For Tom Cruise to make his return to the big screen as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell — nearly four decades after the beloved original “Top Gun” made audiences feel the “need for speed” — “Top Gun: Maverick” had to be something the cinematic world had never seen before.
“I wasn’t ready to make a sequel until we had a special story worthy of a sequel,” Cruise admits in a new featurette for “Top Gun: Maverick”, which Paramount shared on Monday. “And until technology evolved so we could delve deeper into the experience of a fighter pilot.”
The technology is unprecedented. The film’s crew worked with the Navy and the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, aka TOPGUN, to figure out how to practically shoot the cast inside actual F-18s. Ultimately, director Joseph Kosinski filmed the high-flying scenes using a unique, high-tech setup that featured six IMAX-Certified cameras rigged in each cockpit to capture the aerial experience like never before.
The “Maverick” cast was put through their paces as well, with three months of flight and water survival training, plus hand-on lessons on how to “direct” themselves while sitting one-on-one with the camera set-up in the fighter jets’ cramped cockpit.
“It’s definitely the most amazing thing I’ve ever done,” Insecure star Jay Ellis, who plays Lieutenant Reuben “Payback” Fitch in the film, raves in the clip. “All the training 100 percent prepared us.”
“It still blows my mind that we’ve done this,” agrees Monica Barbaro, who plays Lieutenant Natasha “Phoenix” Trace. “There’s nothing like it.”
Plus, there was Cruise’s personal “all-encompassing aviation training,” which took his co-stars through a gauntlet of aviation experience, from a single-engine airplane, to an L-39, to the F-18 Super Hornet.
“I’m very proud of what we all accomplished,” Cruise raves of the “Maverick” cast as the clip shows Ellis, Barbaro, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Danny Ramirez and more of the film’s stars during their intense flight training. “Each one of them are extraordinary.”
“Everybody thought it would be impossible for actors to really be in the jets,” marvels Teller, who plays Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, the son of Maverick’s late partner best friend, Goose.
“That’s the gift that Tom gave us, that by the time we got up there, we could handle it,” agrees Powell, who plays Lieutenant Hangman.
See the full featurette below:
Powell previously spoke with ET about working with Cruise on the film and the rigorous training regimen that prepared the cast for the roles.
“We got a lot of flight time,” the actor noted. “It’s a really rare experience, flying with the best pilots in the world and getting trained by the best pilots in the world.”
For the “Set It Up” star, it was an experience that continued beyond the Maverick set, as he revealed Cruise paid for him to complete his flight certification following production on the film, noting, “He gets excited about anyone that’s passionate about aviation.”
“And then, when a flight instructor is testing you on all your knowledge and they look in your log book and you have F-18 hours, they’re very confused. Like, no civilian has F-18 hours — especially when you’re trying to get your pilot’s license,” Powell recalled. “So that was kind of cool.”
“Top Gun: Maverick” is in theaters May 27. See more on the anticipated sequel in the video below.