Tom Cruise is a master of stunts, but big screen magic requires serious hardware. That’s why the team behind “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” was tasked with creating the biggest wind tunnel on Earth.
“It wasn’t designed to be the biggest one in the world, we just found out it was the biggest one in the world. We needed it that size to get the rehearsal space they needed,” says Neil Corbould, the special effects supervisor for the film, explaining that Cruise and three or four other people, plus a cameraman, needed to be able to move freely in the tunnel.
The wind tunnel, erected by a company in Latvia called Aerodium, was 20 feet by 10 feet—about four times the size of typical wind tunnel. The open-air space was where Cruise and fellow stunt team members practiced what would ultimately be a 30,000 foot HALO jump out of airplane, which is a parachute jump common in the military where the jumper opens their parachute at a low altitude after free-falling for a majority of the descent, for an integral nighttime scene in Paramount Pictures’ “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” due out July 27.
Cruise performed the jump over 100 times before they finally got the perfect shots.
“It was quite a lot, but you know, if he hadn’t had the time in the wind tunnel, it would’ve been 250,” Corbould says.
A wind tunnel functions as a giant fan with a big motor underneath. It works by the wind blowing upwards in conjunction with an air straightener to direct the wind.
At first, an average-sized tunnel was purchased, but it was quickly determined it wouldn’t give them the amount of space they needed to rehearse the stunt, so they discovered the Latvia company, which ultimately made the creation.
“We went to them and said, ‘Look, we got this project and I can’t really say too much about it. We want one like you built before, but we want it four times bigger,” Corbould said. “There was definitely silence from the other end of the phone for a while. It was specifically designed for this movie.”
To power the tunnel, there were four megawatt generations, so that each motor had its own megawatt of energy, which Corbould noted would be enough to run a small village. The specially created tunnel gave Cruise and the cameraman more time and a safer environment to time the shot, according to Corbould.
It took three and a half months to build and two months to design, “because nothing’s ever been done like that before,” Corbould said. They ultimately worked with the space for five months before Cruise got into the plane and started doing the real-life jumps.
Even the smaller, more standard tunnel has rarely been used in films, Corbould said there was one the team was aware of before working on the sixth installment of the franchise, but nothing to the extent of how they used it.
“It’s more preparation in the hopes that you make sure that the exact stunt that he’s doing, it works and it’s safe,” Corbould added. “Well, as safe as it can be.”
Early on, Cruise knew he wanted to attempt such a stunt, according to Corbould, and it was up to the actor/producer and his team to help the actor/stuntman prepare for it. The 56-year-old is well-known for his unique ability to be both a top actor and do all of his own stunts—a combination that Corbould says makes him desirable to work with.
“He’s very knowledgeable about everything we do and he’s great with feedback. If something’s not quite right we can just tell him. We can make adjustments to that. He does all the testing himself. He’s quite a unique character. I’ve never worked with another actor like him,” Corbould said.
“Fallout” is the same film where Cruise famously injured himself by jumping from one building to the next, breaking his ankle. The injury, however, was said to be a blessing in disguise because writer/director/producer Chris McQuarrie, the only director to return for another film in the franchise, was able to look over the script more thoroughly and tighten any gaps.
It seems each “Mission: Impossible” movies’ mission is to out-do the last and Corbould agreed — revealing that’s what drew him to the project in the first place.
“The prep talk was ‘we want to make this the biggest, best one yet’ and that was music to my ears,” he said. “We had the two biggest effect stunts on this movie, the HALO jump and the helicopter sequence. It’s one thing after another, which is great.”