By Andrew Hammond and Warda Al-Jawahiry
DUBAI (Reuters) - Tom Cruise hit the red carpet Wednesday for the world premiere of the fourth Mission Impossible film which had the American facing 'a moment of truth' jumping off the world's tallest building.
Paramount Pictures, a subsidiary of Viacom Inc., chose the Dubai International Film Festival in the Middle East for the unveiling of the latest episode of a franchise that has grossed over $2 billion worldwide.
"Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol" is shot mainly in Dubai, making use of its high-rise buildings including Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower at 828 meters (2,716 ft).
In one scene, Cruise, whose spy team is accused of blowing up the Kremlin, undertakes high-adrenalin acrobatics around the summit of the building.
Cruise spent four months training on a set before coming to Dubai to shoot the real thing. But he said it was still a challenge translating director Brad Bird's vision into reality.
"It's one thing seeing it and another thing trying to accomplish that... The first moment, you know I have one little pick here and one little rope. I remember just being there saying 'this is a moment of truth'," Cruise, who is known for doing his own stunts, told reporters.
"I had to figure out how to fly. I had to figure out how to use my feet as a rudder because you have crosswinds up there. It took a while to work out how not to come slamming into the building head first," he said.
"I was very excited because I thought it would be very entertaining for an audience and very challenging, and so that's why I did it."
The popularity of Cruise, 49, has had its ups and downs with U.S. audiences in recent years but he retains global appeal.
His last film, action comedy "Knight and Day" co-starring Cameron Diaz, got mixed reviews but the Mission Impossible series has been a safe bet with audiences and critics alike.
Cruise chose to give the film a first, limited showing to fans in Tokyo last week before its official unveiling in Dubai.
Mission Impossible 4 has Cruise's character Ethan Hunt moving from Budapest to Moscow to Mumbai, showcasing glossy locations around the world in classic spy genre style.
Bird, who comes to the franchise after critically acclaimed turns directing animated Oscar winners "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille," said he tried to keep a step ahead of audience expectations with the action film.
"One of the challenges of any sequel, particularly a third sequel, is you have a lot of audience expectation, going in," he said on the red carpet.
"But I think you can run straight at those expectations and play with them, and zig when the audience are expecting you to zag, and I think that's what we did in this movie."
(Writing by Andrew Hammond; editing by Robert Woodward)