Tom Cruise Pulled Off an ‘Outrageous’ Pilot Stunt for ‘American Made’

The film’s director recalls watching as the actor left the cockpit of the plane he was flying.

tom cruise american made
Tom Cruise plays pilot and smuggler Barry Seal in the upcoming thriller 'American Made.'Universal Pictures

Tom Cruise loves to do his own stunts. Even when his face isn't on camera, the 54-year-old actor prefers to be in on the action because he wants everything to be completely authentic. This has always been the staple of Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, as the actor gradually increased the number of stunts he performed in each film, culminating in him doing all of his own stunts in the most recent installment, Rogue Nation. That included the incredible opening shot of Cruise hanging from the side of an Airbus. That was all him, and people were obviously very nervous that the face of the franchise might get hurt.

But Cruise gets more ambitious with each new film, and his latest, American Made, features perhaps his boldest stunt yet. According to director (and pilot) Doug Liman, in an interview with Yahoo! Movies UK, Cruise's devotion to the story led to quite the "hair-raising" moment.

“Flying extremely fast, small airplanes, low to the ground, is a dangerous environment to be in just on its own. Then, in the story, he’s throwing bales of cocaine out of the airplane, loading them up with guns, so every once in a while in this scene he’s got to climb out of the cockpit and go to the back of the airplane to dump the cocaine out. “I’m flying alongside him in a helicopter filming, and that made a big impression on me – there’s nobody in the cockpit of the plane! Tom has gone to the back of the aircraft, and he’s alone in that airplane. It’s one thing to have Tom Cruise alone in the airplane flying it – that’s already outrageous – now he’s alone and he’s not even in the cockpit so he’s gone beyond. It was already a stunt before he left the cockpit, it was already a serious stunt.”

American Made is based on the true story of Barry Seal, an American pilot and smuggler who worked for the Medellín cartel. It hits theaters on September 29.