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Now showing: True stories behind the screen

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 23, 2023 5:00 am

Only Tom Cruise would think this is a good idea.

For the new Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, he says he prepared for over two years to do a crazy motorcycle stunt—roaring down a track and hurtling off a cliff in Norway; then, mid-air, shedding the cycle and turning the stunt into a parachute jump. “This is far and away the most dangerous thing we’ve ever attempted,” Cruise says proudly.

Naturally, the box office legend who’s never heard of the word “stuntman” insisted he do the shot himself.

Go ahead and jump: Tom Cruise continues to pull off the craziest stunts.

Indeed, in the age of CGI illusion, Cruise might be the only actor who still insists on doing “truthful” action scenes. He even had his co-stars in the huge hit Top Gun: Maverick train at flight school for months so they could actually pilot F15 fighters onscreen. (What’s next? If Cruise were playing a brain surgeon, would he insist on practicing on people’s craniums?)

We don’t really expect movies to deliver us actual “truth,” but there are actors who go to great lengths to deliver something close to reality— from method actors like Robert De Niro packing on pasta pounds for Raging Bull, to Joaquin Phoenix getting disturbingly thin for The Joker. (It’s no fluke that both actors got an Oscar for those extreme performances.)

And when it comes to action, some Hollywood stars still insist on doing their own stunts:

  • Daniel Craig, playing 007, lost teeth and even the tip of his finger while filming all those James Bond movies. Still, despite being shaken and stirred, he carried on in the MI6 way.
  • For the John Wick movies, Keanu Reeves says he did “90 percent” of his own action and fight scenes. Why? He does it for the fans: “I’m maintaining the connection to the audience, and with the story,” Reeves said. “If it’s wacky/crazy stuff, you’re just like, ‘Oh, my God, what did I just see?’”
  • Charlize Theron has done many action films—from Mad Max: Fury Road to Atomic Blonde. But it was while shooting Netflix’s The Old Guard that Theron got so carried away throwing punches and kicks, she suffered multiple injuries and had to have three surgeries on her left arm.

On the other hand, there are those actors who understand it’s called “show” business—not “real” business. Understandably, they don’t want to end up in traction, just for the action.

Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds
  • Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds stopped doing stunts in his films after he fractured a vertebrae in his neck while filming 2012’s Safe House. (So all those times when he was behind the Deadpool mask… that was really Stuntpool?)
  • Samuel L. Jackson is super-cool onscreen, but he knows his limits. Particularly when it comes to action scenes. “Why would I do that? If you want a long career you don’t do all that stuff,” he told Access Hollywood in 2014. “You’re gonna get hurt. Something’s gonna happen. You’re gonna twist an ankle, break a nail, something. No, you do as little as you can.”
  • After killer action scenes in Speed and hanging in space for Gravity, a curious thing happened to Sandra Bullock: she became a mom, adopting a son in 2010. So, no more stunts for her. “What if I should fall and die on this one?” she told the media at the time. “Would it be a smart move?”

Sometimes, behind-the-scenes Hollywood truth is weirder than fiction.

Don’t Worry Darling cast intrigue may have been more interesting than the Olivia Wilde film.

Olivia Wilde’s 2022 directorial effort Don’t Worry Darling may have been twisty and bizarre, but it was the chismis that got tongues wagging. The Cannes press tour for the film was notable for online speculation that pop star Harry Styles had spat in co-star Chris Pine’s lap during a press event. Huh?? People commenced to replay the clip over and over (probably more than anyone will ever re-watch Don’t Worry Darling). Wilde reportedly had an affair with Styles during production; longtime partner Jason “Ted Lasso” Sudeikis repaid the favor by filing custody papers to her during the press junket for the film. Meanwhile, Shia LeBeouf was fired from the production early on, with Wilde saying she couldn’t create “a safe, trusting environment” with him on set; but Wilde’s reasons are contradicted by a video with the actor in which she practically begs him to stay on the shoot, and seems to shade “Flo” Pugh. No wonder Pugh was reluctant to do press for the movie. And who knows about that spit take? Indeed, it’s all more interesting than what happened onscreen.

Sometimes, the “truth” behind the camera adds greater reality onscreen. BuzzFeed offers these tales:

“Catwoman” Michelle Pfeiffer got very method, putting a live bird in her mouth for Batman Returns.

  • Michelle Pfeiffer, in an effort to prove once and for all that she is Catwoman, agreed to stuff a live canary in her mouth for a key scene in Batman Returns (1992). This was pre-CGI, of course, and the tweety-bird stayed in her mouth for about five seconds before director Tim Burton yelled “Cut!” and she opened up to let it flap out.
  • Shooting Troy, Brad Pitt and Eric Bana wanted to do their own swordfights instead of using stuntmen. But they also didn’t want to get sliced up, so they set a penalty that each actor would pay the other for fighting too hard: for accidental light hits, $50; for hard blows, $100. By the end of the week, Pitt owed Bana $750 for accidental sword hits; Bana owed Pitt… zero.
  • Heath Ledger picked up a habit of licking his lips repeatedly as The Joker in The Dark Knight, not because it was a cool character tic, but because the scar prosthetic he wore on his mouth kept melting and slipping, and the lip smacking kept it in place.
  • Director Christopher Nolan apparently was not a fan of CGI while filming Interstellar, so for the iconic cornfield scenes shot in Western Canada, he opted to plant his own crops, at a cost of $100,000. (It’s said the shots turned out great, the crops yielded lots of corn, which the director reportedly sold for a tidy profit.)

And Movieweb shares these:

• We all know Apocalypse Now was a difficult shoot in the Philippine jungles. But the Method craziness apparently was rampant in Manila as well, where Coppola’s star Martin Sheen was so “into” his character that the opening sequence where he does karate moves in front of his hotel room mirror and ends up a crying, half-dressed mess wrapped in bloody sheets (as the Doors’ The End plays) was no performance: Sheen was so wound up and drunk filming the scene, he smashed the mirror with his fist, and played it out while bleeding. Not long after, he had a heart attack on set and had to return home for a few months to recover. Too Method!

Titanic cast got dosed with the drug PCP, according to reports.
  • Something weird happened on the Titanic (1996). While filming a clam chowder dinner scene, it was reported that someone had slipped PCP (a hallucinogenic drug) into the batch, and the actors and crew (excluding Leo and Kate Winslet, who weren’t filming at the time) were sent to the hospital. Even director James Cameron forced himself to throw up immediately after the “prank” was revealed.
Jared Leto was an unwelcome prankster, filming Suicide Squad.

  • To “up” the weirdness levels while playing The Joker in Suicide Squad, Jared Leto reportedly sent unwelcome “gifts” to his co-actors, including condoms, bullets, and dead rats. What a card!