Everyone reacts to stress in his own way. For director Christopher McQuarrie, stress can almost be like a sedative — and watching Tom Cruise dangle off the side of a plane while filming the opening scene of Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation felt like a triple dosage. It was so nerve-wracking for McQuarrie to watch, he nearly fell asleep and missed it.
“All I can really remember was how tired I was,” he says. “I kept falling asleep and people kept waking me up and asking me questions. After about the third time somebody woke me up, I thought, ‘Boy, I must be a lot more stressed out than I think I am.'”
Then again, the stunt was stressful to pull off, especially when it came to making sure Cruise was safe. In the exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from the film’s Blu-ray, Cruise and McQuarrie revisit the challenges of preparing the star for the daring stunt, in which Cruise’s spy hero Ethan Hunt must hang on and make his way inside the airborne plane before he, well, falls off:
But because McQuarrie had worked with Cruise on three films before helming Mission (he directed the actor in Jack Reacher and wrote Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow), McQuarrie says he knew the actor would push himself to make the scene work.
The director spoke with EW about putting together the stunt and what he and Cruise plan to do next:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you still remember what it was like watching Tom do the stunt?
CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE: Not only do I remember what it was like, I am likely to never forget it. [Laughs] It was surreal. The thing you have to appreciate is the danger that we were looking at is not the danger you are perceiving on film. There was very little chance that Tom was gonna fall off the plane. The chances were higher of him being torn off if the plane went too fast, and there was debris on the runway and birds in the air. If there had been a bird strike, that would have been it.
Clearly, Tom’s a risk-taker, and you’ve worked with him on several films now. To you, what makes Tom different from others in the industry?
You know what, there isn’t a separation between what he does for a living and what he does for pleasure. He really loves making movies. He loves every aspect. And so with that, you get somebody who’s working 24 hours a day, and it’s great to have that kind of support, it’s just amazing to have that drive, to have somebody who’s pushing you to do your best all the time. Making movies is very hard. In the best of circumstances, it’s exhausting, and there’s times when you would be perfectly happy to sweep things under the rug and say they’re good enough. And with Tom around, you never want to do that.
Any chance you’ll come back for Mission: Impossible again?
[Pauses] Uhhh, I know that that’s a bigger conversation we’ve only flirted with, so who knows?
What about working with Tom — have the two of you started thinking about what you’ll do together next? I read reports of how he had come up with a story idea for an Edge of Tomorrow sequel. Have you talked about that?
Oh, we talk about it all the time, and it’s a matter of making it official. I mean, Tom and I, we’re just sort of making one big movie together. Whenever we’re making one movie, we’re talking about what the next movie will be. So while we were talking about Edge 2 and Reacher 3, he was ready to go off and do Reacher 2. So while we’re talking, something materializes and then we kind of just let things come as they will.
There are also rumors you polished the script for Rogue One. Could you clarify your involvement on that film?
I never comment on any of the stuff that I do or may have done. I don’t comment. It’s strictly because I’ve done rewrites on a ton of movies, and so I never talk about any of it. If someone wants to talk about the work I’ve done on a movie, they can go ahead and talk about it.
But it won’t be you.
It won’t be me. And by the way, just to be very clear, I’m given credit for writing other movies I have nothing to do with. So, whatever you hear is totally unreliable.
Going back to Mission, what separates Ethan Hunt from other big-screen action heroes? Considering Spectre just came out, I want to know your thoughts on Ethan versus Bond.
Well, people always ask me who would win in a fight, James Bond or Ethan Hunt, and I like to say they’re both too smart to pick that fight. I think if anything else, they would share a nod of professional respect and keep walking! [Laughs] I think the thing that makes Ethan Hunt really unique compared to other heroes that you see is he doesn’t really want to do the things he’s doing. He’s not a daredevil, he’s not a thrill seeker, he’s not the person that will boldly volunteer for any of the insane stunts he ends up pulling off. That’s where the fun of the character lies. He’s a much more reluctant hero.
So if you do get to do crazy things with the character again for a Mission sequel, do you have anything in mind that’s crazier than hanging off the side of a plane?
That was the challenge that was put to me immediately after we did it. As soon as we landed, somebody said, “What are you gonna do now?” I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and I’ve got a secret little list that may or may not happen.
Is going to even higher, newer heights on that list?
We have an idea, and it doesn’t require low Earth orbit. [Laughs] Let’s put it this way: There are bigger stunts without more altitude.
Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation is now available on Digital HD. The Blu-ray combo pack and DVD arrives Dec. 15.