May 18, 2022

Tom Cruise talks about creating the sequel to Top Gun

Thirty-six years after portraying Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun, Tom Cruise returns to the iconic role that catapulted him to global superstardom, with the long-awaited sequel, Paramount Pictures’ Top Gun: Maverick (in Philippine cinemas May 25).

“I’d thought about a sequel to Top Gun for all these years,” says Cruise. “People had asked for a sequel for decades. Decades. And the thing I said to the studio from the beginning was: ‘If I’m ever going to entertain this, we’re shooting everything practically. I’m in that F/A-18, period. So, we’re going to have to develop camera rigs. There’s going to be wind tunnels and engineering. It’s going to take a long, long time for me to figure it out.’ For years, people had said, ‘Can’t you shoot [the movie] with CGI?’ And I always said, ‘No. That’s not the experience.’ I said, ‘I need to find the right story. And we’re going to need the right team. This movie is like trying to hit a bullet with a bullet. I’m not playing.’”
On the original movie, although Cruise was filmed in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat, his castmates weren’t so successful in their endeavors. “We had other actors up there, flying,” says legendary producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “Tom was the only one we had usable flight footage for. We had tons of footage of the other actors in the air with their eyes rolling back in their heads. This time, thanks to Tom, all the actors on Top Gun: Maverick became accustomed to the fundamentals and mechanics of flight and G-forces, because of all the training they did months in advance. Unlike the first film, our actors are actually in the cockpits of the F/A-18s in flight, acting and speaking their lines of dialogue.”

Cruise says there is a “majesty and beauty” in flying an airplane. “It’s both using and defying nature,” he says. “And playing Maverick again, at a different stage of his life, has been an incredible experience for me. Maverick is still Maverick. He still wants to fly Mach 2 with his hair on fire. But you see the transition that Maverick undergoes. The pressure of him losing his best friend, the responsibility he feels about that and how he has carried that with him. This film is about family and it’s about friendship and it’s about sacrifice. It’s about redemption and the cost of mistakes.”
And that emotion hasn’t just been up on screen, but behind the scenes, on a journey that has taken the makers of Top Gun: Maverick both back in time and forward, into new frontiers in filmmaking. “What we have achieved with the aerial sequences is genuinely something that people will never have seen before,” says Cruise. “We’ve trained actors to be able to fly and perform in real F/A-18s. And, to do that, we took the greatest fighter pilots in the world [from the U.S. Navy] and we taught them about movies – the pilot and the actor had to work as a team. This is the sophistication of the aerial sequences. No one’s ever done this, ever.”

It’s not just pride that Cruise feels, though. Top Gun: Maverick isn’t just a movie – it’s a destination. A culmination of everything he has learned in his 40 years in this business (Cruise’s debut, Endless Love, was released on July 17, 1981), this is a story he’s been building towards. A love letter to aviation, for sure. But a love letter to movies too.

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