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The Top Gun: Maverick Scenes Jay Ellis Would Have Loved To Direct

Warning: some light spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick are in play. So if you haven’t taken your trip into the Danger Zone yet, this is your warning. 

It’s going to be hard to find an upcoming movie that can beat Top Gun: Maverick for 2022’s box office crown. With over $1 billion in worldwide grosses, Tom Cruise’s legacy-quel is a high flying success, leaving many a director envious of its standings. In his own way, actor and director Jay Ellis is jealous of the very movie he helped make a winner, though it’s not for anything bad. Rather, there are some choice scenes Ellis would have loved to direct, from the lens of his other profession. 

As I spoke with Jay Ellis for a press day celebrating Top Gun: Maverick’s digital home release, I asked him to look at the blockbuster from his directing perspective. Known for helming projects like episodes of the HBO series Insecure and Rap Shit, the actor has started to make a move into the world behind the camera. With that in mind, I inquired about which scenes he would have been most excited to direct. 

Two moments came to mind when this question was asked, and for the first scene Jay Ellis selected, it was all about the acting. Here’s what Ellis told CinemaBlend: 

So there’s two scenes. I’ll say one is pure performance, and that’s a scene with Jon Hamm, who plays Cyclone, Charles Parnell, who plays Warlock, and Tom [Cruise]. They’re in Cyclone’s office, this is after Maverick has changed the hard deck, and Cyclone is just going in on him. And then he tells him that if he’s going to even consider changing it, it has to be in a written request. The moment kind of comes down for a split second, and then Maverick reaches back, grabs a paper, puts it on Cyclone’s desk. Cyclone’s like ‘What is this?’, and [Maverick’s] like, ‘It’s a request to change the hard deck to 3000 feet.’ Such a great moment, and Charles has this perfect smirk on his face, Hamm has this look where his eyes just go up to Maverick, and Maverick at the same time is like just staring straight ahead, not breaking but fully knows he just got Cyclone. Such a great performance moment. I love that, that’s literally one of my favorite moments in the film.

That scene described above is indeed a pure example of Top Gun: Maverick’s more performance-driven moments. Seeing Tom Cruise put one past Jon Hamm, and Charles Parnell playing the moment off with a cool reaction, is one of the standout scenes in director Joseph Kosinski’s Titanic-defeating box office smash. One could even say that this is one of the best scenes that represents what Maverick was all about, as the cocky aviator we saw in Top Gun has learned all sorts of new ways to mess with the chain of command. 

Of course, what would Top Gun: Maverick be without its own share of action. Adrenaline and fighter jets are what built Tony Scott’s iconic 1986 film into the legend that it is today, and Kosinski’s follow-up didn’t shy away from that sort of action. Looking towards this part of the equation, Jay Ellis chose the following as the other piece of Maverick he wished he could have directed: 

Outside of that, the third act I think is something that, as a whole, the third act is just something that I would absolutely like to have gotten my hands around. There’s so many amazing moments in the third act, from all of us flying in formation out over the ocean, and then cutting through the valleys. That whole flight sequence to the bomb run itself…when the SAMs start attacking us, and we’re in the air, that was intense and crazy. Also a favorite moment of mine. And then when Maverick ejects and goes to find Rooster, just runs into him like a bullet and knocks him over, it’s just another great moment.

To me, Top Gun: Maverick’s entire third act is, without question, one of the best to have been landed by a blockbuster in recent years. A total payoff of everything that came before it, the frantic twists that land in-between moments of peril and white knuckle thrills keep the energy pumping without fail. Completing the trick with those moments that see Tom Cruise’s Captain Pete Mitchell seeking redemption by saving Rooster (Miles Teller), son of the dearly departed Goose (Anthony Edwards), is something that sealed the deal on a movie that was decades in the making.

Even without all of the cultural baggage from Top Gun, Jay Ellis or anyone else who worked on the sequel could tell you that Maverick’s third act was something special. For a director, sticking such a landing is a dream that makes the hard work of moviemaking worth the effort. To be able to get one’s hands on something like Top Gun: Maverick in general is a blessing. 

However, even if you could just snag the two scenes that Jay Ellis mentioned as part of his directing bucket list, the experience would have been well worth it. These are the early days of Ellis' helming duties, so who knows what opportunities will come his way in the future? With the success of Top Gun: Maverick likely to inspire plenty of other movies trying to capture those thrills, he could find himself shaping the kind of scenes he admired above sooner than he thinks. 

It’s something you need to see to believe, and Top Gun: Maverick is still playing in theaters should you want to feel the need for speed as large and loud as possible. Home audiences can currently rent the film digitally, with the full physical media release arriving on November 1st. Last, but not least, those with a Paramount+ subscription are not only able to stream Top Gun at the time of this writing, but they’ll also be privy to Top Gun: Maverick’s eventual streaming debut. 

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.