Arguably more than anyone on the set, making MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT put Henry Cavill through the wringer. And he loved every second. Famously having to go back for reshoots as Superman on Justice League midway through filming his debut in the Mission: Impossible universe, Cavill was unable to shave off the moustache that defines his character August Walker.
Now the sixth movie in the Mission Impossible franchise has hit the screen (AccessReel review here) we thought we’d hear what Mr Cavill had to say about playing an assassin and super-sky who has to attack the dangerous and skilled Ethan Hunt, again and again.
You’ve obviously made movies with big set-pieces before, but have you ever done anything on the sheer scale of Mission: Impossible – Fallout?
Frankly, no. This movie does stuff that is genuinely astonishing. My favourite sequence was the helicopters in New Zealand. That was all kinds of hair-raising and all kinds of amazing. Just to watch Tom Cruise stunt-flying in a helicopter, thinking [to myself], ‘Okay, surely he’s going to die this time!’ That was one of those moments in my life where I was just like, ‘Wow. I’m here… And I’m watching history being made.’
Where does your character, August Walker, fit into the Mission: Impossible universe? He and Ethan seem to have a fairly difficult relationship…
You could say that. The relationship between Walker and Hunt is strained, to say the least. August Walker is the kind of guy who is a weapon for the CIA, more than anything else. He’s a sledgehammer. He’s the kind of guy who gets sent in when there’s a real problem, and there are real bad guys who need to be stopped. He will always accomplish the mission, regardless of the cost. As long as the result ultimately outweighs the cost, he’s your guy to call. His methodology is that often, if you kill just one particularly bad person you are saving 10,000 lives or more.
All of that leads to some spectacularly physical disagreements between the pair of you. Not least a bone-crunching bathroom fight. Presumably you had to get into peak condition to pull that off?
Yes, but I try and keep myself in reasonable shape regardless. One, it’s really useful for being in movies. And two, the characters I’ve played so far have called for it. The physicality of the character is something I find fun. It’s fun being a physical person. I’ve got five brothers and we grew up fighting each other, so I’m not necessarily a stranger to fighting! And we tried some stuff and the stunt guys discovered I had some potential in there and could actually do it. So they pushed the envelope a bit, especially when it came to the fight in that bathroom. That one is seriously intense.
Is it right that you and Tom had to shoot a chunk of that after he’d broken his ankle? Presumably that meant you had to go easy on him?
There are parts of that sequence that we shot after the ankle-break and there are parts that we shot before the ankle-break. But Tom’s not really one for people going easy on him! When it comes to injuries, it comes down to you just having to trust the guy. Because you’re in a really personal space with someone you’re fighting with, you do develop a closeness, especially if one of you is injured, because you have to trust the other one enormously.
What did the hiatus that arose from Tom’s injury mean for you? Did you get a cheeky holiday out of it?
[Making movies] is always a bit of a nightmare because you’re always planning ahead – working on your next project before you finish your current one. So it’s never an ideal scenario for something like that to happen, for human reasons, for practical reasons, and for professional reasons. Ultimately, what you do is make the best of it. It was in the summer, we’d been working a long shoot and we were all really tired. So it was like, ‘I’m going to take a month’s break now.
Talking of the complexities of multiple projects, we have to talk about moustache-gate – when you had to go back for reshoots as Superman, on Justice League, still sporting your Mission: Impossible moustache. You couldn’t shave it off, right?
I actually pitched the idea of August having a moustache, and I really miss it now [that he has shaved it off]. I think there’s something about a moustache that says, ‘I’m a man who makes decisions by myself’. And as soon as I heard that reshoots were planned [on Justice League], I realised that the moustache was going to be an issue. Because I knew what was planned for our movie, and that a fake moustache just wasn’t going to work! I thought, ‘Well, the studios up there are going to have to work it out and find whatever solution works for everyone, because we can’t just glue a moustache on, that’s for sure.’ You know, I’m hanging out the side of a helicopter! A fake one just isn’t going to stay on. And it’s not like I can have a make-up person in the back of the helicopter, either, glueing it back on again! So it was an imperfect situation, obviously, and it was a shame that the [Justice League] reshoots had to happen, at the time they had to happen, because if they had just been a month or so later, I could have shaved. We didn’t know that at the time. We didn’t know that Tom was going to break his ankle. But that’s just the irony of the world, isn’t it?
Famously, you came close to getting the role of James Bond when Daniel Craig did. With Craig saying he’s moving on after the next Bond movie, is Fallout effectively the best audition piece you’re going to get for 007? Or have you moved on from that?
I would be very interested in getting my teeth stuck into the character of Bond. And building a Bond which is interesting, and mine, and ever so slightly unique, like all the other actors who have played him over the years. I would love that. I think that would be an extraordinary experience and something that I could really get behind.
What did you make of working with Christopher McQuarrie? As an actor, is it a help or a hindrance to work with someone who is both the writer and the director?
McQuarrie is an exceptional person to work with. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. He’s incredible. He’s doing the same thing as Tom. He’s always thinking about what the audience wants. He can write a plot that has all sorts of ins and outs, all sorts of zigs and zags, and all sorts of left and right turns, and it’ll all lead somewhere, and he’ll tie up all of the loose ends as required – or not, as required. And his ability to then direct that stuff as well, to know what’s going on for each character, is a huge benefit. He’s collaborative, kind, and a very professional man. He’s always there. No matter what the hour is, he’s always there for you as an actor if you want to come and talk to him. He’s working just as late as Tom Cruise, if not later. I have enormous respect for him. He’s a fantastic man, and a gentleman to boot.
There’s a lot of talk on this movie about the huge set piece of the HALO jump. What can you tell us about that?
With the HALO jump, there were aspects of that I wasn’t allowed to do in the air, despite my protestations. Because, despite my protests and struggles that I should be in the air with Mr Cruise, to have two actors up there, doing the kinds of things that we were planning on doing, just increases the risk too much, to the point that I would probably, or we would probably, end up killing each other, and the camera crew.
Presumably there’s not really any arguing with that..?
Well, no. When they gave me that as an excuse, I thought, ‘Okay… I’m not going to push it then!’ But, for me, what was the absolute biggest deal was the idea of jumping out of a C17 at 25,000 feet. And that’s not something I’m going to let slide! I’m gonna do it eventually. I just need to find a C17. At 25,000 feet.