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Making movies is an expensive undertaking, and stars are incredibly valuable to a film’s production. When these two things combine the result is often an insurance company that dictates what a star can and cannot do in a film. So what happens when the insurance company says a stunt is too dangerous for an actor to do themselves? Well, if the star in question is Tom Cruise, what happens is you fire the insurance company and go find a new one.
While at the German premier of Terminator: Genisys, Collider got an interview with David Ellison, the CEO of Skydance Productions. They got a little off topic at one point and Ellison got to talking about the famous Burj Khalifa stunt from Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol. In the scene Tom Cruise hangs off of the tallest building in the world. While many actors would happily hand that sort of work over to a well paid stuntman, Cruise is known for doing many of his own stunts and he wanted to do this one. The insurance company, however, was far less interested in the idea. Cruise was so committed to doing the stunt himself that he told the production team to go find a new insurance company who would still insure the film even with the scene intact. The production team, including director Brad Bird, in a moment of solidarity with their star, or possibly temporary insanity, did exactly that.
To be fair to the insurance company, the math is fairly straightforward. The movie is insured against anything that would delay or halt production. If Tom Cruise falls off a building in Dubai, the movie production ends, the movie never happens, and the insurance company writes a giant check to the studio. If a stuntman falls off the same building, the check is a lot smaller because Tom Cruise is still alive to do close ups. It’s not pretty math, but it is simple.
In the era of the green screen it can be refreshing to see practical special effects and actual physical stunts. It’s even more refreshing to see the actors doing the stunts themselves. It’s one thing for Tom Cruise to be willing to take the risks himself, it’s quite another that he’s willing to go to some length to demand that he do them. The confidence that Ellison, Bird, and others showed by supporting the idea also shows that it’s not just bravado on Cruise’s part. He’s actually very capable of doing the stunts and he’s not just showing off.
With Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation just around the corner, we expect to see more crazy Cruise stunts on display. We’ll see if he can top the Burj Khalifa, and if anybody was crazy enough to put money on him surviving.