Tom Cruise has never been one to shy away from a mission – but he probably wasn’t expecting to have to lead the charge to save cinema as we know it over the course of the last year. He was starring in and producing a major action movie, Mission: Impossible 7, with another one, Top Gun: Maverick, in post-production, when the pandemic decided the world – including film sets – would have to be put on hold for a while.
“I’ve produced 30 to 40 movies. I am responsible for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of jobs,” Cruise tells Empire of the stakes of his job. “All my friends in the industry, people that are in distribution, and my crew were like, ‘What are we going to do? I could lose my house!’ So I told the studio and I told the industry, ‘We’re going back. We’re going to get everyone back to work. We’re going to start shooting in the summer. And we’re going to figure out how to do it safely.’”
Image shot exclusively for Empire by Christian Black in Pickering, Yorkshire on 21 April 2021. ©Christian Black
Naturally, it was something of a rocky ride. “It was seven days a week, it was around the clock, just dealing with a lot of high emotions with people, and helping them through it,” Cruise says. There was social distancing, there were masks, there were bubbles of crew members – one make-up artist for every two actors, plus heads of departments staying in hotel rooms on their own, driving to set, shooting the scene and then returning to the hotel until needed – and pods of five people, ready to quarantine if anyone within one contracted the virus.
“We had to create protocols with studios and insurance companies, and work on laws in each country,” Cruise says of the mammoth task of convincing places including Abu Dhabi, Norway and Italy to let filming go ahead while travel was mostly banned. “Assuring them how we were going to film in the country. There were times when people said, ‘It’s not going to happen.’ And I just kept saying, ‘It’s happening.’”
A combination of positive thinking and tangible, practical protocols has seen them through. “This is a practical movie,” Cruise says. “You have to think of rigs that are needed to be built. How do we get them built? We had to figure out how to open shops safely. How do we ADR the actors?” His questions were answered and, against all odds, the show went on. Because Cruise would never have it any other way.
Read Empire’s full Mission: Impossible 7 story in the upcoming Tom Cruise issue, on sale Thursday 13 May and available to pre-order online now here. Mission: Impossible 7 is due in UK cinemas in May 2022.