May the G Force be with you – How The Top Gun Maverick cast coped….

......Tom picks from the inflight meal menu.....'

On the original movie, although Tom Cruise was filmed in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat, his cast mates weren’t so successful in their endeavours. “We had other actors up there, flying,” says producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “But their footage unfortunately wasn’t usable because they didn’t have enough experience in training. When we put them in the air, none of them could hack it. 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.”

When it came to their job descriptions on this movie, the young cast were very much forewarned. “We were very upfront with all the actors we were talking to [in the casting process],” says Kosinski. “We said, ‘Listen, this is not your typical acting job. You’re going to be in Super Hornets flying at 600 miles an hour, pulling heavy Gs. Are you comfortable with flying?’” Greg Tarzan Davis, who actually learned to fly and swim on this production, laughs at the memory. “When I found out, I was thinking, ‘Yes, this is gonna be so cool!’” he says. “And then, once I got in the plane, I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do this anymore.’ When people say, ‘Wow. That’s cool. You can scratch that off your bucket list,’ I say, ‘Well, it wasn’t on my bucket list. I didn’t think it was possible for me to fly in a military grade jet.’”

To train the young cast for what they would need to be able to achieve in Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise looked back to his own breakout movie, Taps, for which, in 1980, director Harold Becker and producer Stanley Jaffe put Cruise and his young co-stars Sean Penn, Timothy Hutton and co. through a boot camp, to immerse them in their new military world. “On the first Top Gun,” says Kosinski, “Tom was just kind of thrown into the F-14 cockpit. I think this time he wanted to make sure that the actors were more prepared than he was, particularly to pull it off in the way we wanted to. The planes have more technology in them now, but the emphasis in this film, as in the first, is on the pilot, not on the machine. It all comes down to the man or woman in the box. It’s not a movie about fighter planes, it’s a movie about fighter pilots.”

As such, Top Gun: Maverick’s new recruits would quite literally have to earn their stripes, in a flight program designed specifically by Cruise himself. “On Taps, Becker and Jaffe created an environment from which we, as young actors, could develop and understand what the film was,” says Cruise. “On Top Gun: Maverick, that was important too, of course. But I also needed my guys to be able to get in an actual F/A-18 and not just pass out.” So, Cruise and Bruckheimer went to meet Vice Admiral DeWolfe H. Miller III, the Air Boss, Commander of Naval Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet to pitch him their vision for the movie. “We went down and explained the story and said, ‘We’re going to shoot it live. And we’re going to hire the actors and train them, otherwise we’re not going to do it,’” says Cruise. “I said, ‘If you don’t want to do it, I understand. But this is the only way that I can do it.’ Other people were asking, ‘Can’t we just shoot it this way?’ I always said, ‘You can. I can’t.’ And the Navy said, ‘Yes, we will do that. We will take you [guys] up.’ It was us earning their trust, every step of the way. It was a partnership. I said, ‘I’m going to deliver this for you guys.’ Flying means a lot to me. The Navy means a lot to me. They are a different kind of spirit of an aviator – they just are. And I wanted to honour that. I wanted to honour that in the first Top Gun – that’s why I wanted to make that movie. And I wanted to honour that in this movie too.”

With Cruise, Kosinski and cinematographer Claudio Miranda having worked closely with the Navy to develop the cameras needed to shoot inside the cockpit, there was pressure from certain quarters to shoot the movie’s aerial sequences first. Cruise disagreed. “I said, ‘Guys, you don’t know what it’s like, shooting an aerial sequence. I tell you what: We’re going to do a test shoot, to find out what this is going to take.’ So, we did my first test of the low-level run [you see in the movie] with a real TOPGUN pilot. A great pilot, called “Walleye”. And the detail that it took and the level of shit that went wrong, from a cinematic point of view, was huge,” laughs Cruise. “But, the footage we got was amazing. We cut it together and I showed them the runs and also the problems, because I said, ‘Look, I can’t just stick an actor in an F/A-18. They’re not going to get what we need. Not only are they going to pass out, there are so many things happening in that airplane. You have cameras. You have lighting. You have performance. We have to create an entire support system for these guys, so that they get comfortable with it. They’ve got to be pulling Gs. They’ve got to be low. They have to have that experience in that aircraft. You see it. You feel it. You can’t fake it.’”

That support system was built around five months of intense flight training, Cruise creating a training program, writing the young cast bespoke daily targets and enlisting instructors to teach them how to first get comfortable with aviation, then to learn how to fly and then to be 17 able to sustain G force. Each day they would have to fill out a detailed form about how their day went, so that Cruise could then adjust and tailor each individual program. “You hear all this, that Tom Cruise is going to personally read these forms you’re filling in every day and you think, ‘There’s no way that Tom Cruise is really doing that – he’s got way more important shit to be doing,’” laughs Pullman. “And then you realize, ‘Oh my word, he actually is. He is giving me personal feedback on each day of my training.’”

From the Cessna it was into the Extra 300. “In the Extra it was more aerobatic, so they could start pulling Gs,” says Cruise. “Then I could get another plane close to them, so they could start feeling comfortable in the air while having other aircraft outside. It’s harder to sit in an airplane and pull Gs than if you’re flying it yourself. It’s like if you’re in a car, if you’re a passenger in a race car. The driver knows when they’re about to turn, even if it’s a split second. You’re able to anticipate when you’re driving. Your muscles, your breathing, every aspect of you is getting ready for that turn, for the onset of G force. So, they [the cast] had to do whole aerobatic manouevres where they weren’t flying. It’s exhausting and it can be disorienting, particularly in an F/A-18, with so much going on.” It was G-forces that were behind the decision to shoot as much of Top Gun: Maverick as practically as possible, their effects on the human body being so clear to see that faking flying in these machines was just not an option. But that pursuit of authenticity meant that Cruise and his co-pilots would have to train their bodies to sustain extreme pressure.

It was G-force that was behind the decision to shoot as much of Top Gun: Maverick as practically as possible, their effects on the human body being so clear to see that faking flying in these machines was just not an option. But that pursuit of authenticity meant that Cruise and his co-pilots would have to train their bodies to sustain extreme pressure. “Right now, on earth, there’s one force of gravity on our bodies,” explains Cruise. “Two Gs is twice our body weight. Three is three times our body weight. So if someone who weighs 200 pounds is pulling two Gs, he’s feeling 400 pounds. In this movie, the actors are pulling seven-and-a-half or eight Gs, so if you weigh 200 pounds, that’s going to be 1,600 pounds of force crushing your body, forcing the blood out of your brain. Your vision closes in and it forces 18 all the blood down to your legs. You have to train so you don’t go into something called G-LOC, where you go unconscious. You have to build up that tolerance so that you can actually sustain the levels of G-force and be able to fly. I wanted the audience to see and experience the effect of Gs. You can’t [artificially] distort a face like that.”

And that final step up into the F/A-18s genuinely was everything the actors had hoped for, the real Navy pilots taking them on the ride of their lives as they nailed a series of sequences that have to be seen to be believed. “The intensity is so much more palpable in one of those planes,” says Barbaro. “In our first flight there were no cameras. It was just to experience what it was like, with a little bit of BFM [basic fighter manoeuvres) and some low-level manoeuvres , and what that feels like on the body at the end of the flight. Realizing at that moment that these were the conditions [in which] we would also have to be acting and speaking lines and turning cameras on and off and checking our make-up, fixing our props, and communicating with our pilot, that’s when I started to realize exactly how much the training helped us.”

Read why Kelly McGillis is not in the sequel HERE

Read How Top Gun was almost made without Tom Cruise HERE

Here’s our interview with Greg Tarzan Davies & Danny Ramirez…..

Here’s Tom Cruise on the red carpet at the World premiere….


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