The crazy 'Mission: Impossible — Fallout' stunt that left the cast believing Tom Cruise fell to his death

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

For over two decades now, Tom Cruise has made it his mission — one he chooses to accept over and over again — to put himself in harm’s way for his signature franchise, the Mission: Impossible series. For the most part, moviegoers know his stunts are all fun and games. On set, though, reality and fiction can sometimes blur together. That’s definitely what happened during the production of the franchise’s sixth installment, Mission: Impossible — Fallout, due in theaters on July 27.

As previously reported — and seen in behind-the-scenes photos — Cruise injured his ankle in August while performing a rooftop-to-rooftop leap. (That sequence is shown in full in the movie’s buzzed-about trailer.) But the film’s stars told Yahoo Entertainment at CinemaCon that they witnessed another near-death Cruise experience that the rest of the world never got to see. It involved a helicopter, a high-stakes stunt … and one very unexpected fall. (Watch our video interview above.)

Allow us to set the scene: At one point during the film, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has a hairy helicopter chase with his primary Fallout nemesis: CIA agent August Walker, played by a mustachioed Henry Cavill. The sequence was shot on location in New Zealand amid deep, twisty canyons. “All it takes is one gust of wind and three people are dead,” Cavill marvels, reflecting on those tense conditions months after shooting wrapped. But it’s not as if Cruise or the film’s director, Christopher McQuarrie — who also directed the fifth Impossible installment, Rogue Nation — was making this sequence up on the fly. “I spent long hours training and working it out,” reveals Cruise, who is a licensed pilot with years of experience in the air. “As [McQuarrie] was developing the sequence, we were figuring out how we were going to make this work.”

In other words, Cruise knew exactly what he was doing when he went to execute one particularly intense stunt: shimmying up a rope to board a copter and then plunging back down. There was just one problem: The fact that he would fall wasn’t relayed to some of the people watching on the ground. People like Cruise’s co-stars Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson. “We were watching him on the helicopter not realizing he was going to drop,” Pegg tells us. “For one second, we genuinely thought we were watching Tom Cruise fall to his death!” According to McQuarrie, their confusion was further exacerbated by some rogue crew members. “We heard two grips on the radio saying, ‘We just lost Tom!’ There were people on the ground who were clearly not in on what we were doing. They thought his climbing was the stunt, and when they saw him fall, they thought we’d gone off page a little bit.”

For Cruise, though, it was just another day at the office. And, frankly, the fall was far from the scariest part of the helicopter chase. The actor told us that at one point during the sequence, he came thisclose to a set of whirling helicopter blades, a close encounter that inspired him to stress-eat three full meals afterward. In case you think he’s superhuman, Cruise does ’fess up to feeling fear in the moments before a big stunt, but he chooses to push forward rather than let it consume him. “It was very intense — I’m not going to say it isn’t,” he says matter-of-factly. We’re tensing up just thinking about it.

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