No biggie, just Tom Cruise catching a plane. Except, of course, the plane in question is an Airbus A400M Atlas, one of the biggest military turbo-prop aircraft in existence. And in Cruise’s case—or more specifically, in his character Ethan Hunt’s case—catching it involves actually catching it: grabbing onto an outside hatch just before take-off and hanging on for dear life as the plane lifts off from a UK air base to around 5,000 feet in the air.
That eye-watering set piece almost certainly will be the most talked about scene in Cruise’s July popcorn movie offering Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation. And on Thursday morning at Las Vegas’ CinemaCon, an annual industry showcase where Hollywood studios preview their blockbusters-in-the-making in hopes of wowing movie theater owners and assembled press, Cruise personally showed up to explain in play-by-play detail how he did it as part of a presentation by Paramount Pictures.
Talking Point No. 1: no green screen was used. That’s really him hanging off the plane by a slender safety harness—a claim bolstered by behind-the-scenes sizzle reel footage that could fairly be labeled “kids, don’t try this at home.” By Cruise’s own telling, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie initially proposed the stunt and Cruise aw-shucks-ed his way into executing it. But first, the star consulted with eye doctors to ensure his vision would not be damaged by the whipping winds of take off; also the production did everything possible to prevent avian disaster, rousting all the birds in the area before shooting. (In the end, a larger danger was posed by an unidentified “particle” that smacked into the Mission: Impossible actor while he ran through through the stunt. Cruise recalled: “I literally thought it broke my rib.”)
In all, he says he clung to the A400M through eight separate ascents, admittedly “scared s—less” but still thinking of “camera angles and edits” all the while. “I’m an aerobatic pilot,” said Cruise, who was joined onstage by his Rogue Nation co-stars Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson. “I’ve always wanted to do this.”
Added Pegg: “Just know that he did!”
Cruise’s aerial accomplishments weren’t the only focus at the Paramount presentation, however. Ben Stiller, in character as feckless male model Derek Zoolander, appeared in a video segment to trumpet his return to the world of the Really, Really, Really Good Looking for Zoolander 2 (Feb. 12, 2016). “It’s great to be here at Comic-Con,” Stiller said as the character. Another video, this one to hype Star Trek III (Jul. 8, 2016)—the first installment of the blockbuster reboot to be directed by Justin Lin, late of the Fast & Furious franchise — saw Lin in conversation with the series’ earlier helmer, J.J. Abrams, though details about the upcoming project were scant.
Arnold Schwarznegger was far less subdued, showing up at CinemaCon to kick off Paramount’s event in appropriately magniloquent Terminator style. Ascending the stage to a hail of “the rock ‘n roll music,” as he called it, dressed in a black biker jacket, wraparound sunglasses and high-waisted dad jeans, the former Governator was on hand to tout his own appearance in Terminator Genisys (Jul. 1), the long-running franchise’s third reboot.
By way of introduction, Schwarznegger launched into a long story about how he tried to convince Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore to allow him to barn-storm into the event on a helicopter or, say, roar in on a chopper—his T-800 character’s preferred mode of transportation in the first three Terminator films—or perhaps on a chariot accompanied by a phalanx of Vegas showgirls (before realizing that is how Floyd Mayweather will likely arrive ringside for his title fight against Manny Pacquiao May 2).
Then Schwarznegger got to the point. “We all know the first three Terminators—which I was in, which is the only thing that matters—made over a billion dollars worldwide,” he said. Returning to the franchise now: “I would not have gotten involved if we weren’t going in the right direction.”
Paramount’s 12 minutes of Terminator Genisys footage introduces savior of the human race John Connor (Jason Clarke) sending Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to save his mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) after realizing SkyNet has dispatched a Terminator into the way-way back to prevent his birth.
OK, so no giant surprises here so far. But once Kyle travels back, nothing goes as planned. Upon landing in pre-robo-pocalypse times, he’s confronted by a murderous T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) in LAPD uniform (shout out Robert Patrick!) who’s intent on ruining his plans. He also encounters an unlikely savior: Schwarznegger’s gray-haired T-800 who somehow functions as Sarah’s bodyguard and factotum. “If the past can change, so can the future,” Sarah tells Kyle.
Then things get seriously screwy (especially if you haven’t watched the movie’s most recent trailer). Amid the footage of a schoolbus back flipping on the Golden Gate Bridge, the scenes of a Terminator with swords for arms and the shot of Schwarznegger jumping out of a helicopter to become something like a human-shaped air-to-air missle, [SPOILER ALERT] John Connor turns up unexpectedly in this past-life scenario only to be shot in the head by the T-800… and reveal himself as a Terminator! Ergo, Kyle and Sarah’s challenge is not only to stop SkyNet but also to restore John’s humanity.
“Hasta la vista exhibitors,” Schwarznegger said, and with that, the Governator was gone.