Bonafide action star Tom Cruise wasn’t going to hold any hands while filming intense stunts for “Top Gun: Maverick,” despite the title of Lady Gaga’s anthem for the sequel.
Cruise, who reprises his role as naval aviator Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell over 30 years after the original 1986 iconic film, was determined to make the “Maverick” flying sequences as real as possible. That meant actually filming inside F-18 fighter jets, while literally piloting them.
“Everybody thought he was crazy,” real-life Capt. Brian “Ferg” Ferguson, the film’s Navy aerial adviser, told People. Ferguson joined production despite believing “it probably would have looked almost as good if you would have done it using [special effects] technology.”
Cruise explained that he was transparent about production demands when casting the sequel, in theaters May 27. Actors also had to sign a waiver stating they were not afraid of flying.
“I was very clear in the beginning: ‘This is what it’s going to be like. It’s not for everyone,’” the “Mission: Impossible” leader said. “I want people to enjoy the experience. ‘If you don’t want be involved, totally, I understand.’”
Cruise taught co-stars Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Jay Ellis, Lewis Pullman, Danny Ramirez, and Monica Barbaro how to pilot an aircraft, starting with a single-engine Cessna.
“Then I put them in an airplane where they could do some aerobatics. Then a jet where they could pull serious Gs and feel what it’s like with an ejector seat. The first day they’re in the F-18, they’re filming,” Cruise explained, citing that the film is a true “love letter to aviation.”
Director Joseph Kosinski called the months-long training process a “boot-camp mentality,” adding, “Nothing brings people together like group suffering.”
Production included 14-hour workdays resulting in only 30 seconds of “good footage” usable for the final cut, with months of specifically aerial shooting culminating in an estimated 800 hours of footage.
The sequel is set 30 years after the original.
First reactions have praised the film’s epic action sequences, with IndieWire critic David Ehlrich applauding Cruise’s commitment to “insane” stunts. Cruise himself made it clear that it was his “responsibility” to craft the best sequel possible with the action being “very real.”
“We had to teach the actors about lighting, about cinematography, about editing,” Cruise, who also serves as a producer on the film, previously said. “I had to teach them how to turn the cameras on and off, and about camera angles and lenses. We didn’t have unlimited time in these jets. If they were going up for 20-30 minutes, I had to make sure that we got what we needed.”
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