Watch Tom Cruise Roll a Fiat 500 in ‘Mission: Impossible’

The director Christopher McQuarrie discusses a chase scene involving the star and Hayley Atwell in ‘Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One’


‘Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One' | Anatomy of a Scene

Christopher McQuarrie narrates a scene from the film, featuring Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell.

“I am Christopher McQuarrie, the director and one of the writers and producers of ‘Mission — Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One.’” [MUSIC PLAYING] “What are we doing?” “Finding us a new car.” “The inspiration for this sequence actually occurred to me during the shooting of ‘Mission — Impossible Fallout’ when I was scouting locations for the chase scene in Paris. And I came across a little Fiat 500 that was parked along the Seine River. And I thought it would be great, the idea of watching Ethan Hunt and Tom Cruise driving in a car like that. When I pitched this idea to Tom, he immediately appreciated the notion of doing a car chase that involved more humor than any of the sequences we had done previously, and he really leaned into that. Something to watch during this sequence is the behavior between Tom Cruise and Haley Atwell. You’re looking at two actors performing in two-shots, meaning you don’t have any editorial control. It’s not like I can pick the best moments of each actor. I have to really be giving you their best at the exact same time. And what it really does is it creates an affinity for these two characters. The most important part about this sequence is not really the action. It’s the feeling of a relationship developing between two people who actually don’t want to be together. And this car chase is all about creating circumstances whereby they are forced together, and over the course of a sequence, you feel them turning into a team. Rome is a very tricky place to shoot. The Fiat is a very difficult car to drive. And obviously, it’s very difficult to drive that car with handcuffs, let alone on cobblestone streets which make all of the driving, everything that you see Tom doing, becomes completely unpredictable. And what you end up with is a sequence where the car almost has a mind of its own. It becomes a character in the sequence along with Haley’s hair, as you can see there. In this part of the sequence, we ended up on the Spanish Steps. We were allowed to shoot at the Spanish Steps with the understanding that we never could actually physically touch the Spanish Steps. But so long as we never touched the Spanish Steps, we could do whatever we want. So what we did is we built the Spanish Steps in three sections on a backlot so that we could drive cars down them. And everything that Tom and Haley are doing here is extremely difficult, extremely punishing. The car doesn’t have really great suspension. So the riding down the steps is very jarring. And we got into this bit here with the cars rolling over we did in three sections. One, Tom drove down the steps. Then we had a bunch of grips roll a car down the steps with no one in it. And then, finally, we built a padded interior for the two actors to actually roll down the steps with the cameras rolling.”

By Mekado Murphy

In “Anatomy of a Scene,” we ask directors to reveal the secrets that go into making key scenes in their movies. See new episodes in the series on Fridays. You can also watch our collection of more than 150 videos on YouTube and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Ethan Hunt has found himself in many elaborate car chases throughout the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. But while the stunts have gotten bigger, this time, the car has gotten smaller.

In “Dead Reckoning Part One,” a Fiat 500 becomes the star of a sequence set in Rome involving Ethan (Tom Cruise) and Grace (Hayley Atwell). The two find themselves handcuffed to each other as Ethan gets behind the wheel of their tiny getaway vehicle.

Narrating the scene, the director Christopher McQuarrie said the inspiration for it occurred to him when he was scouting locations in Paris for a chase sequence in “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” and came across a Fiat 500 parked along the Seine.

“I thought it would be great, the idea of watching Ethan Hunt and Tom Cruise driving in a car like that,” he said.

This scene includes more humorous moments than the series’ previous car chases. And it involves Cruise having to navigate the Fiat around cobblestone streets, which the actor did himself.

A climactic moment in the scene involves the Spanish Steps, when the Fiat bumbles its way right down the monument.

The production was not allowed to let cars actually touch the steps, so they built a replica of the landmark on a backlot and tumbled the vehicle down there.

Read the “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” review.

Read an interview with the franchise co-star Henry Czerny.

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Mekado Murphy is the assistant film editor. He joined The Times in 2006. More about Mekado Murphy

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