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Credit: Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise literally drove off a cliff for his most dangerous stunt ever in Mission: Impossible 7

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May 13, 2021, 2:45 PM EDT

Tom Cruise has never minded putting his own life on the line for the sake of our enjoyment. He's scaled the tallest building in the world, held onto an airplane as it was taking off, but all of that stuff will look like a grade-schooler hanging from the jungle gym at recess when compared to Mission: Impossible 7's opening stunt, which sees IMF agent Ethan Hunt mounting a motorbike and driving off a Norwegian cliff.

And, as always, Cruise insisted on doing the thing for real (no blue screens need apply).

"If the wind was too strong, it would blow me off the ramp," Cruise told Empire for the magazine's latest issue (now on sale). "The helicopter [filming the stunt] was a problem because I didn't want to be hammering down that ramp at top speed and get hit by a stone. Or if I departed in a weird way, we didn't know what was going to happen with the bike. I had about six seconds once I departed the ramp to pull the chute and I don't want to get tangled in the bike. If I do, that's not going to end."

Even with so many safety precautions in place, there was only somuch room for deadly error. But it speaks to Cruise's incredible star power; he's probably the only guy in Hollywood who can convince a major studio to overlook the mind-boggling insurance premiums involved with him taking on a dangerous stunt instead of a professional stuntman. Nevertheless, Mission: Impossible writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (the only filmmaker to return for more than one installment) was out of his mind with worry.

"On the day, I said to Tom, 'Look, you're my friend and I care about you. If anything goes wrong, it'll be over for you very quickly. I'll be at an arraignment. So please be competent,'" McQuarrie wrote in a short essay for Empire. "We don't say, 'Be careful.' When it involves jumping off a mountain on a motorcycle, we're way past careful. What matters in situations like this is extreme competence."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Luckily, Cruise didn't splatter himself all over the rocks and the crew got the shot. "There was a bit of camera wobble, but everything's pretty good," McQuarrie explained. "And then you hear Tom on the radio say, 'You know, I think I can hold onto the motorcycle a little longer.' That's when my heart stopped, because I knew we were going to do this again." 

Perhaps that's why the franchise has had such trouble keeping a director for more than one movie... Cruise just gives them too much anxiety!

Even though Paramount will probably plaster the cliff sequence all over the marketing materials, McQuarrie isn't bothered. "You'll see that jump 100 times before you see the movie," he said. "And I'm not the least bit concerned. I know why he's jumping. I know where he's going. I know what's at stake. Of course, I didn't know that when we shot the stunt. It would be months before I figured it out. If we'd sat around waiting for that, we might never have started, just like if we'd waited for the pandemic to end."

Delayed several times by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mission: Impossible 7 heads to theaters May 27, 2022.