2018 CinemaCon - Paramount Pictures Special Summer Presentation
Credit: Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Not one to just let his almost impossible stunts play out on screen, Tom Cruise — along with Mission Impossible: Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie — spent some 30 minutes walking attendees at CinemaCon in Las Vegas through a highly complex skydiving stunt that Cruise defied the risks to perform himself.

The stunt required Cruise, 55, to jump out of a plane and execute a high-altitude, low-opening dive filmed at sunset. “Of course, that’s something that Tom would suggest to me that he wants to do,” McQuarrie noted. Added Cruise with a laugh, “It’s a terrible idea by the way, and it scares the hell out of you!”

The scene, which sees Henry Cavill’s CIA agent August Walker disconnect the oxygen hose of Cruise’ Ethan Hunt as both are about to leap out of a plane, had to be filmed 106 times to get three full takes that included the camera operator jumping backwards out of the plane to capture Cruise’s face as he dives out of the plane. Furthermore, due to the tricky, fleeting nature of the lighting, they only had three minutes a day to get the shot in just the right light.

“We had to find a way to do it so you could see Tom’s face all the time…and then we decide how much we’re attempting to do that’s physically possible without killing Tom,” McQuarrie explained.

The final result, shown to audiences on Wednesday night, doesn’t just stop at the insanely risky nature of the dive. The story sees Walker and Hunt both struck by lightning as they plummet towards the ground, and Hunt has to swap Walker’s oxygen hose with his own to save him, all within the window of having to open their parachutes in time. Never one to back away from the challenge, Cruise actually performed the stunt as planned.

The CinemaCon audience also got to see an extended scene from Mission Impossible: Fallout that sees Hunt and Walker try to intercept a hostage in an operation that leads to a high-speed chase through city streets that Hunt navigates with nail-biting agility. A montage of action sequences included the leap between high-rise building roofs that led Cruise to break his ankle and temporarily shut down production, but gave McQuarrie his “money shot.”

Later in the evening, Cruise was awarded the Pioneer of the Year award at CinemaCon, the first actor to receive the honor bestowed by the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation. Cruise, who received a standing ovation as he took the stage after being introduced by James Corden and serenaded by Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom Jr., said it was a “truly special night” for him.

“I grew up going to the movies. It was really my life, my escape. I learned about the world and it really made me dream,” Cruise said. “Thank you for making this evening so very special for me.”

Mission Impossible: Fallout, which also stars Angela Bassett, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, and Vanessa Kirby, will be in theaters on July 27. Watch the trailer above.