On the surface, Tom Cruise has a reputation for being a soft celeb. Despite an increasing collection of leading roles in big budget action flicks, Cruise is mostly portrayed in Hollywod as a strange, eccentric little guy, who loves Scientology, having long-term relationships with unexpected starlets, and jumping on couches. With his signature toothy grin, he comes across as pretty harmless. But what you may not know is that Tom is actually kind of a bad ass daredevil…and not just pretending to be one on the silver screen.
Cruise insists on performing his own stunts in all of his movies. Seriously. And not just a gentle car chase or riding a horse without a saddle. We’re talking fire, water, speed, explosions, weapons and as we saw this week in the new trailer for the upcoming Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, knee-buckling heights and airplanes. The guy’s got a taste for danger!
Whether it’s to step up his oft disputed manliness, to make directors shake in their chairs or to just get some good old fashioned thrills, Tom loves performing death-defying feats in the name of cinema. So let’s take a few moments to respect Tom’s courage and honour the 10 most spectacular stunts from his career thus far. Buckle up!
10. Exploding fish tank from Mission: Impossible
Explosions, shattered glass, 16 tons of water, a stick of gum and a variety of pretty fish came together in one of Tom Cruise’s coolest looking stunts performed in the opening sequence of the original Mission: Impossible from 1996. The exploding restaurant fish tank was actually Tom’s idea and he wanted to perform the feat himself on a soundstage. Despite director Brian de Palma’s concerns of potential drowning in the aforementioned 16 tons of water, Cruise did, in fact, smash through the mock glass window as the enormous blast of water rushed out from behind him. He survived unscathed, and looked pretty damn cool doing it.
9. Knife to the eye from Mission: Impossible 2
And you thought Tom Cruise was too much of a pretty boy to get into a knife fight? That is definitely not the case friends. Back in Mission: Impossible 2 from 2000, Cruise engaged in a battle of the blades with his co-star Dougray Scott. Cruise and director John Woo wanted to make the scene look extra dangerous, and Woo thought it would look great if Scott stopped the blade just short of Cruise’s eye. To Woo’s dismay, Cruise agreed and decided to take the suggestion as far as possible without maiming himself. Cruise had Scott hold the knife, which was connected to a precisely measured cable, a quarter of an inch from his eye ball! And yes, the knife was real. Scott must have been freaking out pretty hard because Cruise told him to use as much strength as he could to make it look legitimate. A one quarter inch of a mistake and that could have been Tom’s last movie.
8. Insane car chase from Jack Reacher
If you’ve seen a lot of Cruise’s self-performed stunts, you start to get the vibe that he has a need for speed. He loves being a stunt car driver and feeling the rush of a fast vehicle. He’s also pretty good at it! This was displayed in the car chase sequence from 2012’s Jack Reacher. Cruise actually performed all of the driving in the sequence himself, from the speed, to reckless turns, to smashing into the giant stack of barrels. That’s pure Cruise control. The film’s second unit producer Paul Jennings was so impressed that he said Tom was “one of the best stunt drivers I’ve ever met.” Side note: The part in the chase when Tom’s car stalls was not scripted. Tom was able to fire the car back up himself and speed off. Director Christopher McQuarrie loved the realism, and decided to keep it in the movie.
7. Hoverpack action from Minority Report
Back in 2002’s Minority Report, Cruise performed another incredible high-speed chase, but this time it was a futuristic hoverpack sequence. Under the guidance of director Steven Spielberg, Cruise performed a serious wire feat in this stunt. The sequence required the film’s crew to build an 80 foot rig with 1.3 miles of cable that Cruise was dangled from. Eighteen crew members manned the cables as Cruise jumped, fell and got dragged across the soundstage. It looks like he took some pretty serious bumps.
6. Motorcycle high-speed chase from Knight and Day
Some of the most memorable moments from 2010’s Knight and Day were the high speed motorcycle stunts and guess what…yep, Tom performed a lot of them. He also dreamed some up. Like the fast paced motorcycle chase when he flips Cameron Diaz around on the bike to shoot their enemy pursuers. Tom did that. And Cameron somehow let him. Sure it was on a camera rig, but it still looked pretty damn scary.
Another notable motorcycle sequence involved them actually riding the motorcycle through a herd of stampeding bulls. No CGI here folks.
5. Laying under an out of control truck from Mission: Impossible 3
Would you be willing to lay under a giant truck that’s careening out of control at break-neck speed for the sake of a cool movie shot? Tom Cruise is. And somehow he got away with it unscathed in 2006’s Mission: Impossible 3. Instead of using CGI to make danger non-existent, Cruise convinced director JJ Abrams and the crew to let him lay inches under a careening truck while it skidded over top of him. Kudos to Tom for this one. That’s pretty intense.
4. Rock climbing over Dead Horse Point cliffs from Mission: Impossible 2
We’re pretty sure that Tom Cruise doesn’t have a fear of heights. He first began convincing us of this in the opening sequence of Mission: Impossible 2 when he is seen free-scaling cliffs over Utah’s jagged Dead Horse Point. Cruise actually performed several shots from this sequence himself, hundreds of feet above the rocks below. Cruise was of course wearing a safety harness which was later digitally removed, but there was no safety net underneath him. Cruise insisted on doing the scene and ended up tearing his shoulder while jumping between rocks. No thanks!
3. Shanghai base-jumping from Mission: Impossible 4
In 2006’s Mission: Impossible 3, Cruise took his wire work from Minority Report to the next level by performing some intense base-jumping stunts that looked visually incredible…and terrifying. Director JJ Abrams wouldn’t let Cruise jump off of an actual skyscraper in Shanghai, so they recreated it in a studio to minimize as much of the potential splatter in case anything went wrong. Cruise ended up throwing himself recklessly off big drops on the set and risked his well-being while just wearing a safety harness. It’s an amazing sequence if we haven’t stressed that enough yet!
2. Scaling Burj Khalifa in Dubai from Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
Would you consider scaling the tallest building in the world with some suction cups on your hands? Tom Cruise didn’t even blink at it in 2011’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. Tom actually scaled the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 2,722 feet above ground. And yes, he did it all himself, no stunt double! Cruise trained for months, but didn’t anticipate the heavy crosswinds that he endured at that height. He ended up smashing into the building several times. But holy crap did it pay off! It looks incredible. What a warrior.
1. Dangling from a plane from Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation
And yes, the most impressive Tom Cruise self-performed stunt of all time looks to be fully unveiled this summer when Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation is released on July 31st. As we saw in the trailer, Cruise is actually strapped onto the side of an A400 plane while in air above the English countryside. According to Cruise, he did this four times over two days to get it right. According to Tom, “While we are going down the runway, we’re worried about bird strikes, any kind of particle that the propellers could pick up, any kind of stone. 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.” Sounds like a treat!
So, do you still think Tom is soft?