Tom Cruise fans know that he does his own stunts. But his Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation co-star Rebecca Ferguson is no slouch. Though the 31-year-old Swede is best known for period pieces such as BBC’s 2013 historical drama, The White Queen, Ferguson holds her own — and then some — in the fifth flick in the high-octane franchise, out Friday. We spoke to the genial actress, who speaks with an impeccable British accent, during a recent visit to Miami:
How are you enjoying your time here?
Very much. My God, it’s so warm. I’m coming from Scandi-Land so I’m feeling it more, I think. I’d love to stay longer and speak to locals about their favorite coffee places and beaches and stuff like that. I actually don’t have thoughts on America as I haven’t been traveling around much. When I do come here, it’s quick in and out for meetings and press tours and such. But being stuck in a hotel talking about this movie is great as well.
How did you get involved with this project?
I’ve loved Mission Impossible since the beginning. I’ve seen both the television shows and movies I don’t know how many times. It never occurred to me that I’d actually be in one. After The White Queen, I told my agent, ‘This is all great, but I’d like to do more action.’ I never thought it would happen. We sent a tape over to Tom Cruise and [MI5 writer/director] Christopher McQuarrie, and lo and behold, they asked to meet with me in London. It was about chemistry, but they needed to know how I would respond to direction and if I could be trained. A couple of weeks later I got the part of undercover bad-ass agent Ilsa. Yeah, kind of a fairytale.
What kind of preparation did you have to do for the role?
Quite a lot. Six hours a day, six days a week. But it’s not like hitting the gym for hours on end. You wake up and do Pilates for two hours. Then you do two hours of sprinting and regular training, stretching, choreography. A lot of different things to change your body. I had to master what I call the ‘killer thigh move.’ I’d be exhausted — just shattered — at the end of a day.
What about diet?
Nothing special. If a scene called for sprinting, I would eat carbs, anything to give me energy. When I had to slip into a tight, slender dress, we’d hold back on the pasta. For underwater scenes, to hold your breath longer and last, you had to kind of watch your food intake. I’d been diving and I love water, but holding your breath is hard work. You’re moving around a lot, exerting yourself and maneuvering. It’s extreme.
Did you get hurt at all?
I don’t even have one good story of me getting hurt. Everything was just so organized and well prepared. You’re not supposed to hurt yourself. Though I bruise like a peach. The more bruises I had the more I felt like I accomplished something.
Are you anything like Ilsa?
It’s a hard one comparing yourself to the character. She’s an undercover agent; I’m not. She kills people; I don’t. She’s mysterious and highly intelligent, and I don’t know if I’d call myself that. She’s cool, though. I like her.
What’s it like acting alongside Tom Cruise?
Just for me to say I miss him says a lot. He’s so down to earth, energetic and happy. He loves what he does and made sure I felt safe and embraced. A true supporter. Everyone was — like Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg. These guys had already created a team and really welcomed me. They didn’t have to be so generous. It’s nice to have good co-workers.
What’s next for you?
An incredible jump from high action to Florence Foster Jenkins, a true story of a tone deaf opera singer played by Meryl Streep and directed by Stephen Frears. Just watching her work was like acting school. What a ride. I’m so lucky.