Brad Pitt at the premiere of World War Z in Times Square in New York (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Tom Cruise's still photographer: 'Tom has balls!'
On top of the world - David James is the man behind this picture of Tom on the word's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
When it comes to Hollywood stars, Tom Cruise is a bit of an enigma - one minute he's smouldering in an action film and the next, he's jumping on Oprah Winfrey's sofa! It may be hard for us mere mortals to get an audience with the Cruise-ster, but movie photographer David James has been hanging out with the actor for years.
David, who has shot photographs of Tom on many of his films, recently worked with the actor on Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, where the duo embarked on their most ambitious picture yet - shooting Tom perched on the top of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
"The stunt was not actually a scene from the movie, but it was spectacular" David told us over a crackly phone line - when we spoke to him, he was busy working with Tom on his latest movie Oblivion.
David revealed to us that he wanted to work with Tom on Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol so that he could create a photograph so stunning that it would make people forget about the standard image of Tom dangling horizontally from a wire that so many people associate with the Mission Impossible films.
Next thing Tom knew, David was arranging for him to be posing on the top of the world's tallest building: "The main challenges [of the shoot] were A, getting Tom up there and B, they had to arrange the schedule of shooting the movie around the fact that I needed Tom up at the top of the building by 9am."
Not only was the nature of the shoot high-risk, David also had to work under a strict time limit; "Because of the sheer weight of the equipment that I had on the helicopter, I had a limited fuel supply, so everything had to be timed up to the minute and it actually worked quite well. I was actually so close to Tom, that I could sometimes see his hair blowing in the wind, which was generated from the helicopter!"
David photographed Tom from a helicopter.
Yikes, surely Tom was a bit nervous doing the stunt? Apparently not. David told us that Tom was relaxed throughout the entire shoot - "Excuse the expression, but the guy's got balls! First he had to go up in the elevator 250 floors through three different lifts, and when he got there there's this big great cube at the top which he had to climb vertically, which takes an hour and forty five minutes to climb. And when you get up there, the top of the building actually sways up to six feet in each direction - it doesn't sway fast, but you can definitely feel it."
But, while Tom was perched on the top of the swaying building, David was effectively doing his own stunt by hanging out of the helicopter and photographing him! "I actually was sitting in the helicopter with the door off" David recalled. "I was sitting with my feet out on the runners, leaning out as far as I could, but I had a safety harness on. I wouldn't do it without a harness on though - I wouldn't even do it at ten feet!" We can't say we blame him.
Still, despite the safety measures, David's job of photographing movie stars doesn't come without its risks - he told us that he once almost got run over by a horse, which Tom was riding! David told us: "There's a shot which Tom always talks about fondly, and it was the poster for The Last Samurai, which showed Tom on horseback charging at the camera, with a sword over his head. I was stood shooting the shot, in front of this stampede of charging horses! Tom's favourite line is that, when in the poster it looks like he's screaming, he's actually shouting; 'Get out of the way David!' And, I'm on the other end saying, 'Well, you've got the reigns Tom!'"
David's fond stories about his working life with Tom only highlight the fact that the pair have become firm friends over the years- but how exactly did the pair meet in the first place? David revealed to us that, legendary Hollywood director, Ridley Scott, first tipped David that Tom was going to be a big star in the 1980's; "I first photographed Tom when I did Legend, when he was very young. I was at the shoot, to photograph Tim Curry, who was being made to look like the devil. While I was there, Ridley Scott, the director, told me that I should really get some pictures of Tom Cruise and he said that he's going to go places. I had no idea then, just how big he was going to be."
David revealed that Tom was relaxed throughout the entire stunt.
The pair first officially worked together on the 2002 sci-fi thriller Minority Report and David recalled to us that, back then, Tom was rather awkward to photograph; "Tom had a reputation then for not having the patience to shoot stills on film sets and he would kind of be one of those actors where you just get what you get." It is only when Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg chatted to Tom, that he became better at posing for stills - David told us: " I set up a still shoot with Tom and then I made a point of making prints to show him and then Steven Spielberg, who was directing the movie said: "See Tom, this is the value of doing stills properly". And Tom and I have been firm collaborators ever since."
David confessed to us that he enjoys working so closely with Tom and admitted that the actor is a 'complete work-a-holic'. Despite his early days of disliking posing for film stills, Tom now thrives on doing movie photo shoots and, as well as his stunt shots he posed in for the Mission Impossible movies, Tom recently had fun on a very different type of photo shoot on the set of Rock Of Ages.
David fondly recalled to us a time when Tom took part in his first photo shoot, as his Rock Of Ages character Stacee Jax: "We were invaded by paparazzi on the movie shoot, they were surrounding our studio and they had large step ladders going up to the fence so they could get the first look of Tom as Stacee Jax. So, we had a discussion and we decided to take one shot of Tom and feed it out to the press, so the heat would come off."
David and his team then decided to release a picture of the cast in costume so that the paparazzi would leave the set of the movie, "Most of the cast would strike a pose a couple of times, we'd put the wind machine on them and then that would be it and you would hope that you got a good shot. Tom performed Pour Some Sugar On Me, at full belt for three times whilst I photographed him. He went through all the moves - he did everything."
Thinking of Tom Cruise perform Pour Some Sugar on me has made us want to see Rock Of Ages even more and we didn't think that was possible!
David told us that Tom performed Pour Some Sugar On Me for his photo shoot on the set of Rock Of Ages.
So, out of all the movies that David has worked on Tom with, which one has been his favourite? "The great thing about my job, is that every shoot I do is different. You work on a set for three to four months and you're shooting something that you've never shot before, that's the beauty of it. I did Lions For Lambs with Tom, which was directed by Robert Redford and it wasn't an action movie, but it was so good to be able to watch how great actors work. Tom Cruise working with Meryl Streep and being directed by Robert Redford and I had a front-row seat to watch it all happen. It was incredible actually." Sounds rather incredible to us!
David James has been photographing Tom on the set of his movies since they met on the set of Legend.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is available to pre-order on DVD now from Amazon for £9.99
The Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol: Shooting Diary by David James is also available from Amazonnow.
Have a flick through the gallery below to see more amazing stunt pictures from The Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol: Shooting Diary