There was a time — namely in 2012 after Tony Scott had committed suicide — that many thought a sequel for Top Gun was never going to happen. After several years of sitting on the shelf, many reshoots, and a global endemic Top Gun: Maverick will fly into theaters primed to be the first $100M opening in the career of Tom Cruise. It is also expected to set a record for Memorial Day movies.
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It got the okay from execs simply because Cruise said it was happening.
Scott, who directed the original which was the No. 1 film of 1986, was at a meeting with Jerry Bruckheimer at the Naval Fighter Weapons School (the real “Top Gun” in Nevada) to discuss the sequel but killed himself days later.
Cruise took a meeting with Joseph Kosinski — director of Tron: Legacy and Oblivion — about the project. Once he liked what he heard, it was just time to make a call. Literally.
“At the end of that meeting, Tom stood and he walked over to the phone and he called the head of the studio and said, ‘We’re making this film,’” Kosinski told the AP. “I mean, that’s a real movie star who can greenlight a movie with a phone call.”
According to the report, Cruise did have a few other items on his list before he was ready to sign off.
- First, Val Kilmer — who has been having difficulty speaking after throat cancer — was to return to play Iceman. The studio, and Kilmer, agreed. He has a small role in the film but it is impactful.
- Second was that all the actors playing pilots be trained to ride in F-16s so that they could withstand higher G-forces. In the original film only Cruise did so and he wanted everyone else to be prepared for the sequel .
“Tom devised a way to train the actors. In the first one, when they put them up in the air with one camera in the cockpit, everybody threw up. We had no usable footage. Their eyes were rolling back in their heads,” Bruckheimer said. “Tom said, ‘Listen, we have to figure out a way to put our actors up there so they can handle the G-forces.’”
The actors playing pilots (Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Greg Tarzan Davis, Danny Ramirez, Lewis Pullman and Jay Ellis) were all trained over the subsequent three months to prepare for the velocity of F-18 flights.
Other people who were cast did not make that cut.
“Some actors said, ‘I won’t do it. I’m afraid of flying.’ So we lost some talented people who just couldn’t commit to making the movie in the way we did it,” Bruckheimer added. “The majority of the pilots that we worked with on this current movie said they joined the military because they joined the first Top Gun.”
Reviews of Top Gun: Maverick have been mostly positive.
The movie highlights the now-middle-aged Maverick (Cruise is 59, after all) returning to Top Gun in an attempt to train a new generation of pilots who are set to take on technology as their replacements in battle.
Many critics are highlighting the emotional storyline that pairs Rooster — Goose’s son, played by Miles Teller — with exciting fight sequences that keeps it true to the spirit of the original, but adds redemptive arcs for multiple characters.
“I do feel like the theme of the first film is not really about politics. It really is about friendship, camaraderie, competition, sacrifice,” says Kosinski. “That’s what we wanted to do on this film very purposefully. We designed a fictional antagonist. The mission itself is one about keeping the world safe. It’s not about invasion. It’s really about the relationship between Maverick and Rooster.”