“This was by far one of the most challenging stunt sequences that we have been asked to work on,” creative director Ron Frankel says.
From dangling from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol to hanging off an Airbus in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise has earned a reputation for his daring stunts. His latest is a high-octane sequence in The Mummy that was filmed at zero-g.
Getting there required careful planning, including a previs animation created by L.A.-based Proof, a portion of which can be exclusively viewed here. “This was by far one of the most challenging stunt sequences that we have been asked to work on,” Proof’s founder and creative director Ron Frankel told The Hollywood Reporter.
For the uninitiated, previs is a sort of scene blueprint — created with animation or sometimes storyboards — that informs the production of camera angles, lens choices, timing and the like. “You are building the sequence to help the filmmakers figure out what they can actually shoot practically, in camera, and figure out what parts will be visual effects,” Frankel said. “The primary goal is to maximize what can be done with real actors on locations.”
In the case of this scene from The Mummy, Cruise and the filmmakers wanted it to be as real as possible, so they went out and performed the stunts in a zero-g plane, in addition to some scene filming in a replica of the plane mounted on a hydraulic gimbal at Shepperton Studios in the U.K.
“This was a stunt that’s difficult to set up and rehearse,” said Frankel. “You can’t practice and replicate it directly. The stunt relies heavily on the actors’ performance, and it’s all the more challenging because they have to replicate it and hit marks while they are tumbling and falling. The previs gives actors a sense of what’s expected of them and the crew a preview of what Alex is looking for.”
To create the previs, Proof worked in close collaboration with director Alex Kurtzman, second unit director and stunt coordinator Wade Eastman and VFX supervisor Erik Nash.
“The zero-g flights are quite expensive,” explains previs supervisor Michael Cawood. “And once you are up there, they can only go up and down several times; there are limits to what they can endure; it can make people feel sick. That made previs planning all the more important.”