Guess you could say after making a “Mission: Impossible” movie with Tom Cruise, it’s becomes second nature to spring into action in a moment’s notice, no matter how harrowing the scene is.
That’s at least the feeling I immediately sensed while chatting with Cruise’s fellow lead Rebecca Ferguson. During a recent call from Ferguson in Chicago to talk about “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” the stunning Swedish actress was glancing out of her hotel window and gasped when she nearly witnessed a bad accident.
“Oh, my God. A man ran across the road and a car nearly hit him. I could have jumped down and saved his ass,” Ferguson quipped.
A veteran of European television and film, Ferguson’s U.S. film debut came in 2014’s “Hercules” opposite Dwayne Johnson, a fantasy adventure where the action star did most of the heavily lifting.
With “Rogue Nation,” she said, that all changes.
“When I did ‘Hercules’ I wasn’t a woman in action. For me, it was mostly about horses, sandals and a camel named ‘Bobby,’ which was lovely. But after the movie, I thought, ‘God, I’d love to kick some ass now,'” Ferguson said with a laugh. “When they started casting ‘Mission: Impossible,’ I thought, ‘That’ll never happen. It’s not an independent movie.’ But I guess my audition went well.”
In “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” Ferguson plays Ilsa, a mysterious woman with ties to a terrorist organization known as “The Syndicate” — a group that the CIA claims is a product of IMF agent Ethan Hunt’s (Cruise) imagination.
After a deadly encounter with The Syndicate’s head (Sean Harris), Ethan confirms the group is indeed for real; but with the IMF division abolished thanks to a vindictive CIA honcho (Alec Baldwin), the rogue agent only has a small group of fellow IMF colleagues to count on to help expose the group. More importantly, though, Ethan is forced leap of faith and trust Ilsa, who for reasons unexplained helped him escape torture and certain death at the hands of her employer.
Opening in theaters and on IMAX screens Friday, “Rogue Nation” is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, and features the return Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames as Ethan’s only IMF allies.
By now, it’s quite likely that movie fans have seen behind-the-scenes featurettes for “Rogue Nation” that illustrate how Cruise’s death-defying stunts in the film are definitely real. Ferguson, a 31-year-old native of Stockholm, Sweden, said knowing Cruise was doing his own stunt work helped motivate her to keep her stunt double seated on the sidelines.
“I think it’s really intoxicating seeing him do it and know that it’s possible,” Ferguson said. “But I’ll admit I was really scared knowing that on the first day of filming I would be shooting off the rooftop of the Vienna Opera House. Doing something like that was a big fear of mine, and I knew I could always say, ‘No,’ because I had this wonderful stunt double named Lucy who could jump in.”
Having a month-and-a-half to prepare for the scene with Cruise, Ferguson eventually opted to do the scene for real because she realized if you’re doing an action-filled adventure film, you have to actually experience the adventure — especially when that adventure is with Cruise.
“I wanted to be going through it with him. I wanted to be on this adventure. That’s why you do a ‘Mission: Impossible’ film. Also I knew that I’d have my legs wrapped around Tom Cruise and going, ‘Woo-hoo!” Ferguson said, laughing.
While Ferguson has her legs wrapped around Cruise and is holding on for dear life in one scene, she proves in many other scenes in the film that she can more than handle herself against the bad guys as she puts on a spectacular array of crippling martial arts moves.
Amazingly, Ferguson said, she didn’t know a thing about physical combat before she started work on the film.
“When I got the part, we flew over to London and a car picked me up, and we went straight to the gym,” Ferguson said. “They showed me the schedule, which was basically six hours of training a day, six days a week. We did Pilates, stunt training, choreography and sprinting, because Tom Cruise likes to run. I had no idea of the amount of training that goes into what people eventually see on screen. But now, I miss it. After shooting the scenes, I’d say, ‘Let’s do it again!’ It’s such a high that kicks in when you’re doing it. It’s like an incredible dance routine, and you get better and better the more you do it.”
While “Rogue Nation” was stocked with more than enough action and adventure scenes to give Ferguson her an adrenaline high, she said the experience of working on the film wouldn’t have been complete without the smart story that action and adventure is rooted in.
“That’s the reason I’ve loved all of the ‘Mission: Impossible’ films from the start,” Ferguson enthused. “I love the highly intelligent stories. I love the twists, turns, stories and the characters. I love it when the filmmakers get together and make this incredible puzzle. They make the impossible possible.”