Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg.
Photo: Michael Tran (FilmMagic via Getty Images)

In addition to being wildly entertaining, the Mission: Impossible films perform the laudable work of letting us bear witness to sequence after sequence of Tom Cruise nearly getting his damn fool self killed, possibly in service of some deep-rooted masochistic desire. As our own A.A. Dowd put it in his review of last summer’s execrable The Mummy, “Self-punishment is the engine that drives him.”

Now, we’ve known for a while that Tom Cruise was getting broken but good on the set of Mission: Impossible—Fallout, the sixth installment of the superspy series. First, he broke his ankle leaping from one rooftop to the next, a brutally unsettling injury that you can watch play out in slow-motion, if you have a serious case of symphorophilia. (You don’t need to look it up, it pretty much means what you think.) Then, he appeared to hurt himself again, though it’s unclear whether it was just that ankle acting up again, or possibly the actor receiving an interstellar communication via telepathic Scientology powers. But now, we learn one of the upcoming films centerpieces was far more potentially deadly, and involved Cruise throwing himself toward the ground—from oh, roughly 30,000 feet in the air.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cruise and his fellow Fallout cohorts—including Simon Pegg, Angela Bassett, Henry Cavill, and others—took the stage at Las Vegas’ Cinemacon yesterday in order to share a clip and details of a death-defying skydiving sequence. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Cavill’s new character, CIA agent August Walker (quite a movie name, there), share a scene in which they skydive into a lightning storm above Paris. During the jump, Walker is struck by lightning, fall unconscious, and Hunt attempts to resuscitate him in mid-air.

That already sounds delightfully ludicrous, but apparently it was even more insane than that. Thanks to Cruise’s insistence that it be a high altitude—low opening jump (“a person jumps from 25,000-35,000 feet and opens their shoot as low as possible”), the stunt took nearly a year to plan and execute. It involved building the largest wind tunnel in the world, mainly because, “We had to decide how much we could do that is physically possible without killing Tom,” Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie explained. Nearly killing Tom, on the other hand, everyone was super on-board for. The production had to create a special helmet for Cruise with lights to be able to see his face, while still including things like an oxygen supply, silly shit like that.

It required the camera operator to jump out of a plane backwards with the camera on his head, achieving speeds of up to 200 miles an hour. It took McQuarrie and company 106 jumps to essentially get three usable takes. It seems only the United Arab Emirates was willing to play host to this stunt, every other country passing on the opportunity to play host to Tom Cruise killing his damn self thanks to a faulty parachute or whatever. “It is a daily stress going to work with him, because you don’t know if you are going to see him tomorrow,” Pegg joked, though only sort of. Still, the best part of the story is the special request Cruise made to the stunt team:

“One of the requests that Tom made was that he not catch on fire,” McQuarrie said. Mission: Impossible—Fallout opens July 27, and now we know the title probably refers to Cruise’s pigheaded insistence on falling out of aircraft from a very great height.

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