Currently sitting at top of the box-office charts, Mission: Impossible Fallout is set to be the cinema hit of the summer. But one of the key scenes in one of the most action-packed Hollywood movies of all time couldn’t have happened without the skill and ingenuity of a British biker.
Never one to shy away from a good bike chase, Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt tries to evade French police, charging through Parisian side-streets on a BMW R nineT Scrambler, skidding past hordes of police cars and weaving in and out of traffic on the Arc de Triomphe.
But much of the amazing footage was down to former British and World Supersport racer Kieran Clarke who joined forces with Tom Cruise’s stunt team to develop a camera bike for use in top Hollywood films.
Clarke, who was forced to retire from racing through injury, turned to making a living as a stuntman, getting his break in the previous Mission Impossible film.
'There were limitations to using a standard road bike'
"We did tracking shots on Mission Impossible 5 which were fantastic, but there were limitations to using a standard road bike as a camera bike," Clarke explained.
"Myself and Wade Eastwood went away and brainstormed some new camera equipment based on a motorcycle to get the most dynamic action shots available and take it to the next level." This bike is the result.
"With using a normal motorbike and a conventional petrol engine, you get a lot of engine vibration which restricts what you can do, especially with sound and on many tracking bikes it’s very difficult and time consuming to change the camera position."
To resolve the engine vibration issues, Clarke and the team turned to electric bikes with their camera bike starting life out as a Zero DSR. Producing 69bhp, the camera bike has a top speed of 120mph and is fully kitted out with K-Tech suspension, Moto3 wheels and wets for instant grip and features special, one-off carbon fibre bodywork.
Plenty of control on the move
The main asset is the elaborate bracketry for the cameras, which thanks to electro-hydraulic valving can have it’s attitude controlled on the move, allowing dramatic shots.
"We’ve refined a piece of equipment using MotoGP and F1 technology to create something that can get shots that aren’t possible anywhere else. There's no engine noise and no vibration so we can get sound in the same shot, which is a first for a camera bike.
"We can change the camera height and position within seconds with the touch of a button, meaning the bike can shoot a range of scenes from slow speed dialogue to high action sequences with cars and bikes."
With film cameras and all the associated bracketry weighing 50kg, and costing £60,000, precision and safety are paramount.
"You need good riders to get the most from it," says Clarke. "That’s why we’re going to get British Supersport rider James Rispoli and BSB rider James Ellison as riders. They need to know what they’re doing."
Cruise: 'I said I’ll just go as fast as the bike can'
Shooting the footage for the scene was one of cruises toughest assignments. Revealed in an online trailer for the film, it shows him weaving in and out of oncoming traffic for real with little protective clothing and no helmet.
"As dangerous as the motorcycle scene was in Rouge Nation, said Director Christopher McQuarrie, "this was infinitely more challenging."
Cruise concurs: "We had a safety rig for one challenging shot, but that rig just didn’t work. I said, 'My friend, we gotta roll, we gotta shoot. Just put the camera out there, set up the pursuit and I’ll go around this corner as fast the bike can possibly go.' That opportunity to go to Paris to shoot that sequence was amazing."
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