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Tom Cruise Basically Got Top Gun: Maverick Greenlit By Picking Up The Phone And Telling The Studio He Was Doing It

It’s become more common nowadays for popular movies to score sequels/follow-ups decades later. In fact, the most commercially successful movie of 2022 falls into this “legacyquel” category, with Top Gun: Maverick soaring past $1 billion worldwide on top of earning critical acclaim. So how did Tom Cruise arrange for his return to the role Pete “Maverick” Mitchell? According to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, it was as simple as calling Paramount Pictures and telling the studio he was doing it.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jerry Bruckheimer on behalf of the Top Gun: Maverick digital rollout. After noting how the sequel had been in development since 2010 and hit a setback when Tony Scott, the original Top Gun’s director who’d been slated to reprise his helming duties, died in 2012, I asked Bruckheimer at what point he and the other creative minds behind Maverick decided that it was still worth moving forward with the movie. He responded:

Well, Tom felt that Maverick was an iconic character in his filmography, and if he was gonna make a sequel, it had to hit a bullet with a bullet. And Joe Kosinski came up with an idea we’d been toying around with, but Joe kind of capsulated it. And we flew to Paris while Tom was making Mission: Impossible, and Joe had a notebook and sat down with Tom and said, ‘Here’s  a story I want to tell, and here’s what it’s going to look like.’ And Tom looked at him and said, ‘Look, Joe, if we’re gonna make this, we’re gonna make it real. I want everybody in those planes, I wanna feel it.’ And Joe said, ‘That’s the only way I want to make it.’ And Tom picked up his phone and called the head of the studio at the time and said, ‘I want to make another Top Gun.’ And of course they were delighted.

Tom Cruise was specifically working on Mission: Impossible — Fallout when Joseph Kosinski, who’d previously worked with Cruise on Oblivion, came into the picture with his pitch for Top Gun: Maverick. Again, the sequel to the 1986 hit had been in development for a while at this point, but Cruise wanted to make it clear to Kosinski that Maverick would only get off the ground (pun fully intended) is if his co-stars went through flight training and actually joined him in the sky. Once Kosinski agreed this was the right course of action, Cruise called up the Paramount bigwigs and told them he was ready to make Maverick.

Along with wanting legitimate flying on display in Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise also stipulated that he wouldn’t do the movie unless Val Kilmer returned too. Kilmer starred as rival-turned-wingman Tom “Iceman” Kazansky in the original Top Gun, and along with reprising the character in Maverick, the actor also “cracked” how Iceman could be thrown into the mix. Here’s what Jerry Bruckheimer said to me about Maverick’s emotional scene between Cruise and Kilmer:

Well Tom always said, ‘I’m not making the movie unless Val’s in it.’ And we called Val and talked to him about the character he was gonna play, and Val had some other ideas and we collaborated along with Tom and Chris McQuarrie, and came up with the role that he plays in the movie, which is obviously very emotional. And it’s one of the emotional cores of the film. It’s that ride that Maverick goes through with an old friend and the emotions he feels through the making of the movie, and the audience feels that. That’s a big part of our success.

Spoiler warning for those of you who haven’t seen Top Gun: Maverick, but the reunion between the title protagonist and Iceman is made all the more heart-wrenching when shortly after their meeting, Iceman, who was suffering from throat cancer, passed away. But as Jerry Bruckheimer sees it, getting one last scene between Maverick and Iceman is one of the key ways that the Top Gun sequel has been welcomed with so much positive reception. Maybe there’s a reality somewhere in the multiverse where Maverick never moved forward, but fortunately for fans of this property, we live in the reality where it’s been a massive success across the board.

While Top Gun: Maverick is available to buy on digital platforms now, it’s also continuing its theatrical run for the foreseeable future. The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD releases will follow on November 1, and the sequel is also expected to become available for Paramount+ subscribers to stream at some point. Keep checking back with CinemaBlend for news about other 2022 movie releases and what’s coming up on the 2023 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.