13 Times Tom Cruise Went Over-The-Top (Gun) For A Role

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Vote up the most intense ways Tom Cruise has gone pure Maverick for a role. 

Tom Cruise is no stranger to the big screen. Stories about his life, relationships, beliefs, and behaviors are fairly common in popular culture, too. As a result, Tom Cruise is no stranger to the big screen. Stories about his life, relationships, beliefs, and behaviors are fairly common in popular culture, too. As a result, the man's a continued source of entertainment.

When it comes to Tom Cruise movies, he's well known for action roles like Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible franchise and Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in the Top Gun flicks. Dramatic appearances in Jerry Maguire, A Few Good Men, and Magnolia have helped round out his acting career. Not to say he hasn't appeared in some comedies and thrillers - generally proving that there's not a whole lot he can't do.

It's with this in mind that we got to thinking about just how far Cruise will go for a role. From preparation to on-set stunts, Tom Cruise doesn't hold back. Here are a few of the ways Cruise has really gone over the top for a role. 

Photo: Rock of Ages / Warner Bros.

  • In the fifth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, MI: Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise is seen hanging on by his fingertips as he dangles out of a moving Airbus 400. True to form, Cruise performed this stunt himself as the plane taxied down the runway and took off. 

    He was attached to the plane via a harness and wires, explained Robert Elswit, the movie's director of photography, and “special contact lenses to protect his eyes. If anything hit him at those speeds it could be really bad.” Elswit also noted the care with which the runway had been cleaned off and chose to film in optimal weather conditions.

    Despite all of the safety precautions put into place, there were still moments of peril for Cruise. Stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood recalled

    [In the scene] his feet slip off the plane and he really is holding on for his life.

    It was Cruise who pushed for the scene, dissatisfied with any alternatives. Using a dummy or a stunt double wasn't an option for Cruise who “just wanted to be on the outside of that plane.” 

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  • As the Mission: Impossible franchise continued, so did the escalating intensity of stunts. Star Tom Cruise continued to train for and act out death-defying stunts like climbing the world's tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

    Cruise was no stranger to climbing, having done the opening free-climb scene in Mission: Impossible 2. To prepare for the scene in Ghost Protocol, however, Cruise worked with climbing coach Aaron Tague. According to Tague, Cruise “was very willing to learn. He wanted to get into the psyche of climbing, so we watched a lot of old videos.”

    For a month, Tauge worked with Cruise for between 1-3 hours each day. Cruise and the crew “probably put 200 hours in rehearsal” as they tested the stunt out on a mock building in California. 

    When it came time to film the scene - during which Cruise dons suction-cup gloves as he climbs - it took eight days. Throughout the well-choreographed endeavor, Cruise was harnessed and held by wires but the danger was very real. Cruise knew it and when he first saw what he was up against simply said, “I hope I don't fall.” 

  • Tom Cruise didn't get his pilot's license until 1994 - eight years after Top Gun was released. It was while making Top Gun that Cruise fell in love with flying, a passion that he seized upon with gusto. 

    Cruise owns multiple private jets, including a Gulfstream IV that is reported to have a Jacuzzi and a screening room on board. He also refurbished a World War II fighter jet in 2001, one that he named “Kiss Me Kate” after his ex-wife, Katie Holmes.

    It was Cruise's enthusiasm for flying that pushed him to the limit in the cockpit in preparation for Top Gun: Maverick. Cruise put his co-stars through an intense, three-month flight training that he designed himself. The actor explained,

    I started them out in single-engine airplanes, to build out their spacial awareness inside the aircraft. Next, we took them to the L-39, and they went and flew aerobatics to feel what it’s like in a jet.

    He went on to talk about why the training was so important, recalling how difficult it had been to undergo g-forces for the first time. “When I first committed to the first Top Gun I did it based on the fact that I'd be filmed in the F-14, and I'd get to fly in the F-14,” said Cruise. Jerry Bruckheimer further clarified, 

    [On] the first movie, we put all the actors in an F-14, and we couldn't use a frame of it, except for some stuff on Tom — that was it… Their eyes were rolling back into their heads. They were throwing up…. So Tom remembered that, and since he's an avid pilot, he said, “We've got to train them to be able to handle the g-forces.”

    Cruise wasn't immune from the effects of g-forces, however. He recalled one flight with Captain Lloyd ‘Bozo’ Abel (the pilot who buzzed the tower in one memorable scene from Top Gun):

    For our first flight in the morning, we were going really hard, moving around. We did 9.5 gs, very hard on my body. I had a vomit bag right here, so in between takes I leaned down to quickly empty my guts in the bag. The second I did that, he pulls up… my head was literally on the ground from the pressure. I was pressed on the floor, holding my vomit. I kept going "Bozo! Bozo!" I was choking, and he just kept pulling up and up. Finally, he released, and we were going straight ahead. I was like, “Bozo, what’s the matter with you, man? Didn’t you see my head was on the floor?” He was like, “Well I told you, they don’t call me Bozo for nothing.”

    In order to keep everyone from losing their lunch in front of the camera, Cruise designed what co-star Miles Teller called "Tom Cruise Boot Camp."

    Despite his years of experience, the US Navy wasn't keen on letting Cruise fly one specific plane in Top Gun: Maverick. Cruise wasn't allowed to actually fly an F-18, but did work with the Navy to ensure authenticity to the scenes themselves. 

    Cruise also flies helicopters - something he started doing because it was “just cool” according to stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood. Despite this, Cruise wasn't at the helm of the helicopter he arrived in for the premiere of Top Gun: Maverick in May 2022. 

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  • Tom Cruise enjoys doing his own stunts - regardless of the danger level. In anticipation of the release of Mission: Impossible - Fallout in 2018, Cruise told Men's Journal:

    I’m not the sort of person who does anything on a whim… I’m very meticulous about how I prepare both physically and mentally. There are a lot of briefings throughout the shooting day. I like to create a team environment, one where I can push for excellence.

    In Mission: Impossible - Fallout, Cruise's stunts included scaling a skyscraper, hopping from rooftop to rooftop in London, flying a helicopter, skydiving, and a high-speed motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris. When it came to jumping on those London rooftops, however, Cruise landed wrong and broke his ankle as a result. The movie had to shut down production until he healed.

    In Cruise's mind, he got hurt on an “easy” stunt. He'd “trained for a year and a half to fly the helicopter” in the movie and, according to director Christopher McQuarrie, jumped out of a plane 106 times to get the skydiving scene right. 

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  • For The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise went through rigorous training, describing:

    [I] worked for eight months to get in shape for this picture. I learned kendo, Japanese martial arts, all manner of weapons handling. I not only had to ride a horse, but I had to effectively fight while riding. I studied Japanese. 

    Cruise said his training helped him achieve realism in his movements in fight scenes and was partly responsible for his lack of injuries while making The Last Samurai:

    As far as training goes, you name it, I've done it. Several nights of double-sword fighting against multiple opponents, five days and one night of fending off murderous Ninja intruders, weeks of martial arts drills opposite my Japanese co-stars and finally two months of relentless battle sequences.

    The extent of Cruise's Japanese isn't entirely clear and he insisted he was safe in all of the physical training. The latter didn't prevent him from nearly being decapitated when a stunt went wrong, however. 

    In a scene that had Cruise and costar Hiroyuki Sanada coming at each other on mechanical horses, Sanada's faux equine didn't stop in time. Sanada's sword ended up mere inches away from Cruise's neck. Sandada later said, "Tom's neck was right in front of me, and I tried to stop swinging my sword, but it was hard to control with one hand… The film crew watching from the side all screamed because they thought Tom’s head would fly off.”

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  • The combination of horseback riding and bare-knuckle boxing in Far and Away meant Tom Cruise had to physically prepare for the role in multiple ways. When describing horseback riding lessons, Cruise recalled

    They put Super Glue on my trousers, put me in that saddle in the morning, and unhooked me in the evening.

    While filming one scene, Cruise's “horse went forward, and I slipped off his back into a rock pile going about 35 miles per hour,” but he was “more pissed than anything else.”

    When it came to boxing sans gloves, Cruise “didn't realize how tough it would be. When you take off the gloves and get down to bare-knuckle stuff, it's bone on bone, or bone on muscle.”

    He didn't want his on-screen opponents to hold back, however, knowing it had to look authentic to actually work in the movie. In the end, Cruise said:

    [I] took a few shots, but I wasn't going to let anyone know I was hurt… Not being macho or anything, but I'm not much of a complainer. 

    Cruise also hired a linguistic coach to help him with his Irish accent because he didn't want an “old Lucky Charms accent."