A Top Gun: Maverick Plot Point Was Changed After Producers Saw Monica Barbaro And Lewis Pullman’s Chemistry

In a legacy-quel like 2022’s new movie release Top Gun: Maverick, there’s bound to be some quarrels among those pilots known as the best of the best. Were the original script of the Tom Cruise blockbuster to have remain intact, a plot point between Monica Barbaro’s Phoenix and Lewis Pullman’s Bob would have steered into those very familiar skies of quarrel. However, the pair’s chemistry rewrote that angle, turning a pair of adversaries into good friends. 

I could see why that storyline was rewritten when speaking with both Barbaro and Pullman on behalf of Paramount and its home entertainment release of Top Gun: Maverick. Just like their characters, the pair of actors were ready to back each other’s call and provide more details to better tell the stories that came up during our talk. However, this story starts through Monica Barbaro telling CinemaBlend about how this pair of aviators were supposed to get on, and how it all changed: 

Interestingly, our characters, Phoenix was originally written to not like Bob. Like she doesn’t trust Bob very much, or doesn’t like him. And they changed that immediately. We saw Lew’s phenomenal, charming presence in the way he portrayed Bob in the bar, and you can’t not love him. So luckily that changed, and it wasn’t something that we had to build. Our characters immediately liked each other, and we got to forge that bond in our first Cessna flight, which was fun.

It’s not hard to see why these two got along so well, as watching Barbaro trade inside stories and compliments with her Top Gun sequel costar is such a delight. The energy the two of them brought into the room together is powerful, and it would have been a stretch to imagine Lewis Pullman ever pretending to disagree with her. To break apart a friendship like this, even through fiction, seems like a crime.

That impression only grew through Pullman’s compliments towards his wingman. Reinforcing the fact that Monica Barbaro impressed the Top Gun: Maverick cast with her flying abilities, the man playing the pilot mysteriously known as “Bob” lavished quite a bit of praise on Monica Barbaro’s performance. Upholding this formation of good feelings, here's what Pullman had to say:

So much of the art imitated life. Like I think it was pretty challenging doing a lot of this stuff we were doing, flying around and some business like that. But Monica was a natural, so it was really a kind of instantaneous circumstance to bond over. I was getting advice from Monica, and could talk about challenges I was going through. Monica never puked once. Monica also pulled the most G’s out of anyone. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, everyone claims to be the best pilot amongst us, except me, I would never take that claim. But Monica is true blue, the best pilot amongst us, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

As anyone from the Top Gun 2 set would tell you, there was a lot of vomiting involved with the Tom Cruise legacy-quel. Barbaro’s iron stomach is just another one of those credits to her achievements as an actor or an aviator, as well as a sign of the pressure she put on herself to be a true Top Gun candidate. So on one hand, the praise she was given by Lewis Pullman is totally earned. 

However, ever humble, Monica Barbaro cut her co-star, and everyone else involved, some slack. Top Gun: Maverick’s experience put her through the wringer in its own way, despite putting on an impressive show. Reflecting on her own experience, Barbaro returned the compliment to Pullman with this admission:

You can’t control whether or not you throw up in this or not. So it was not a testament to me doing anything well, it’s just I got lucky. And the fact that you went through all of these bodily experiences, and still delivered the performance you did, like I could not! I would have left, I would have disappeared, I would have been on the lam. Nobody would have ever heard of me again. I would have run away if it meant that I had to go through what you went through to film this. So I think you’re a tougher pilot, but that’s just me.

Everything you’ve read above is just a sample of the joyful energy that these two reflected in each other’s company. While the acting skills between them could have probably put up a good show, the fact that the brass behind Top Gun: Maverick let Monica Barbaro and Lewis Pullman lean into their natural friendship made for an even better film experience. 

Also, who knows if Maverick could have withstood another rivalry in its plot. The one between Miles Teller’s Rooster and Glen Powell’s Hangman was already heated enough, and to have to wrap two threads of enemies turned friends might have been too much. The point is that nature won out, with Phoenix and Bob being allowed to fly high as a pair of true blue friends could go. It's the sort of friendship you love to see when you're about to make the Danger Zone your temporary home.

Could Top Gun: Maverick be considered one of best action movies ever? It’s a question that’s worth asking, especially when its predecessor is still so well regarded and this entry is still pretty fresh. If you need to watch either film in the series again, both are available to rent or own on digital and physical media. However, you can only stream Top Gun with a Paramount+ subscription at the moment, as Maverick’s streaming debut still doesn’t have a date for it to land on the tarmac.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.