Paula Patton takes on the role of Jane Carter in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol alongside Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg.
- Hey Paula. Let's start with the obvious question. What is it like working with Tom Cruise?
Amazing. Honestly, it was a dream come true. I always thought he was an amazing actor from the first time I saw Risky Business. The movie that had a huge impact on me was Born on the Fourth of July.
I was blown away how he played the all-American charming guy, goes away to Vietnam, is crippled and what he goes through. It blew me away. I remember very distinctly the moment I was told I would have a screen test with Tom. It was very old Hollywood the way they did it. It was at the Paramount lot, I had my own trailer and hair, make-up and costume.
I have never had that before for a screen test. They put me in a golf cart and took me to the sound stage and I said to myself 'OK, don't freak out'. It was a great thing. We met each other and I was immediately at ease. We had great chemistry and a connection.
It is because he is very human in that way. He is so kind to everyone whether it is a personal assistant, grip or gaffer. He just has great humanity about him and that's why he's so special.
- Who do you play in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol?
I play Jane Carter, an IMF agent. I have had a mission that went awry. Myself and Simon Pegg's character have to break Ethan Hunt out of jail. There's a bombing at the Kremlin and it gets pinned on us even know we did not do it. We get disavowed from the IMF and that's where Ghost Protocol comes into it.
We are still working, but the government won't save us. It is a scary place to be. Also, because we are all thrown together as a team and Jeremy Renner's character joins us we don't know the other's motivations. We don't know who to trust.
Jane is great character to play. She is very strong and lives in a man's world. She's vulnerable because she has experienced failure and loss and has to prove herself again. She is in a place of turmoil and also she is living on the edge because she has one chance to make what is wrong, right.
- The stunts are amazing in the film?
The great thing was I was able to do all of my own stunts. It was very physical. I got to have fights and gun play. I wasn't forced to do all of my own stunts, but I'm a very competitive person and once I heard Tom was doing it I had to do all of mine. My stunts weren't as death-defying as Tom hanging off the Burj Khalifa, but it was really fun.
- What was that like watching Tom perform that stunt on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world?
I remember doing my make-up the first day he did it and praying that nothing happened to him. I knew I was replaceable and the rest of us are replaceable, but if anything happens to this man this movie is over (laughs). Thank God nothing did (laughs).
- The Burj is 829.84m tall. Were you up there with Tom?
I was. They took the window out of the room we were in on the 134th floor. It was a few below the top.
Tom was truly hanging out the window. Jeremy was in a harness but because my dress was too tight I could't be in a harness. They had a little ankle strap and a man hanging on to that.
- Did you suffer any injuries during filming?
I did get a few bruises and scrapes, but the most challenging thing in the end was the fight I had with the beautiful French actress Lea Seydoux. Usually they don't have actors doing the fight together because they are afraid we might scratch each other (laughs).
We did it together and worked really hard to make it look as real as possible. It was like a dance. It was fun. We gave each other a few scrapes and bruises but no black eyes (laughs).
- How important is this time for you? You have been in some great films like Precious, the blockbuster Mission: Impossible and you also have a young son, Julian.
My son was five-months-old when I got Mission: Impossible so I call him my lucky charm. I didn't expect this role. When they asked me to read I didn't think I had a chance. I thought 'I have other things to do'.
But they said 'Go in. They really want to see you. See Brad Bird the director'. I read for Brad and thought I did a terrible job. I cried and said 'Why did I do that? I'm embarrassed.' But, they called me the next day and said they wanted me to do a screen test with Tom.
- Why did you think you did a terrible job?
It was hard to tell with the people in the room. You do it and they said 'Great, thank you'. That's it. I wanted to jump off the nearest balcony. That's life as an actor. The next day they call you and you say 'Yes, yes, yes. Of course they liked it' (Laughs). I'm so insecure.
- What kind of roles would you like to do in the future?
I don't know. I'm on a journey. I hope one day I get to a place where I choose everything myself and create roles. Right now I am at the mercy of what comes my way, so I'm just trying to enjoy the journey. I can't say what the result will be. I love acting and what will be will be.
- This is the first time Brad has made a live action movie. He's known for his Pixar animated films Ratatouille and The Incredibles, so what was he like on set?
Everybody maybe was a little bit nervous about that, but he is a visionary beyond. When you think about Ratatouille and The Incredibles and he created both universes, all the characters and even some of the voices, he is a really unique individual and impressive. He doesn't raise his voice.
He got angry a couple of times but still very low and knows exactly what he wants. All an actor wants is director who is decisive.The difficult thing is I heard him say 'In animation you have perfection and with human beings you can't do that' so you just try to please him.
I learned a lot from him about sound design because that is important in animation. He would talk to us a lot about the rhythm of the dialogue, fast and slow, or the musicality of it. I never thought about it before and changed my approach as an actor for the next movie I did. He is a brilliant man.
- This was a global film. What places to did you shoot in?
They shot in Moscow, Mumbai, Dubai, Prague and Vancouver but most of our work was in Prague, Dubai and Vancouver. It was an incredible experience, especially Dubai because I have never been to the Middle East before.
As liberal as I see myself to be and not prejudiced, we are influenced by the west, but I was blown away. It opened my heart and mind in ways I couldn't possibly have imagined.
- In what way?
In terms of the culture. I think it is easy to judge people when you are in the west. I saw families, mothers and children living a life that is not normal to us, but was clearly satisfying and beautiful.
I just thought it was terrible to judge people based on what you know. I saw people there happy. You see men who are very family orientated with children walking to the mall. I found it to be a beautiful place.
- Did you ask Tom for any advice?
It's interesting. I learn a lot from observing. I said to him 'Please, if you think I shouldn't do anything the way I'm doing it, please tell me' and he said 'Of course'. He's very generous that way. He wants everybody to do a great job.
- How do you juggle your career with motherhood?
I have an amazing Mum myself and she comes with me. I also take my son everywhere with me. The thing is you live with less sleep.
The lunch break you have on set you don't have by yourself. You just learn to live without sleep and time for yourself never exists. It's OK because my son is the best thing that has ever happened to me. He's my good luck charm.
- It was a physical role so I bet you had to work out a lot to be prepared.
Yeah. To be an IMF agent you have to be fit and my son was only five months old. I had some work to do. The first month was the hardest thing to do. I couldn't breathe, then after a month I got into this other place.
- What was your exercise regime?
It was two-and-a-half hours of physical training and and hour to an hour-and-half of weapons training five days a week. We continued it when we began training so when we weren't filming we were training.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is released on DVD & Blu-Ray 30th April.