In the nearly two decades Tom Cruise has been starring in the Mission Impossible movies, he has consistently set the bar when it comes to performing death-defying stunts. As Ethan Hunt of the IMF (Impossible Missions Force), Cruise has memorably freeclimbed the terrifying Niagara Escaprment in Ontario, escaped shards of glass and raging torrents of water from an exploding fish tank, jumped off a skyscraper in Shanghai and hung from the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai.
But perhaps the most iconic of all his stunts to date is the standout sequence from the very first film, directed by Brian De Palma in 1996, when Hunt and his team achieve a seemingly impossible descent into a heavily protected room to hack a CIA computer, having first negotiated a laser grid and a ceiling heating duct.
‘He’s in a harness, and they’re using some Spectra Rope, which is better than cable,’ veteran stuntman Randy Butcher explained to Vulture in April. ‘Whether it’s 30 or 40 feet, Tom is absolutely in that harness, using his own stomach muscles and his own balance to maintain that position and that shot. They don’t cut away from it at all.’
During the scene, Tom Cruise was required to drop from the ceiling and hover inches above the ground. It is reported that during filming his head kept hitting the floor until he had the idea to put coins in his shoes for balance. ‘There’s a profile shot of him over the computer,’ adds Butcher, ‘and you can actually sense his struggle to maintain that balance, which really adds to it.’
Mission: Impossible 1 — Tom Cruise 'Suspension' Costume, 1996. On a custom built mannequin, costume worn by Ethan Hunt in the CIA vault scene. Estimate: £5,000-7,000. This item is offered in our Out of the Ordinary sale on 10 Setpember at Christie's South Kensington
Now, the suit worn by Tom Cruise in this iconic sequence is being offered for sale in our Out of the Ordinary auction on 10 September at Christie's South Kensington. Comprising a rubber headpiece and black rimmed glasses, latex surgical gloves, black canvas jacket, T-shirt and jogging bottoms, black lace-up boots, the lot is mounted on a bespoke mannequin stand.
In the fifth installment of Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (released worldwide on 31 July), the 52-year-old actor is at it again, seen in the opening scenes hanging from the side of an Airbus A400M, some 5,000ft above the British countryside.
‘Each time I think “I’ve seen it all” and I’ve been through every action challenge a film can have, the next film introduces new challenges of every kind,’ says Cruise. ‘The way I work on Mission, movies is that I like to spend months and months and months ahead of time prepping every sequence, really breaking them down and sectioning off the proper time for the physical training. I go into each movie expecting to learn new things and learning new ways of doing things where I already have skills.’
But don’t just take his word for it. ‘Tom could have been a great stuntman if he wasn’t already a great actor,’ says Wade Eastwood, who worked as stunt co-ordinator on Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. ‘So working with him is like working with the very best stunt person. He does 100 per cent of his own stuff — and that’s not just for the media, that’s the truth.’
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