Tom Cruise on Why He Wanted to Fly in Real Fighter Jets for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Top Gun: Maverick / Paramount Pictures
Top Gun: Maverick / Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise is ready to take Top Gun: Maverick to the skies—literally. For the sequel to his iconic film, Cruise wanted the action to be taken to another level, which meant getting the actors into real fighter jets and using CGI as little as possible. For Cruise, who is known for doing many of his own stunts, including when he suffered an injury while jumping from a rooftop in Mission: Impossible—Fallout, it was a no-brainer.

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“We just started talking,” Cruise told Empire Magazine. “And I realized that there were things that we could accomplish cinematically. And I started getting excited about this big challenge of, ‘How do we do it?’ So I said to Jerry, ‘I’ll do it if…’ meaning, I’m not going to do the CGI stuff.”

Cruise knew that getting the actors into fighter jets for the aerial scenes in the movie would be no easy task. But it was one he wanted to undertake: “I said to the studio, ‘You don’t know how hard this movie’s going to be. No-one’s ever done this before,’” Cruise said. “There’s never been an aerial sequence shot this way. I don’t know if there ever will be again, to be honest.”

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Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who worked on the original Top Gun, was on board with what Cruise wanted to accomplish.

“What’s different about this movie is that [in Top Gun] we put the actors in the F-14s and we couldn’t use one frame of it, except some stuff on Tom, because they all threw up,” Bruckheimer said. “It’s hysterical to see their eyes roll back in their heads. So everything was done on a gimbal. But in this movie, Tom wanted to make sure the actors could actually be in the F-18s.”

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As shown in a behind-the-scenes video, Cruise and the cast, including actors Miles Teller, Jay Ellis, and Glen Powell, all actually went up in the air to shoot key scenes of the movie.

“You just can’t create this kind of experience unless you shoot it live,” Cruise says in the video. “In order for us to accomplish this, we have the greatest fighter pilots in the world working with us. It is aggressive, you can’t act that—the distortion in the face. They’re pulling 7-8 G’s, that’s 1,600 pounds of force. I’m so proud of [the actors] and what they’ve done. It’s heavy-duty.”

Here’s a look at the cast going airborne for the film:

Here’s the official synopsis from Paramount: “After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose”. Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.”

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Despite the delays of other movies like No Time To Die, F9, and Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick is currently set to be released on June 24, 2020.

For more on Cruise and Top Gun 2, follow along with Men’s Journal’s coverage here:

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