Tom Cruise, age 56, just had his biggest grossing movie of all time, with Mission: Impossible – Fall Out. How? It’s all in the nail-biting, adrenaline-fuelled stunts…

So, it turns out, all you need to do to land your biggest-ever box office is chuck yourself out of a plane. If only Hollywood had known before, they could have saved themselves a right load of bother. And, maybe, suggested it to Adam Sandler, which would have saved us all from The Ridiculous 6.

How Tom Cruise will top his marquee stunt in this summer’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout is presumably something he and director Christopher McQuarrie are busy pondering now. But whatever insanity he next subjects himself to, there’s no question his sky-high efforts were worth it.

Tom Cruise attends the ‘Mission: Impossible - Fallout’ Global Premiere, Paris, 2018 (Photo by Pierre Suu/WireImage).

At $790 million in global ticket sales, the 56-year-old’s sixth outing as superspy Ethan Hunt isn’t just his most successful movie, it’s $110 million up on previous instalment, Rogue Nation. That’s not just impressive; it’s pretty much unheard of. Especially when you consider there were whispers his character was supposed to be killed off two movies previously, in Ghost Protocol, with Jeremy Renner’s younger model lined up to replace him. (If that’s true, spare a thought for Renner, who would then have been poised to take over that franchise from Cruise and the Bourne franchise from Matt Damon, neither of which came to pass).

The bottom line is this: don’t ever bet against Tom Cruise. This is a man who has taken an ensemble TV spy brand and single-handedly turned it into a one-man big screen juggernaut as beloved by popcorn-munchers as it is by the critics marvelling at its bravura mix of all-out adrenaline and Hitchcockian verve. Always attuned to his audience, it was Cruise who listened to what they were responding to, streamlining the team dynamic of Brian de Palma’s 1996 original and ensuring each subsequent instalment would become synonymous with a signature stunt, from John Woo’s sequel, when he dangled—harnessless—off a cliff.

Since, he’s steered the series for 22 astonishing years—he’s now played Hunt once more than Sean Connery played Bond—larked about on the top of the world’s tallest building (Dubai’s Burj Khalifa), clung to the outside of a plane as it took off and, now, jumped out of one at 25,000 feet, becoming the first actor in history to complete an on-screen HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) jump when he dared to open his parachute at just 2,000 feet above Abu Dhabi’s hard desert floor.

“He is the consummate entertainer,” says his co-star, Simon Pegg. “No one puts themselves out there for the audience more. No one. He, quite literally, risks his life for them.” In the case of Fallout, that meant piloting his own helicopter (while also operating the camera and, you know, actually acting, all at the same time), driving his motorbike around the Arc de Triomphe in Parisian rush hour, breaking his ankle leaping off a London roof, and completing no less than 105 HALO jumps to get the shots people went doolally for in the final cut. “We couldn’t have made it any more difficult for ourselves,” says director Christopher McQuarrie of the sequence. “Unless maybe Tom was trying to deal cards. While on fire.” 

For the man himself, the motivation is simple. “I do the stunts because I just can’t wait for the audience to see them,” says Cruise. The only question now is, when Mission: Impossible 7 finally hits screens, what on Earth will he have in store? “Sometimes I think Tom’s basically fucked himself,” laughs his Mission co-star Rebecca Ferguson. “I mean, you don’t get any better and more dangerous than a HALO jump. But then I think, ‘Yeah, but it’s Tom we’re talking about. That guy can do anything.’

Tom Cruise attends the ‘Mission: Impossible - Fallout’ Press Conference, 2018 (Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)