Last week, Tom Cruise scaled the world's tallest building while filming his own stunts for 'Mission: Impossible 4.' The idea of a 48-year-old Scientologist peering through the windows at tourists visiting the indoor observation area on the 124th floor is certainly a compelling one, but Cruise is hardly the first big star to perform his own stunts.
Let's take a look at other highly paid actors from recent years who have risked life and limb in pursuit of making things look just a little more authentic on-screen. Keep reading to learn about hardcore stars such as Jason Statham and Chloe Moretz who have elected to take the action into their own hands.
Chan, who holds the Guinness World Record for "most stunts performed by a living actor," has to appear first on any list like this. And while his recent fare, such as 'The Karate Kid' and 'The Spy Next Door' haven't been as physically impressive as, say, that bit in 'Police Story' where he uses an umbrella handle to hook onto a speeding city bus, he's still the living master at putting your body out there in order to get the shot.
The British bulldog of absurdist kicks-and-explosions spectacles since the turn of the millennium, Statham is a former Olympics diver who does almost all of his own stunts -- including the driving -- which is extra impressive given how much abuse his characters in series like 'The Transporter' and 'Crank' take. While he wasn't behind the wheel for the mind-blowing 'Transporter 3' Audi-on-two-wheels-caught-between-two-semi-trucks stunt, much of the bad-ass BMX sequence was all him -- as were about a zillion other things you've seen him do on-screen.
Bale thrills at the prospect of radically transforming his body as a sort of visual stunt, depending on the role he's playing -- he famously dropped down to 121 pounds for his role in 2004's 'The Machinist', then immediately bulked up to 230 to play Batman the following year. But for the director Werner Herzog, Bale was also willing to put his body at more immediate risk: For 'Rescue Dawn,' he refused to let a stuntman dangle from a moving helicopter in his stead, telling About.com that, "F**k yes, I want to be doing that."
There were plenty of things to find unimpressive about 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,' but Harrison Ford's intestinal fortitude on set wasn't one of them. The 65-year-old did "90% of his own stunts," according to costar Shia LeBeouf. While Ford doesn't jump off of motorcycles in his movies, pretty much every time you see Indy take a punch, that's Ford doing the physical stuff.
Like an American Jackie Chan, Mortenson performed all of his own stunts as Aragorn in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy and followed that up with an intense horse-racing period piece, 'Hidalgo,' in which he engaged in high-speed action while on horseback. (According to Internet lore, he was willing to film scenes that even the stuntmen refused.) Meanwhile, in 'Lord of the Rings,' he insisted on carrying a real steel sword for his scenes rather than an aluminum or rubber proxy. After filming 'Hidalgo,' he even bought the horse he rode for much of the action.
The stunts Moretz performs in 'Kick-Ass' may not be as physically daring as, say, those done by Statham in 'Crank,' but for a 13-year-old, she holds her own pretty well. She did nearly all of her own work, except for the part where Hit-Girl scurries up a wall. In the end, according to an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, she had more trouble with the swearing than the action.
While Tom Cruise was dangling 124 stories up for the 'M:I 4' stunt, he was supported by a full harness with a number of redundant safety wires. When Angelina Jolie walked a narrow ledge 12 stories high for 'Salt,' meanwhile, she had only a single wire there in case she fell. That bit in the trailer where the secret agent (or whatever it is she plays in that movie) jumps off of a bridge? All Jolie, as well. Her motivation? She told 'Entertainment Weekly' that she wanted to do her own stunts to impress her kids.
While filming 'Knight and Day,' Cruise wasn't the only star getting in on the action: Cameron Diaz did much of her own driving for the film's chase sequences. While she did use a stunt double for some of the movie's more unbelievable sequences, she threw her own kicks and punches in many of the action sequences and even took an 'Entertainment Tonight' reporter along with her for a test-drive of the stunt car on-set.