Twenty-three years after appearing in his first Mission: Impossible movie, superstar Tom Cruise is still at it. Although, he'll admit that at 56 years old, he's found some of the action scenes more challenging than in the past.
In his latest film, he even broke his ankle during a death-defying leap between two buildings in London. Thankfully, he was in good health when the film was in production here in New Zealand last year, where Tom attempted his most dangerous stunt to date...
So Tom, how are you still alive after six Mission: Impossible movies?
You know, I think my mother's thought that at a certain point! I mean, as a kid, the stuff that I've done. She's just amazed that I'm still alive. I've done some crazy things and I just kind of kept developing it and putting it into movies.
And you managed to break your ankle making this film? Do you remember what went through your mind at the moment of impact?
You could see me. That's the take! I look down and I knew it was broken. I thought, 'Damn it, I broke my ankle.' And it was the first time that I grabbed the side of the building, so I said, 'I'm just going to go, climb over and run across camera,' because I knew there was a camera there and I knew that the camera was on the side, so I had to get over the wall so that we could retain the shot!
And then you continued on even though your ankle wasn't fully healed? How was that?
It was painful [laughs]. It was painful! Every step I took, I was like, 'Ow, ow, ow…' But we had to do it because I promised the studio and I promised my friends. I worked 10-12 hours a day on rehab and every day, seven days a week, and I got it to an okay place.
We limited the amount of sprints – normally when I'm doing things, I might do 50 takes of one sprint. But for 90 per cent of the running in the movie, I had a broken ankle. Afterwards, I mean, I couldn't walk for days so I would go to the set because I had all the dramatic scenes left that I was shooting. So I'd have a golf cart, they'd take me to set. I'd stand up for the rehearsals and be sitting on a box in between.
The helicopter scene is incredible! How difficult was it to pull off?
I trained for a year and a half beforehand. We went to New Zealand because you are essentially the only country that would allow us to do what we wanted to do, and had the proper landscape. We had to develop camera rigs. I had to get my skill level up to a place where I could get confident enough to do all of those manoeuvres. There were times when I'm flying formation with the other helicopters, it's filming us, I'm right on [co-star] Henry Cavill's helicopter, right on his tail, the rotor blades are literally feet off the rocks. Sometimes I'm just a couple of feet off his tail rotor, so it was very exciting.
You've been playing Ethan Hunt now for six movies…
Wow. What is it about this character that keeps you coming back?
These movies, it's the first film that I ever produced, the very first Mission: Impossible. And really my secret hope was that I could make another one, that it would be a film that I could go travel the world, because as a child that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to travel around the world. I wanted to make movies. So it enables me to do that, to explore one of my passions, which is cities and cultures and meet people and work in those cities with those people. So it's really been a privilege to be able to make these films and I hope to be able to make many, many more.