AND MENDELSON: WHEN 'GOLDENEYE' & 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' REINVENTED THE MOVIE TRAILER
Vulture's Bilge Ebiri interviewed a veteran stuntman to get his take on Tom Cruise's "ten greatest stunts"-- and the top two are from Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. Here's Ebiri's introduction, and the stuntman's reviews of the top two stunts:
When the trailer for the new Mission: Impossible film landed last month, it seemed all anybody could talk about was the stunt of Tom Cruise hanging off an airplane. And with good reason — ever since the first Mission: Impossible movie, Tom Cruise films have featured more and more daring stunts, often performed by the actor himself. Impressive stuff, to be sure. But what do real stuntmen think of Tom Cruise’s stunts? To get a professional’s opinion, we turned to Randy Butcher, a veteran Canadian stuntman, stunt coordinator, and director who is currently the stunt coordinator for Orphan Black and has worked on a variety of films, including X-Men, Dawn of the Dead, K-19: The Widowmaker, and countless others. He took a look at some of Cruise’s best-known and most impressive stunts, and offered his take on how they might have been done — and whether that really is Tom Cruise doing those stunts.
1. Mission: Impossible (1996): Breaking into Langley, suspended on a wire.
Butcher: This is the wire gag that everybody copied forever. I’ve personally copied it myself. That’s Tom, hands down. It’s a pretty contrived scene, but I was on the edge of my seat. He’s in a harness, and they’re using some Spectra Rope, which is better than cable. 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.
The fact that we can always see that it’s Tom really helps make the scene. There’s a profile shot of him over the computer, and you can actually sense his struggle to maintain that balance, which really adds to it. I know it’s not cool to like Tom Cruise anymore, but I’m a fan of his. I think he’s an underrated actor. His physical mannerisms complement what’s happening inside his mind. I like watching him act.
2. Mission: Impossible (1996): Fleeing as a giant fish tank explodes behind him.
Butcher: I’ve done stuff similar to this. They have a build, they fill it with water, and the special-effects team goes through a great deal of trouble to place detonation devices on that glass. If memory serves, in the scene, Tom Cruise sticks some kind of explosive on the glass. And there’s a guy standing in front of it. And that guy is jerked backwards on a cable, which is taken out in post, of course. If you have the opportunity to watch this scene frame by frame, watch the top of the glass before the guy gets jerked through. As he rises into the air, they cut to the opposite side of the glass that he’s going to come through. And if you look closely, you will see that at the top of the glass is a little hole that breaks first — that’s where the cable is going through. They’ve probably cut a hole in the glass, fed the cable through it to his harness, then, on action, he’s jerked backwards, probably from an air ratchet. And as he blows through, special effects create that spider effect that completely shatters the tempered glass.
And once he’s come blasting through, he’s opened up this huge, empty space in front of this tank for Tom Cruise to come through. And if you watch, you’ll see that Tom is at first behind a pillar. So he was out of harm’s way when they jerked the guy through. Once the glass is blown through, he comes out from behind that pillar and runs through the scene, towards [the] camera. I would have personally no issue at all putting an actor in that spot. I have no doubt that that’s Tom Cruise. (I’m pretty sure that that’s not live fish in there, though.) His only danger is that when this glass does blow, some of the broken glass will be carried along by the water, but not at any speed that would turn it into a projectile and potentially harm Tom. Plus, the lens has compressed the distance so much that he could be quite far away and you wouldn’t necessarily know it.
On the TV series Orphan Black, I just put an actor through a window. I had a stunt double there, and the actor and I had a chat. He was into doing it, but the producers weren’t because it was the first shot of the day and we had to shoot in sequence because of the way this apartment was going to be destroyed. But I designed how to do it so this guy wouldn’t be harmed. I needed him to go through, but I didn’t need to drag him back — that’s where the danger would have been. And he did it. So we had his face coming through the glass, and not the back of the stunt guy’s head. And I can’t begin to tell you what a big difference that makes, to be able to see the actor’s face in a situation like that.
FORBES' MENDELSON ON THE 'GOLDENEYE' & 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' TRAILERS
After Vulture posted Louis Plamondon's 1995-flavored version of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer the other day, Forbes' Scott Mendelson got to thinking about the ways in which that era's initial teasers for GoldenEye and Mission: Impossible "basically reinvented the modern action movie trailer and slowly-but-surely changed how trailers for action movies were constructed."
Mendelson continues, "Yes, I am aware that GoldenEye was actually the 18th 007 adventure. But for all intents-and-purposes, Pierce Brosnan’s entry into the franchise, which came six years after the box office failure of License to Kill left the franchise’s long term future in doubt, was something of a soft reboot back before Hollywood felt the need to retell the origin story every friggin time. Anyway, the initial teaser trailer announced that James Bond was back in movie theaters during the summer of 1995 (attached to Species) showed off Pierce Brosnan in a tuxedo, and then dove headfirst into a 50-second montage of nonstop action and excitement, offering nary a hint of voiceover, plot, or even much in the way of narrative coherence. It was arguably the first trailer to move so quickly that you could barely digest the images.
"That’s not a criticism, but it was edited within an inch of its life and made the conventional action movie trailer, full of voiceover exposition, explicit plot points, and long take action sequences, feel downright slug-like by comparison. The James Bond franchise had one shot to reclaim its hold on the popular zeitgeist and make a case for its continued relevance in a world with Die Hard and Batman, and it wasn’t going to take any chances by coming up for air. And it was perhaps the most action-packed and relentlessly breathless action movie trailer you had ever seen. The next prime example of this somewhat new form of trailer construction came not with the second GoldenEye trailer (which was a conventional 1990′s sell with voice over and copious plot reveals), but rather the initial two teasers for Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible.
"What did audiences need to know about the Paramount release, which at the time was pegged to be the biggest grossing film of the summer (it sounds crazy now, but ID4 was not considered a sure thing even as late as June of 1996) other than that it was an adaptation of the popular ensemble spy action show and that it starred Tom Cruise? Nothing, which is what Paramount’s marketing department gave them outside of those two facts. The initial Mission: Impossible teaser dropped in late 1995 and didn’t even bother with a single line of dialogue, voice over or otherwise. They merely gave us 55 seconds of Tom Cruise and friends engaged in non-stop action set to Lalo Schifrin’s classic theme song culminating in that climactic 'Cruise flies off an exploding helicopter onto a train' bit that was one of the coolest things you had ever seen back then. That final shot of Cruise leaping from the exploding helicopter was the best money shot in a trailer I had ever seen. But upon seeing the film, my heart sank as I realized that golden money shot was actually the climactic death of the primary villain.
"So yes, I’ve been complaining about studios giving away the action finales of their films in the trailers for at least twenty years.
"The next trailer offered little-to-no plot beyond the introductory 'this is your mission' set-up and merely cryptic lines ('a simple game…') to power along what was basically 80 seconds of context-free action and just enough quotable dialogue to allow us to catch a moment’s breath. Ironically, if I may digress for a bit, it now exists as a classic example of both misdirection and spoiler-by-insinuation. If you actually pay attention to the trailer, you’ll see pretty much every major action moment in the film, which in turn makes the film appear to be far more action-drenched than it actually is. It falsely sets up Emmanuelle Béart as a damsel-in-distress spoiling not every action moment in the film but also quite a bit of the narrative. But I digress, the initial teasers for GoldenEye and Mission: Impossible were designed to be seen a few times in a theater, but they were also tailor made for the Internet, which was in its mainstream infancy."