How Special Effects Stole the Show in 2015

Ever since Jar Jar Binks ambled through "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace," CGI has dominated movie special effects. Refreshingly, 2015 saw a small but significant revival of the practical, tactile, and (especially for Tom Cruise) seriously dangerous.

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    Director George Miller’s return to his apocalyptic wasteland featured real cars, real explosions, and real bodies — and real injuries, too. “You see people rolling cars, flying off things, breaking things, breaking legs,” star Tom Hardy tells EW. “We had one motorbike rider fly through the air and put his teeth right through the handlebars on the landing. It was pretty nasty.”

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    As the newest (and cutest) droid in the galaxy, BB-8 existed on set in both free-roaming remote-controlled models and versions puppeted by operators who were removed in post. BB-8’s look was as important as his motion. Says Neal Scanlan, head of the film’s creature shop: “We played with different iterations until we looked at this character and went, ‘Wow, that speaks volumes.’ ”

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    The fifth installment of the series begins with Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt boarding a plane the hard way — by chasing it down and hanging on to the side during takeoff. “[Cruise] said he wanted to feel like he didn’t have any safety on him whatsoever,” says stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood of the decision to secure Cruise with a single harness. “He said [the danger] would come across in his performance.”

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    For the futuristic character Vision, Paul Bettany endured three and a half hours of makeup and prosthetic application. To keep him comfortable during filming, the crew ran a cooling system under the full-body suit. “It was hard to move around once they plug in that goddamn [air conditioner],” Bettany says. “But you feel such relief. It’s like being in a gin and tonic.”

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