DUBAI // The crew had been preparing for weeks. Then Tom 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 thus far - kicked into high gear.
Even as Cruise, who starred in the three previous spy thrillers in the series, took a break from production to unveil the official name of the movie - Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol - crew members were working at various locations to prepare sets for him and co-stars Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton.
"We're very excited to be here in this beautiful city," he said. "It's a city I've always wanted to shoot in. It's very cinematic."
Also just arrived are the director, Brad Bird, the executive producer, Jeffrey Chernov, and Bryan Burk, the producer. They all resumed their work shortly after the announcement of the film's name, said a spokesman for the Dubai Government media office.
Filming will start next week and is likely to last more than three weeks. It will take place in locations across Dubai, including the Burj Khalifa and the Meydan racetrack, said an industry insider, who asked not to be named. Car chases will be filmed on the Sheikh Zayed Road and in Bur Dubai and Deira, the source said.
More than 400 crew members are expected to follow a tight schedule. They have much to do in relatively little time, said Cruise, who is co-producing the film in addition to playing the lead role of Ethan Hunt, an American spy.
Even the 1,500 extras picked to appear in the film will put in 12-plus hour days, not including the time needed to get to and from the set or take a break to eat. They will earn Dh500 a day for their effort. A dozen interns and observers chosen from the local television and film industry to participate in a knowledge-transfer programme will be expected to work around the clock.
For Dubai, the arrival of Cruise and company is a filming victory it has been vying for years. The emirate established Dubai Studio City in 2005 as a one-stop shop for all things film production in an attempt to persuade foreign studios to make movies here.
It all came together when JJ Abrams, another of the series' producers, and Mr Burk visited Dubai last year during a publicity tour. After touring the city they decided they wanted to make a film here some day, Mr Burk said.
"It is a town that was meant to be filmed," he said. "It has amazing sets [and] it's a big new city not photographed much before."
When Cruise approached Mr Abrams about making the next Mission: Impossible, they decided their chance had come. The film will also be shot in Russia, the Czech Republic, Canada and the US.
"We were looking for grandeur and something that is visually new, big and spectacular," Mr Burk said. "It is our good great fortune that we got here first."
The emirate worked so well for the film that they decided to shoot the main scenes here.
Mr Chernov said support from the private sector and the government were integral to the procession of selecting locations.
"The heartbeat and centrepiece of our movie is Dubai," he said.
In addition to skyscrapers, the producers were drawn by the fast-track assistance that Dubai offered. All manner of government bureaus, including civil aviation, ambulances and the transportation authority, were asked to help make things easy.
"These criteria [support from the public and private sector] have to be met," Mr Chernov said. "They were clearly met on our first meeting. Anywhere we go we have had a tremendous amount of support.".
Cruise emphasised 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."