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'Mission: Impossible': Tom Cruise and stunt-performing stars

July 13, 2023

In "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning" superstar Tom Cruise once again does his own stunts. He's not the only one.

A man is in mid-air while riding a motorcycle, against a mountainous backdrop.
'Mission: Impossible' fans are always eager to discover Tom Cruise's exciting stuntsImage: Paramount Pictures/Globe-ZUMA/picture alliance

The new mission echoes the world's current AI concerns: In "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One," Tom Cruise plays agent Ethan Hunt for the seventh time, fighting against a computer program that has gotten out of control and is threatening to wipe out humanity.

The "Mission: Impossible" franchise is a recipe for success for Hollywood. One of the aspects that makes the series so popular is that Tom Cruise performs many of the film stunts himself, without the aid of CGI or stunt doubles. That approach has turned him into an action megastar.

Daring action scenes

Unforgettable scenes in the previous movies include Tom Cruise climbing up the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, or hanging from a plane as it takes off.

Picture of a man climbing up a modern skyscraper.
In 'Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol' (2011), Tom Cruise climbs up the world's tallest buildingImage: David James/Paramount Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection/picture alliance

A highlight of the new film combines a motorcycle stunt and a parachute jump.

Like the "John Wick" films with Keanu Reeves, the "Mission: Impossible" franchise counters the trend of having blockbuster action scenes created exclusively through CGI.

Cruise is perhaps the most famous action star doing his own stunts today. But other actors, including older ones, also insist on filming dangerous sequences themselves in order to make the movie feel more authentic.

Jackie Chan: Stunt legend despite serious accident

This includes Chinese martial arts legend Jackie Chan, who has insisted on doing practically all of his stunts himself since the 1970s.

His most notable performances are in "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow" (1978), "Police Story" and "Police Story 2" (1985 and 1988) and "Armour of God" (1986).

During the filming of the latter, Chan almost died while filming a relatively simple stunt. Jumping from a ledge onto a tree, he fell and crashed onto a rock, breaking a few ribs and cracking his skull.

Black and white picture of a man wearing an armour full of dynamite sticks as an explosion takes place behind him.
Jackie Chan in 'Amour of God,' 1986Image: Everett Collection/picture alliance

Michelle Yeoh: Former 'Bond girl' and martial arts legend

In her Oscar-winning role in "Everything Everywhere All at Once," 60-year-old Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh portrays a laundromat owner who in an alternate universe is also a famous martial arts movie star — inspired by the actress' own career.

Picture of a woman dressed in an ancient Chinese outfit wielding a sword, with her other hand held up.
Michelle Yeoh in 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (2000), which will be re-released in theaters in 2023Image: Columbia Films/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMAPRESS/picture alliance

Yeoh, who is also among the stars renowned for performing stunts herself, played alongside Jackie Chan in action classics like "Police Story 3: Supercop" or "Supercop 2." She rose to international prominence with the 2000 martial arts film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," in which she also did her own stunts.

Keanu Reeves: 'I do all of the action'

Canadian actor Keanu Reeves doesn't shy away from getting his hands dirty in action-packed scenes either. In films like "Speed" (1994), "Matrix" (1999) or the "John Wick" series, he jumps out of moving cars and fights his opponents in nerve-wracking scenes.

Picture of a man on a motorcycle escaping an explosion behind him.
In 'Chain Reaction' (1996), Reeves escapes an explosion on a motorcycleImage: TBM/United Archives/picture alliance

Following the release of "John Wick 3," Reeves confirmed in an interview that he did almost all of the stunt work himself: "I do all of the action. I'm 90 percent of what's happening there. I'm maintaining the connection to the audience, and with the story."

Harrison Ford: Stuntman at 80

"Indiana Jones" star Harrison Ford can't be left out of any list of actors performing their own stunts.

The 80-year-old actor has had an impressive film career spanning six decades. His most successful films include the "Star Wars" saga and the "Indiana Jones" series.

Picture of a man wearing a hat running away from a boulder that's rolling towards him.
Harrison Ford shot this iconic opening scene from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' 10 timesImage: Paramount/Everett Collection/picture alliance

The opening scene of the first Indiana Jones movie,"Raiders of the Lost Ark" is particularly iconic, with Harrison Ford running away from a giant boulder that is chasing him. Even though the rock was a prop, it was still heavy enough to seriously injure the actor, who was not doubled in the scene.

Ford completely immersed himself in the role of daredevil archeologist Indiana Jones.

In the recently released "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny," he still took over many stunts himself, dislocating his shoulder while filming. But for real action stars, that's just part of the job.

This article was originally written in German.