Hayley Atwell Learned ‘Drifting Was My Thing’ While Filming ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning’ (Video)

The actress says she trained for five months before cameras rolled

Hayley Atwell’s Marvel Cinematic Universe character Peggy Carter was already a high bar to clear, but watching her performance as Grace, a pickpocket who gets roped into the world of Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) Impossible Missions Force is a worthy successor. Grace has a shadowy backstory but in just the first 10 minutes of her appearance, the audience learns she’s a master of thievery – and that took a lot of training.

“I trained for five months before we began shooting,” Atwell told TheWrap. “In that time, [director] Chris McQuarrie and Tom [Cruise], and Wade Eastwood, our stunt coordinator, would be monitoring my progress to see where my natural skills lay.”

The actress didn’t just have to master sleight of hand to play a pickpocket, but also working with knives and guns, doing unarmed combat, mixed martial arts – and stunt driving. Based on how successful Atwell was at each thing would go into her character’s backstory.

“It became a total surprise to me that drifting was my thing,” she said. Not only was it something Atwell could do, and enjoyed, but it inspired Cruise and McQuarrie to craft a cat-and-mouse car chase between the pair where they not only have to evade baddies in different stolen vehicles, but do so handcuffed together.

“I remember this one day I was having to drift in in front of the wedding cake monument in Rome, [and] do 360 [degree] spins, drift out again, come back in, 360 the other way and go back out again. And we knew that the camera was gonna roll and get as much footage as possible,” she said.

With three cameras attached to the windscreen, limiting Atwell’s vision, the stunt became even more complicated with Cruise handcuffed to her in the passenger seat which “is somewhere, literally and metaphorically, Tom Cruise doesn’t particularly love being, as you can understand,” Atwell said. “He is the one that’s always driving.”

The abundance of stimulation forced Atwell to develop a hyper-vigilance of being present in the moment while also being able to improvise.

“While I was drifting with impaired vision, while it’s slightly raining, in this incredible old city with lots of people also watching during a pandemic, Tom would feed me lines of dialogue and I would have to work out whether it was Tom telling Haley, ‘Really, do slow down. This is dangerous’ or Ethan telling Grace [to] slow down or take a left, in which case I would then improvise back that she might do the opposite,” Atwell said.

Watch the full interview above.

“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” hits theaters July 12.