Tom Cruise's stunts take to new heights, he tells CinemaCon

Sometimes Tom Cruise can be a little out there. On Tuesday, he talked about being waaay out there.

In front of thousands of exhibitors at CinemaCon, the actor detailed the lengths he goes to make his stunts in the “Mission Impossible” franchise authentic. In the fifth installment of the series, the 52-year-old literally agreed to hang off the side of an Airbus A400M Atlas as it was taking off.

“People think it must be green screen and CGI,” said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures, which is releasing the movie on July 31. “But [Cruise] continues to raise the level of excitement he brings audiences because he’s really doing these things.”

Known in the industry for his affinity for hands-on stunt work, Cruise worked with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie to see if he’d realistically be able to pull off the stunt. (See The Times' story about how McQuarrie and stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood pulled off the feat.)

As a pilot himself, Cruise said, he was initially most concerned about the speed down the runway. “Can I keep my eyes open?” he recalled wondering. “I’ve gotta perform.”

So he visited an eye doctor who made him large lenses that would protect his vision and be able to withstand high wind. “I got hit by a little particle and I literally thought it broke my ribs.”

Just in case exhibitors were worried that the actor was all talk, he then unveiled raw footage of himself performing the stunt with only a harness tied loosely around his waist. “I’m giving the thumbs up,” he said, pointing to the screen, “but I’m actually scared [expletive]."

Paramount unveiled two lengthy scenes from “MI:5” on Tuesday morning, but it was the behind-the-scenes footage that seemed to really impress the crowd. Cruise played to the audience, extolling the virtues of co-stars Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson and assuring exhibitors that he’d put his might behind the film’s release.

“As you know, I will -- as always -- do everything I can to entertain an audience and put as many people into your theaters [as I can],” he promised.

Paramount put a big emphasis on star power during its presentation, even getting Ben Stiller to send in a lengthy video message speaking in character as Derek Zoolander to promote "Zoolander 2."

“I love learning details about movies that ruin my experience of them,” he said, poking fun at the annual conference for theatergoers. He promised his new “documentary” would catch everyone up on his life over the last 15 years -- what he’s stopped eating, the new clothes he’s modeled and his fresh trademark looks. “I call that one PSA,” he said, pursing his lips. “Per-screen average. And the PSA for ‘Zoolander 2’ is gonna blow the multi off your plexes.”

While the crowd appreciated the industry humor, the group seemed more impressed by the in-person appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who turned up in his signature “Terminator” garb -- jeans, a leather jacket and dark sunglasses.

“I told you I’ll be back,” said the actor, who is returning to the sci-fi franchise for “Terminator Genisys,” out July 1.

The former California governor had hoped to walk out on stage in flashier style: He proposed coming in via helicopter, motorcycle or chariot, he said -- all ideas that were nixed by Moore.

“But no one cares about the entrances,” said the 67-year-old. “You all know that the first three ‘Terminators’ are the ones I was involved with -- which is really the only thing that counts -- made over a billion dollars worldwide. ... I would not have gotten myself involved if I had not known they were going in the right direction with the movie.”

He went on to introduce twelve minutes of footage from the movie, the fifth in the series. After a quick costume change into a more demure blazer, he returned to sign off with a slightly tweaked version of one of his trademark lines:

“Hasta la vista, exhibitors."

Follow @AmyKinLA on Twitter for more news from CinemaCon.

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