July 17, 2015 / Written by Alyssa Bailey
Getting your body action-film ready is actually a non-stop thing—or so Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation‘s leading lady Ilsa, will tell you. As the 31-year-old Swedish actress, whose biggest previous role was The White Queen‘s Elizabeth, explains to ELLE.com, the MI prep started the second she stepped off the plane.
“[It] was six hours a day, six days a week from the day I arrived at Heathrow Airport [after booking the role.]” Before the film, Ferguson prepped with Pilates. But on set, the workouts were much more intense—”a lot of sprinting, a lot of regular training, and then we had choreography sessions for the special scenes,” she says.
And franchise star Tom Cruise led the pack, literally: “Tom Cruise likes to run. I don’t know if you’ve seen him. He sprints like a Formula 1 Man, so…”
But her workout wasn’t the only thing Ferguson changed for the role. Here, she discusses the MI diet and the red carpet lessons she learned from Cate Blanchett:
Your workout for Mission Impossible sounds pretty insane. What were you doing before?
A lot of chocolate and trying to drink a little bit of water now and then. Basically none! To be honest, I love walking. I walk. I walk and I swim, I climb trees with my son. I’m active. This [movie] sort of introduced the gym world and I love it. I like it now.
What’s your workout routine like post-film?
I do Pilates when I can. I found a real sense of—it sounds really weird, but I don’t understand people that can run outside as a jogging regime. I sort of go “ooh a flower,” “ooh mountain,” and “ooh hello!” but now I like running on the treadmill so I’ll whip up a film or something that is max 40 minutes, and I just go running. I’m into Modern Family right now. That’s very good!
I imagine what you ate changed too. What was your diet like while filming?
Tom was kind enough to let me eat this specially-made food that we had on set, which was very well organized based upon the scenes that were coming up. So if we had very intense fighting sequences, it would be like good carbs. Everything is organic, everything is green, everything is local, which is phenomenal! So…a lot of chia pudding, a lot of coconut: coconut flakes, coconut butter, coconut oil.
Did you have to forgo sweets?
No, no, no, no, no! No sweets. No sugar. I skipped dairy, which was actually great for my body.
In what ways?
I just felt less bloated. I didn’t feel that necessity of milk that we’re quite used to pouring down ourselves. It’s not healthy, really, so I do almond milk now.
Was the diet hard to adapt to?
I’ve always eaten pretty healthy. And because I live where I live [Ferguson lives in a seaside town in Sweden], I eat a lot of fish. There are local fishermen. I eat meat from the local farmers. I eat very well.
Tom seems like such a character. What are you favorite stories from filming with him?
Tom just in general is not known to be as funny as he is. He is hilarious. When you have him and Simon Pegg on set, sometimes it’ll be hard. You have to walk away to not pee on yourself! But [Tom] is to be known as such a wonderful, happy dude.
And a heartthrob, especially in the ’90s. Did you have any celebrity crushes, growing up?
I had Tom Cruise—and yes, I told him. I was on the treadmill running in the gym and I had forgotten that when I was young, I must’ve seen Interview with the Vampire: Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, good combo. And, I had a recurring dream about him, like a love dream. I was in love with him [and] I was 11, 12? He was probably my one crush.
Were you nervous meeting him that first time?
I think the nerves came after realizing I just met him because it was so fast. I met him basically 17 hours after I had descended from my camel Barbie [while shooting a scene in Morocco for another film]. And it was more of the efficiency of meeting him. It was like the car to the flight [to London], “I have to do this, who’s taking care of my son? What am I doing?” And then boom, there he was! And we laughed and had fun and then I left the room going: What the — just happened?
So you look incredible. What have you learned about taking care of yourself over the years?
Your body isn’t the same body as it is [at] 20, as it is [at] 30. It needs something else when you get older. And when you’re a young, adolescent child, you can party, and you can actually manage to look phenomenal the next day—if not even better. For me, it’s just taking care of yourself. Don’t do drugs too much, don’t drink too much. Have fun. Enjoy life. Drink water, sleep. Eat coconuts. And a little bit of pomegranate!
You’re about to hit a lot of red carpets for this film. How do you feel as you’re going down with all those camera flashes and reporters?
It’s surreal. It’s surreal. It is uncomfortable and strangely intoxicating… and just odd. I haven’t done many. I’m on a learning curve. I was lucky enough to have the graceful, elegant, sensual Cate Blanchett walk in front of me last time I did it. So I just studied her and for some reason, did the complete opposite! I started wide and she just sort of swoops in. It’s really odd in the beginning when you step out and then I think we human beings adapt to situations quite easily. So a lot of flashes, you smile, you walk on, answer a couple of questions, and afterwards, it comes again: the shock of what just happened.
© 2015 Elle