As we’ve detailed in painfully extensive detail before Tom Cruise is obsessed with performing his own stunts in movies to such an extent he once enthusiastically encouraged one of his co-stars to try and violentely stab him in the eye. Whilst few things we can mention could ever top the balls out insanity of that demand, we feel it’s worth talking about the time Cruise spent an entire day literally beating his head against the floor to nail one of the most iconic shots of his entire career.
That shot is the one in the first Mission: Impossible movie where his character, Ethan Hunt, breaks into a supposedly impenetrable room by skydiving into it indoors. With the scene’s trailer-bait shot being the moment Hunt is able to stop himself from crashing into the floor face-first by assuming his natural starfish form.
Now while you’d assume this shot would have been achieved via the use of camera trickery or some other way that didn’t involve dropping one of the sexiest men alive onto the floor face-first, it was accomplished for real without any of that. Because Tom Cruise is a crazy person who is almost psychopathically committed to fully embodying basically every role he’s ever played. So much so that he will learn hyper-specific, virtually useless skills for a man with his resources to a near-professional level with his non dominant hand for no other reason than, in his own head, that somehow makes sense.
When it came to this shot, the story goes that due to the placement of the harness keeping Cruise in place, every time they tried to stop his fall he would swing forward ever so slightly and smack his head against the ground. Since moving the harness to a place where Cruise would have a more stable sense of equilibrium was out of the question as it would mess up other shots, the only thing they could do was either cut the shot or keep letting Cruise bellyflop onto a laminate floor head-first until he got it right. Since we’re talking about a man who once let himself be thrown against a car whilst running at top speed 7 times in a row because the first time he did it didn’t look quite right, he of course opted for the latter.
However after like a full day of Cruise repeatedly headbutting the ground director Brian De Palma started to get a little annoyed and took the actor to one side and told him that they really needed to move onto another scene. Frustrated, Cruise started looking at the stunt as an equation that needed to be solved and realised that all he really needed to do was offset the weight of his apparently massive fuck off head. The problem was, there was no way for Cruise to subtly add more weight to his feet since his costume in that scene was tighter than a blacksmith’s handshake.
Adding more pressure was the fact that De Palma only wanted to try and film the scene one more time before cutting it and moving on. After some thinking Cruise decided to cram his shoes full of British pound coins and then try really hard not to hit his head on the floor. Which inexplicably worked meaning that Cruise is apparently so light that enough change to buy a Big Mac is heavy enough to offset the weight of his entire upper half.
According to Cruise, the sheer exertion required to hold his body in place during that scene was almost overwhelming and he was, by his own admission, was near-shitting himself the entire time. Which ended up adding to the film because his frantic look of sheer panic as he gets a fly’s pube away from slapping his head against the ground was totally genuine. As was the redness of his face from the previous dozen or so takes where exactly that happened.