still with us.
However, Cruise has proved he’s willing to get the shot even when safety precautions fail.
In Fallout, he was doing motorcycle stunts without a helmet, including riding against traffic.
Cruise explained, “We had a safety rig for this one challenging shot, and that rig just didn’t work.”
Director Christopher McQuarrie added, “We looked to Tom and said, ‘What are we going to do?’ And he said, ‘We gotta roll.’ … He got on his bike and took off.”
4 The action sequences were created before the script was written
The stunning action sequences of Mission: Impossible require a lot of planning, so they are often the first part of the movie to come together.
The writers are given the action sequences, and they have to come up with a story that ties together all of the action sequences.
It’s not always easy to come up with a story that justifies why Hunt is climbing the Burj Khalifa or hanging onto a flying plane.
Writer Robert Towne commented, “It was, ‘Hey, Robert, here are the action sequences, how’d you like to write us a story? I had never even tried to write something that way before, and it was frightening.”
3 John Woo could not watch Cruise perform the cliff stunts in MI2
Cruise’s daring stunts can sometimes be a little much for the crew to watch, and that includes famous action director John Woo.
At the beginning of Mission: Impossible II, Ethan Hunt is rock climbing on a dangerous cliff. Cruise refused to do the scene on a small-scale set and wanted to do it on a real cliff.
He was advised by rock climbing experts, but that didn’t make it much less nerve-wracking.
Woo remarked, “I was really mad that he wanted to do it, but I tried to stop him and I couldn’t. I was so scared I was sweating. I couldn’t even watch the monitor when we shot it.”
2 Cruise demanded to do the fall on the Burj Khalifa multiple times
As part of his scene on the Burj Khalifa, Cruise had fall two and a half stories as Hunt’s climbing gloves failed and caused him to slip.
His commitment to getting that scene right caused some nail-biting for the crew.
Producer Tom Peitzman related, “That was done on the building, 154 stories up. I remember [Cruise] wanting to do it countless times because he thought his timing wasn’t right.”
“I’ve got a lump in my throat the whole time he’s doing it. Digitally we put in the CG beam and the glass and removed the rigging, but that’s Tom doing it. He’s literally falling two and a half stories,” he said.
1 Cruise broke his ankle in Fallout and finished the scene
It was unavoidable that Tom Cruise would eventually get badly injured while performing a stunt, and that day finally came when he broke his ankle while filming Fallout.
As he jumped onto a roof and dangled over the edge, his ankle hit the building and twisted to an unnatural angle.
Despite his injury, he still got up and run-limped out of the shot to finish the scene.
He explained, “I didn’t want to do [the stunt] again. I knew it was broken and I just said ‘Ugh,’ and I ran past the camera. We got the shot, it’s in the movie. That profile shot, both those shots, are in the movie.”
Do you know of any other secrets behind the making of the Mission: Impossible movies? Let us know in the comments!
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