'It was like school for crazy people'

Rebecca Ferguson overcame her vertigo to do her own stunts in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.
Rebecca Ferguson overcame her vertigo to do her own stunts in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESS ASSOCIATION

Rebecca Ferguson learnt quite a lot about herself while working on her biggest movie to date, starring opposite Tom Cruise in the fifth Mission: Impossible film, Rogue Nation, a movie in which she matched her male co-star by doing her own stunts.

"What I realised with Tom Cruise is that I am quite competitive," laughs the 31-year-old actress, who grew up in Sweden and is halfEnglish. "I didn't know this before. I always saw myself as quite humble and relaxed. But, apparently, I am competitive, so when I was brought into the movie and I saw that Tom does all his stunts himself, I tried it out as well and I managed to do it."

It was more than rewarding. "It was like school for crazy people," she says with a laugh.

 
 

In fact, filming her own stunts saw the actress overcome her vertigo.

"My first day of shooting was in Vienna on this rooftop and I was running in this beautiful yellow dress," she recalls, "and then I take my shoes off while running and wrap my legs around Tom Cruise as he jumps off the Opera House.

"That is a 75-foot fall and for someone who doesn't even go up a metre, that was challenging. They harnessed me up, they worked me up 1m at a time, but it was f*****g scary."

Ferguson's character, Ilsa Faust, comes in and out of the life of Cruise's character Ethan Hunt. Whether she is on Hunt's side or not remains ambiguous.

"The audience is left to make the decision throughout the movie as to what she is really up to," says the film's director, Christopher McQuarrie.

Like Ferguson, Ilsa is blessed with plenty of chutzpah. "I would say that Ethan has met his match, finally," the actress says. "She will survive anywhere and when she meets Ethan, they move like they have never done anything else. They know how to fight. Can we trust her, though? We don't know."

Before Rogue Nation, Ferguson had appeared in the 2014 Dwayne Johnson swords-and-sandals flick Hercules and earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Elizabeth Woodville in the 2013 BBC miniseries The White Queen.

Her casting in Rogue Nation came at the very last moment.

"We had meetings with a lot of women who were all fantastic," says McQuarrie, "but at the very last minute we happened on a five-minute reel that Rebecca had done and Tom and I immediately looked at it and said, 'That's her.'"

Her star is definitely on the rise. After Rogue Nation she will appear in the Meryl Streep vehicle Florence Foster Jenkins, directed by Stephen Frears, which tells the true-life story of a New York heiress who bids to become a famous opera singer, despite her vocal limitations.

"It is very exciting for me," Ferguson says. "We are jumping into the 1940s. Florence is a real person and Meryl plays her brilliantly. Most of my scenes are with Hugh Grant, though. It's a love triangle situation."

So she gets to kiss Tom Cruise and then Hugh Grant in quick succession? There are some women who would be very jealous of those opportunities.

"I think the kissing stuff is fine," she laughs, "but I am more excited about the action. I loved everything I did in Mission: Impossible. I want to go back into this world again."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline ''It was like school for crazy people''. Print Edition | Subscribe