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Mission Impossible Almost Cut the Vault Scene After Tom Cruise Kept Hitting His Face


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The now classic vault scene from the first Mission: Impossible film was almost cut because Tom Cruise kept hitting his face on the ground. When legendary filmmaker Brian De Palma first gave the popular 1960s TV series life on the big screen in 1996, very few people could have predicted that Mission: Impossible would go on to become an enormously popular franchise 25 years later. But aside from kicking off what has undeniably been a highly lucrative franchise, the first Mission: Impossible film also marked the start of Cruise’s rather seamless transition into high-stakes action filmmaking.

Prior to Mission: Impossible, Cruise had starred in the action flicks Top Gun and Days of Thunder. However, Mission: Impossible gave Cruise something far more different than those past films had; he began to push himself physically to create on-screen moments that were enough to draw in audiences. Though the first movie didn’t offer the same caliber of jaw-dropping stunts that future Mission: Impossible installments did, the film still had its share of impressive moments, with one moment in particular going on to become one of the franchise’s most recognizable.

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As 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of De Palma’s Mission: Impossible, Cruise recently sat down to chat about one of his most memorable moments working on the film. But as he tells Paramount Movies' official YouTube channel, the famed vault scene in which Ethan Hunt is lowered horizontally within inches of an alarmed floor wasn’t so easy to shoot. In fact, the scene came very close to being scrapped altogether, had Cruise’s signature determination not helped him find a way to make the challenging feat work:

When you look at that shot, I’m going from the computer to the floor and I remember we were running out of time and I went down to the floor, and I kept hitting my face and the take didn’t work. And we were running out of time – we had a lot we had to do. So I went up to the stunt guys and I said, "Give me coins." You know, here in England they have pound coins, so I put the pound coins in and I hung on the cables to see was I level. And I had to make it, you know, and so I said okay I said, Brian was like, "One more and I’m gonna cut into it and do it," and I said, "I can do it," you know. It was also very physical, like straining, I’m doing it. So I went down, starting at the computer, went all the way down – beautiful set, like De Palma is, has got amazing taste - went down on the floor and I didn’t touch, and I remember I was there, I was like, Oh, my gosh, I didn’t touch. And I was holding it, holding it, holding it, holding it. And I’m sweating and I’m sweating and then, he just keeps rolling. I just realize, Brian is like, he’s doing it, he is like, he is working it. It’s like we did it, we did it, we did it, I’m like, I am not going to stop. And I just hear him off camera and I could - he’s got a very distinct laugh – and a very, you know, when he laughs it makes me laugh and he just, I could just hear him start to howl and he goes "Alright…cut."

As with most of Cruise’s stunt work in the franchise, he managed to make the physicality of it all seem simple. But as he clearly points out, the vault scene was anything but simple and it was only through Cruise’s own determination that the scene ultimately ended up in the film. It’s hard to imagine what Mission: Impossible would have been like without that scene, but the series is arguably much richer for it. What’s more, Cruise’s triumph over the more challenging aspects of the scene allowed him to push himself even further in subsequent installments.

Today it feels like the stunt work in Mission: Impossible isn’t quite on the same level as what was being done even four years later in Mission: Impossible 2, let alone what audiences have become accustomed to in more recent years. The stunts in the Mission: Impossible franchise have become increasingly dangerous for Cruise to pull off, with recent entries having him hang from a flying plane and jumping across rooftops. But the vault scene was unique for its time, spawning imitators as well as parodies and ultimately giving the franchise the boost it needed to be in a league of its own.

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