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Paramount’s Jim Gianopulos touts Tom Cruise’s wild ‘Mission: Impossible’ stunts and new studio leadership at CinemaCon

Jim Gianopulos, Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures with Tom Cruise, star of the upcoming film "Mission: Impossible -- Fallout."
(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Even Paramount Pictures chief Jim Gianopulos gets nervous watching Tom Cruise jump out of an airplane.

Gianopulos took the CinemaCon stage for the first time as Paramount’s Chairman and Chief Executive Wednesday night, in a film slate presentation that was heavy on stunt footage from Cruise’s upcoming “Mission: Impossible” sequel.

Introducing Cruise and “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” director Christopher McQuarrie to the Caesars Palace audience, Gianopulos praised the daring feats by the actor, who famously insists on doing his own stunt work. But still, he said he’s “scared” to watch the raw scenes after they’re filmed.

“Frankly I’m scared to see the dailies most of the time, but they’re exhilarating, because he offers such bravado and dedication to the craft,” Gianopulos said.

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Paramount is hoping “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” which comes out July 27, represents another hit for the studio that is trying to mount a comeback under new leadership after several years of box-office duds. Paramount is basking in the recent success of the horror-thriller “A Quiet Place,” which has grossed $135 million so far in the U.S. and Canada. Gianopulos said a sequel is already in the works.

The studio also trotted out footage of the Transformers franchise spinoff “Bumblebee” and the J.J. Abrams-produced horror sci-fi film “Overlord.” (Abrams, in a prerecorded video, announced that a “Cloverfield” sequel is now in development.)

Gianopulos spoke at length about the new executive team he has put in place to revive the studio, and the movies coming from the studio’s new youth-focused Paramount Players division (“What Men Want,” in collaboration with Viacom’s BET) and its animation unit (a third “SpongeBob” movie).

“I’m [excited] to present a studio that is on track for an incredible future,” Gianopulos said. “We’ve been laying the foundation for a return to the great success that Paramount enjoyed for so many years in the past.”

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But “Mission: Impossible” took up the bulk of the presentation — or maybe it just felt that way because listening to Cruise talk about stunt work is so nerve-racking. Explaining his stunts is somewhat of a CinemaCon tradition for Cruise, who at the 2015 conference previewed the infamous hanging-off-a-plane sequence in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.”

This time, Cruise and McQuarrie walked the audience through the filming of a skydiving sequence in which Cruise must give another character life-saving oxygen after they’re both struck by lightning while plummeting toward Paris. (They actually filmed the scene over the United Arab Emirates.)

The filmmakers displayed an unedited sequence of footage (sans music, effects or other cinematic touches), showing Cruise as he jumps out of the plane and eventually finds the other character in midair.

The actor performed 106 different jumps to shoot the scene, and composed it from three separate takes, completing the complicated shooting process about a month ago, they said.

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“It took a year to figure this sequence out,” Cruise said.

It was crucial to make sure the audience could tell it was actually Cruise in the scene, McQuarrie said. To do so, they built a special helmet for Cruise with a glass faceplate and lights inside it to illuminate the actor’s face in the dark.

“Now we’re building new technology, not only in terms of the costume Tom is wearing, but also the camera equipment we would need to shoot the sequence,” McQuarrie said.

In order to get the shot of Cruise’s face as he begins his skydive, a cameraman had to walk out of the aircraft backwards as Cruise moved toward him. In another complication, the cameraman couldn’t actually see what he was filming because he wore the recording equipment on his head to shoot the scene.

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Cruise also took a moment to praise the new studio boss, Gianopulos, who has been making major changes to the studio in order to make it more talent-friendly, speed up the development process and shore up relationships with key producers such as Hasbro and Skydance Media.

“What you’ve done already with the studio is impressive,” Cruise said.

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

@rfaughnder

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