For all the dangerous stunts he still performs for his films, it could be hard to believe Tom Cruise is 60.
Yet, his birthday, which fell on Sunday is the start of the Mission: Impossible actor's seventh decade.
To mark the occasion, The National reminisces on Cruise's adventures in the UAE.
Introducing 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol'
First, let's rewind to 2010, when Cruise headed to Dubai for one of his first and most high-profile visits.
It's October and the crew had been preparing for weeks. Then, Cruise jetted in and the long-awaited filming of the fourth instalment of the Mission: Impossible series — the biggest movie to be shot in Dubai at that point — kicked into high gear.
He'd taken a break from production to unveil the official name of the movie, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, and popped into Dubai's Armani Hotel with some of the other crew members and actors.
Cruise talked about how accommodating their partners in Dubai had been, from building sound stages to shuttling them quickly to numerous locations.
He was impressed by the warm welcome and the scenery, Cruise said.
"I dream about coming to places like this," he said. "It is such a stunning city."
That Burj Khalifa stunt
During the 2010 trip, he famously scaled Burj Khalifa, becoming one of the elite few to climb the tallest building in the world.
It became the most famous scene in the fourth Mission: Impossible film, which came out in 2011.
The city plays a rather impressive part in the film, with scenes shot at the Deira side of Dubai Creek, at the bridge leading to the Meydan Racecourse in Nad El Sheba, in DIFC, Satwa and the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel.
"The first moment on the Burj, when I saw the rope, I remember just thinking this is — this is — the moment of truth," Cruise said, days ahead of the movie's release at the 8th Dubai International Film Festival. "There's one thing seeing it and another thing trying to accomplish that. I remember that I didn't quite make it the first time and came slamming into the building."
Dubai as a 'dream' shooting destination
Cruise had said in 2010 that it was a dream of his to shoot in a place such as Dubai.
He reiterated that in 2011, when he said he was convinced the city would soon provide a backdrop for many other major film productions.
"I know that already people have said they want to come here and shoot. People have asked us what it was like and are very interested."
He also said: "Watching the city being built, I was on a layover once — refuelling here — and every time I've been, I've wanted to film here. It's a beautiful city, a very cinematic city. The way it's set up — it's incredibly modern, an extraordinary accomplishment."
'Warmth and hospitality' of the UAE
Cruise has commented more than once on how accommodating people in the UAE have been during his production visits.
"The warmth and hospitality shown throughout shooting and the whole time we were here was a wonderful experience," Cruise said at a press conference in 2011 at Burj Khalifa, as part of the 8th Dubai International Film Festival.
Years later, in March 2018, he said something similar about Abu Dhabi, after shooting in the capital for Mission: Impossible — Fallout, the sixth instalment in the long-running action film franchise.
"Thank you to everyone in Abu Dhabi for the amazing help and cooperation. Our filming here continues to be a wonderful experience," he wrote on Twitter.
'One of his most dangerous stunts yet'
In June 2018, Cruise praised the UAE for its help in creating “one of his most dangerous stunts yet”.
Cruise made the halo jump — a military free-fall manoeuvre designed to get troops on the ground undetected — for a scene in Mission: Impossible — Fallout.
Cruise had to jump out of a plane at 7,600 metres over the Abu Dhabi desert and wait until he was below 600 metres to pull his parachute for the stunt. It took more than 100 jumps to shoot the scene, as it had to be filmed as close to sunset as possible, giving the crew only three minutes a day to get the perfect shot.
“We needed the UAE,” said Cruise in a video posted on Twitter to promote the movie’s release. “Had they not stepped in, we would not have been able to accomplish the sequence.”
The stunt took a year in planning, and filmmakers had to commission one of the world’s largest wind tunnels so Cruise could practise on the ground first.
A trip to Louvre Abu Dhabi
Last year, Cruise descended on Abu Dhabi again to shoot Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning — Part One.
He took some time to visit Louvre Abu Dhabi, one of the capital's most famous landmarks.
Cruise, 58, can be seen wearing a face mask in an image that was posted by Hamad Alhosani on Twitter.
"Every time I meet him, he tells me, 'I love Abu Dhabi, I love your country'," the caption read.
A new trailer for it came out last month, featuring the Liwa desert and Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Midfield Terminal in the trailer.
Watch the trailer here:
The snippet suggests the majestic landscape of the Liwa desert is used for a series of action sequences, including a horse chase and the arrival of military troops.
In the trailer, Cruise also runs down a barren road in the desert, in addition to surveying the vistas beside a horse.
The familiar image of Abu Dhabi airport's 700,000-square-metre Midfield Terminal also forms the backdrop of an action scene with actors Hayley Atwell and Simon Pegg, who are seen sprinting down the concourse.
While the plot details are vague, it's known that Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt the spy, returns to the job to rescue the world from malevolent criminals. The film continues the franchise tradition of being an international affair, with shoots also taking place in London, Italy, Poland and Norway.