Tom Cruise dices with death filming in Dubai for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise has pulled out all the stops for the latest in the Mission: Impossible franchise. The film hinges on a stunt sequence where the star scales Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which at nearly 830 metres is the tallest building in the world. The sequence’s shoot took around five months to plan.
Ghost Protocol producers JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk first floated the idea of Dubai as a filming location when they visited the city to promote Star Trek. The United Arab Emirates doesn’t have any formal filming incentives, but the authorities were clearly keen to secure a project of Mission: Impossible’s scale and so the logistical support was massive.
Director Brad Bird talked to Arabian Business: “We saw it as a place that had not really been presented that way on film and we could be the first ones to take advantage of it. We always imagined it would be a good place to set a big sequence in the film but getting a cast to actually shoot on the building and do it as elaborately as we did it was made possible by the Government and we jumped at it.”
More than 100 Dubai locals staffed the film’s support team from at least six different municipal agencies, alongside servicing company Filmworks. Road closures and even location clean-ups were sorted out as the film’s multiple units spent a month in the city.
More than 100 Dubai locals staffed the film’s support team from at least six different municipal agencies, alongside servicing company Filmworks. These agencies included the Road Transport Authority, Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Defence, all headed by Dubai’s police force. Road closures and even location clean-ups were sorted out as the film’s multiple units spent a month in the city.
Filming in, on and around the Burj Khalifa was a major logistical challenge. This began with simply getting equipment into the building - the crew purposely broke dozens of windows to give the necessary level of access.
Then there was the question of how to get the shots they needed with IMAX cameras from a helicopter. The Burj Khalifa is in fact a no-fly zone, so special permission was needed to put a chopper in the air in the first place.
Bird notes: “We filmed it in IMAX, which is a really cumbersome camera. It’s big, it’s noisy, it’s heavy and the loads of film magazines don’t last very long because the film is so large (usually 65mm). The cameras are so big that we had to land the helicopter just to change the magazine. Also we had to stay in the air so we burned through gas quickly.”
It became a matter of split-second timing. Cruise had to be on the wall ready to perform the stunt at the right time, the helicopter had to be in the right position to get the right shot and the bulky IMAX camera had to be ready to roll at the same time. Fuel consumption, wind and short IMAX film magazines added more spice.
We filmed it in IMAX, which is a really cumbersome camera. It’s big, it’s noisy, it’s heavy and the loads of film magazines don’t last very long because the film is so large.
Brad Bird, Director
Hosting the Ghost Protocol shoot is a major publicity coup for Dubai. This is probably why the city supported the production on a scale that was quite possibly worth as much to the movie as a formal filming incentive (although industry rumours suggest the film received a formal but confidential rebate in addition to the logistical support). In return for the city’s troubles the Burj Khalifa is the film’s central set-piece and the image of Cruise climbing its shiny walls dominates the global marketing campaign too.
Will the experience convince the UAE to open up to film projects that lack Mission: Impossible’s profile and budget? We’ll have to wait and see.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol opens globally in cinemas from December 21st 2011.
(Image copyright: David James/Paramount Pictures)
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