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Interview Exclusive Interview w/ Stunt Coordinator Wade Eastwood (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation) (1 Viewer)

Neil Middlemiss

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You many not immediately recognize the name Wade Eastwood, but the chances are high that you’ve seen him – as a stunt double – or enjoyed his tenacity, inventiveness and skills through his stunt coordination and second unit direction work. With a resume that includes films such as 1999’s The Mummy, 2005’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith, 2010’s Salt, and 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, he has touched an incredible array of productions. Returning to work with Tom Cruise after a successful partnership on Edge of Tomorrow, Wade Eastwood brought to bear the accomplishments of his trade for Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation to help deliver some of the best stunts of recent memory.


Wade spoke to Home Theater Forum from Louisiana, where he is currently working on Tom Cruise’s next film, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and discussed the preparations for the incredible opening sequence in Rogue Nation that has Tom Cruise hanging from the side of a plane, and shared his views on getting the best out of action sequences.


Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation is available on Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment on December 15, and is available on all major digital retailers now.

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HTF: I know Tom Cruise is known for the physicality he brings to his roles, but it's almost a creed that if he can do a stunt, he should do it because that will enhance the believability of that scene. You've stunt doubled for actors - and looking over your resume on IMDB, you've worked on just about every other movie I've got sitting on my shelf here. But when you work with an actor like Tom Cruise, who can and wants to do his own stunts, how do you have a discussion about what's right and reasonable in order to get the best possible shot, and where you should advise this actor to take a step back?


Wade Eastwood: Well, it's all risk-based, you know. If it's something that just cannot physically be done, then it physically can't be done. But with Tom, the difference is in the prep stage, years before the film starts, we will start having discussions about what action is going to be in the next one, and if it's action like, let's say flying or jumping or something, [Tom] will go and train, and start training, and put in the hours, and he'll get a thousand hours or 600 jumps or whatever it takes. [He does it] on his weekends, while he's on other shows; he will do whatever it takes, so by the time that film comes [around], he's qualified. And that's his commitment. So then I don't have an argument, to say, "This is not doable," because he's like, "Why, I am fully qualified."


But he's also a realist. There is no ego with Tom. It's a want and desire, passion-driven, 100%. He wants what you said at the beginning of the interview; the audiences knows it's him doing everything and that does sell the movie. And it sells the movie because Tom, if he's Ethan or if he's Reacher or whatever he is, you're watching him do it. You're not watching the stunt double doing it. You're not watching a visual effects green screen shot. You're watching Tom in the story, in the character and in the moment continue all the way through until the end of that scene whether there's action or not. Again, he wants the audience to connect with the character. He doesn't care that they connect with Tom Cruise or not. He wants them to connect with the character.



HTF: I watched the stunt at the beginning, which was filmed in England


Wade Eastwood: Yeah, filmed at Wittering station in Cambridgeshire


HTF: That’s right. When you're preparing for a stunt like that, there's a massive amount of coordination, not just for the safety of Tom, who's going to be hanging from the side of the plane, but coordination to fly that way, to get the plane, to get the right plane, to affix the right equipment to that plane. You said you can start talking about a stunt up to a year ahead of time, but once you've said, "We're going to do this kind of stunt," how much time and planning actually goes into making sure that's the right stunt and the safest possible way to do that stunt?

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Wade Eastwood: Well, that stunt wasn't planned that long in advance because it was sort of a late thought, and we didn't get the plane initially. So, after a lot of help in the studio, and help from Airbus, [actually a] great deal of help from Airbus - they're amazing, and a number of trips for myself with one of the producers down to Seville and down into Southern France, we convinced them to let us do it. And they gave us the plane for 48 hours. So we had a very small window. Special effects built an amazing rig which I put a dummy on and did a bunch of testing with a camera rig. But I wasn't happy with vibration and certain movement. The biggest concern for me was if the plane is going to fly without any interference. Which was no problem. And we had an amazing test pilot. That was the chief pilot for Airbus who was flying at the time. All of the speeds and the settings that we needed in order to not put too much stress on the body for when we put Tom out there, all fit in the box once we do a lot of tests, so all our takeoff speeds, our rotations, our turnout, our downwind and our landing speed, compressions and [everything that would affect the body] were all within my tactical limits before putting a body out there.


So that was the initial test, and then testing the vibration and the camera rig, because we've obviously got to capture [the scene]. There's no point in just doing it if you can't capture it on film. So the camera rig - I wasn't happy with the vibrations, I was worried about metal fatigue and stressors that something would break off. And that speed out there it was from the back, just the metal hitting it would [be very dangerous]. So we landed and had Dom Tuohy, who is a special effects coordinator, do some changes to his rig, which they did straight away. And all the tolerances went away. It was completely smooth; it was great. And then we pushed on, and you know, we had a special rig that we designed to go in a plane, which the things I took down with me to Airbus when I pitched in how we're going to do it safely.


And you can imagine at Paramount, you’ve got massive liability and such for an actor if something happened. Well, you also had Airbus, who is a multi-multibillion dollar company who really doesn't need someone to come along and strap a mega-star to the side of their plane and possibly have a huge scandal if something happened. So all these massive factors you have to deal with are far more political than technical. And once they were convinced that this was a safe team and it was all good, then obviously [chuckles] Tom walks into a meeting with just a big smile and goes, "Guys, it's going to be fun." They can't say no. So it's like that's just really the cherry on the top, if you like. And off we went.

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HTF: You've worked on a number of projects and so I imagine every time you come on to a new project, its different director, it can be different producers, different styles. Talk about how you build up how you understand the project you are working on and the vision of the director and understand your freedoms and flexibilities in order to get the right thing done with stunt coordination. How do you approach new projects?


Wade Eastwood: Everyone is different and it's more about the characters in the project, then its director. You’ve got to get the story right. I mean, my job is to bring and deliver action ideas. The script doesn't always have [them], we don't always have a completed script when we start pressing or shooting a film even these days. All we have is action place holds to get the characters from one point to another in order to finish the story. And then my job is to come in and create sort of mega-sequences that give the audiences a wow moment and make that fit within the character. And with a movie like Mission Impossible, with its action and an actor like Tom who is so passionate about the action, they give you a lot of freedom and reign to go to town with it.


HTF: You've worked behind the camera as well as in front of it, so I'm interested in what appeals to you most when you're sitting behind the camera, directing a shot or a sequence. What goes through your head when crafting that moment or shot?


Wade Eastwood: It's really difficult. The shots or sequences are a series of cuts, a series of shots. When I'm behind the camera - to answer your question - if I'm not wowed by a simple shot on my monitor, then I've gonna do it again. Even though I know it's going to be amazing once it's all cut together, I've got to have every shot that is going to give mom and dad sort of a goosebumps moment. And if it doesn't, if we're barking up the wrong tree, we've got to do it again. From an action [standpoint] that's what I'm looking for – and then time, having the time to frame or to create, you've got to have the time to look at the character doing the act and make that believable because you have to be very careful not transfix on a big sequence and the wow factor, "Oh my God, his feet are slipping off the wing he's going to fall, no he's not, look at his face." What does the character say, what is Ethan doing? What he's saying or what he just said to Benji. Does it suit the story? So when I look at the monitor I initially look at the actor to make sure that the framing’s right and stuff, but then even when everyone's jumping up and down and think the stuff's amazing, I want to go in an look at the character and look at his eyes, look at the emotion, and look at the story and I think that's what makes a difference.


HTF: That's incredibly important, and I think the action in the last couple of Mission Impossible movies in particular, in Edge of Tomorrow which I thought was a terrific action film, and in this year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which I thought brought out practical events and stunt work to the fore in a very positive way, showed that. So, of all the films that you've seen is there a stunt or a sequence that has blown you away or stood out to you?

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Wade Eastwood: Oh my God. There's so many. I'm sure there's millions. Some of the old Bonds are great, you know? Back in the day. I loved Kingsman because it was a celebration film, with heads blowing up and stuff. It was taken to another place. It wasn't very practical, but they went to town with it and the over-the-top style of the fights, everything worked. It was like watching a cirque show. So from the last year that was the one.


I get on really well with Tom, and I have a good relationship with him because he's a real guy, he's a tough guy, and he can do it all. I came up as a young stuntman in the same mindset. So, it's nice to work with an actor [like that]. There's not a lot of tough guys in Hollywood, if you like. There's a lot of guys that play tough guys. There's not a lot of tough guys in Hollywood and so for me, give me real action. Give me bone breaking, jaw dropping action. That's what I'm all about. I'm not so much about the [computer generated] comic book stuff.


HTF: What are you currently working on and have you started thinking about, now that Christopher McQuarrie has acknowledged that he's going to be back directing the next Mission Impossible, all the things that you want to do for the next film.


Wade Eastwood: Yes. The sleepless nights have started, trust me. We're on Jack Reacher: Never Go Back at the moment. We're halfway through our shoot with Ed Zwick and I think this is going to be a really, really good one, a lot of good stuff. And we're just going on to a night shoot now in New Orleans. Two or three meetings already for Mission Six and brainstorming a lot of ideas and two of the sequences already brainstormed are going to be massive. We've got to make it massive because the last one was such a success so we've got to go way bigger and better but again, it will be practically done.


HTF: That's excellent. Well thank you for spending some time with me today. Congratulations on Rogue Nation and all the best to you.


Wade Eastwood: Thank you very much.
 

Peter Apruzzese

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Great interview! Just saw the movie tonight and really enjoyed it, the stunts were outstanding.
 

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