By Alex Ritman

The clips have been circulating for months. There he is, sporting his classic tight black T-shirt, dangling from the side of the world’s tallest tower on a piece of rope, occasionally waving at gobsmacked tourists within, while a helicopter hovers dangerously close overhead.

But although Tom Cruise’s antics on the Burj Khalifa might – quite understandably – be the headline grabbers, the Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol shoot in Dubai didn’t simply revolve around one, rather impressively reckless Hollywood A-lister.

Crew members stand by as Tom Cruise hangs off the Burj Khalifa during filming. Pawan Singh / The National
Crew members stand by as Tom Cruise hangs off the Burj Khalifa during filming. Pawan Singh / The National

There were about 450 crew members driving those 23 days of filming in Dubai, in October last year, more than half of whom were based in the UAE and found through the local co-producers Filmworks. Then there were the 600 extras, almost all sourced locally.

More than 800 Dubai-based individuals, in all, who were vital cogs in the great machine that eventually produced the latest instalment of the franchise, due to open the Dubai International Film Festival on Wednesday. And each one has their own special story about their time involved.

“I spent three days holding the same glass of ginger ale, which was supposed to look like champagne,” says Fiona Menzies, a British expat living in Dubai.

Menzies had been selected as an extra after having applied via the local casting agents MediaCubed. She appeared in a scene filmed in the Zabeel Saray hotel on the Palm Jumeirah, which thankfully hadn’t yet opened when production arrived.

Although the city has an important role in the film, Dubai also stood in for other locations. The Zabeel Saray actually played the part of an Indian palace, with Menzies portraying one of hundreds of guests at a glittering ballroom party attended by Cruise and his co-stars Jeremy Renner and Anil Kapoor.

“The place was beautifully decked out with marigolds and jasmine leaves,” says Menzies. “We wore these aristocratic full-length dresses, and there were loads of guys in black ties.”

“We were there for three days, from about 6am till 9pm. They were really long days, but it was amazing.” More info