NEW YORK — Tom Cruise doesn't do anything half-hearted.
The fearless action icon is known for his death-defying stunts in the Mission: Impossible movies, whether he's scaling the world's tallest building in Dubai or hanging off the side of a plane during takeoff.
Cruise brings that same intrepid spirit to Universal's big-budget reboot of The Mummy (in theaters Thursday night), in which he plays cocky tomb raider Nick Morton, who accidentally unleashes a vengeful Egyptian spirit (Sofia Boutella) and gets cursed in the process.
The actor takes a page from Ethan Hunt in the explosive monster movie, with dangerous deeds including a zero-gravity stunt for a plane-crash sequence and a lengthy underwater rescue involving Nick and his love interest, archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis).
But his boldest move is one fans won't see onscreen: snapping selfies between takes while hanging from a helicopter 2,000 feet over the Namibian desert. Co-star Courtney B. Vance witnessed the epic photo session firsthand.
"They told everyone, 'Don't take any pictures,' " Vance told USA TODAY on the black carpet at The Mummy's New York premiere Tuesday night. "We get up in the helicopter and he's like, 'Wanna take some pictures?' He's funny. He was hanging out of the helicopter, taking selfies and pictures of us. Crazy!"
Wallis added: "He loved taking my phone and hanging out of things in dangerous situations taking pictures of himself. I'd look for my phone and be like, 'Oh, my God, he's going to kill himself doing that!' "
Cruise confirmed to us that, yes, he will do virtually anything for a good picture.
"I just really wanted a different kind of a shot," Cruise explained. "So I had my seat belt just (loose enough) to hang out. It was fun."
Mummy director Alex Kurtzman was frequently surprised by Cruise's sense of humor — a sharp 180 from his roguish, morally bankrupt character in the film.
"He's very serious and very intense, but what people don't know is that he really does like to play jokes," Kurtzman said. "There were moments when we were shooting in an underwater tank and (he and Annabelle) kept dunking each other in the water. And I kept looking at him like, 'This is not the image people have of Tom Cruise.' "