Tom Cruise Personally Designed the Flight Training for New 'Top Gun' Actors

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Monica Barbaro and Tom Cruise on the set of "Top Gun: Maverick." (Paramount)

Both producer Jerry Bruckheimer and producer/actor Tom Cruise have been vocal about the fact that they didn't want to make a "Top Gun" sequel unless they could deliver the greatest aerial footage ever committed to film.

Well, they made "Top Gun: Maverick," and we'll get to see for ourselves if they delivered on that goal when the movie finally opens in theaters for Memorial Day 2022. As the final countdown to liftoff begins, they've released a new video that talks about flight training for a new generation of "Top Gun" actors.

 

Miles Teller leads the new cast as Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, the son of Maverick's late radar intercept officer (RIO), Nick "Goose" Bradshaw. Glen Powell ("Hangman"), Monica Barbaro ("Phoenix"), Lewis Pullman ("Bob"), Jay Ellis ("Payback"), Danny Ramirez ("Fanboy") and Greg Tarzan Davis ("Coyote") joined Teller in an intense flight training program devised by Cruise.

The kids are getting loaded up with G-forces as the video begins. Radio comms suggest that the grimacing faces are reacting to 7 Gs. Cruise revisits his longtime resistance to making a sequel, relating that he wanted to wait until the filming technology evolved to the point where he could delve deeper into the experiences of fighter pilots in combat.

Related: Meet Your New 'Top Gun' Crew

Bruckheimer reminds us that the first movie "became something that changed a generation," a statement that would be outrageous if it didn't happen to actually be true. The movie fueled a boom in Navy recruiting and fostered a change in attitude toward military service in a generation too young to have been eligible for the draft.

Cruise says the filmmakers worked with the Navy and the Top Gun school to figure out how to shoot the movie "practically" in F-18s, which means they wanted the flight action to be real with zero or at least a minimum of computer-generated effects.

If you want the action sequences to be real, you've got to teach actors how to act in a cockpit and not throw up all over the cameras. Bruckheimer says the cast went through "three months of grueling training." Cruise made his actors go through underwater training, because real aviators have to be able to survive if they eject over the ocean. We see footage of the cast getting dunked, so no one has to take the producers' word for this. It happened.

Barbaro delivers the headline when she says, "Tom designed this all-encompassing aviation training for all the actors." Cruise started them out in single-engine airplanes to build up their spatial awareness inside the aircraft.

Next, they flew in the Aero L-39 Albatros, a Czech-designed jet trainer in wide use by militaries around the world. After getting a feel for aerobatics, they graduated to the F-18 Super Hornet and got launched off an aircraft carrier.

The actors acquired one skill that's not needed for air combat. They had to act as their own camera operators to film their airborne scenes. Cruise says, "I really had to teach them cinematography and lighting, so they understood what's gonna look good on camera."

Would old-school actors tell you that it's called "acting" and that they'd do just fine with a cockpit mock-up on a soundstage with rear-projection footage? Sure, that's how John Wayne did it. But why wouldn't you take advantage of every single piece of access you could get if you were Maverick and use it to make a movie that's as realistic as possible?

If nothing else, "Top Gun: Maverick" is a chance to see some of the Navy's best technology up close on a giant movie screen. Most of us are never going up in an F-18, so let's celebrate Maverick's gift to aviation fans and cross our fingers that the story matches the flight footage.

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