Top Gun: Maverick Team Talks Shirtless Beach Football Scene, And How Some Cast Nearly Didn’t Get To Show Off Their Hard-Earned Abs

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The other day, I mentioned to a friend that I had seen the new Top Gun movie, Top Gun: Maverick, which returns Tom Cruise to the cockpit after more than 30 years to play the hotshot fighter pilot. “Does it have a volleyball scene?” was her first inquiry about the sequel. That’s how iconic the beach volleyball scene from the first movie has become, set to Kenny Loggins’ “Playing With The Boys” and featuring a team-building montage that the ‘80s were experts in. There is not a volleyball scene in Top Gun: Maverick, but there is a beach football scene (the equivalent), and it raised a few valid concerns with the director and his cast. 

Joseph Koskinski brought Top Gun: Maverick to Las Vegas recently to show the entire film to CinemaCon, a gathering of theater exhibitors. Reactions out of the convention were crazy positive, and during a luncheon following the screening, Koskinski opened up to press about his desire to do different things with the Top Gun franchise. When it came time to include a team-building sports scene, he explained:

We didn’t want to be the cover band version of Top Gun. So our talented screenwriters figured out a way that that scene actually has a story to it. You’ll see it has a very specific point that Maverick is making that scene happen. But the scene itself, I almost feel like Glen’s almost better to talk it out because for the actors this was the Super Bowl of, you know, shirtless scenes. The amount of hard work you had to put in ahead of time, and when the day came, you know just as an aside, I originally conceived it as shirts vs. skins, so when we got to the beach that day I was kind of dividing it up, and very quickly found out that no one (was) looking to keep their shirt on. They were like, ‘No way, I worked too hard.’

Totally understandable. If you train that hard for a movie like Top Gun: Maverick, and are in the best possible physical shape, you don’t want to be relegated to the “Shirts” team. You want to flex out, and display the fruits of your labor. After all, as part of this process, Tom Cruise put his co-stars through a rigorous boot camp, and another co-star admitted to throwing up while enduring the flying sequences that are necessary for the sequel. This cast laid it all on the line! 

So says Top Gun: Maverick co-star Glen Powell, who claims that he had to stand up for an unnamed co-star who absolutely wanted to give out tickets to the gun show, so to speak. Powell told the CinemaCon crowd:

He was like, you guys are gonna be shirts and skins. And there was a guy that, this was his moment. He had literally been eating protein paste for a week and a half, no water, literally he was so regimented. And then Joe was gonna make him put his shirt on. And I saw his body collapse. He was like, ‘Oh my god, this is all I ever wanted.’ I was like, ‘Joe, we just can’t put shirts on. Everybody can just be freestyle and shirtless; we don’t really care about the tees.’

And so, the shirtless beach football scene was born.

Top Gun: Maverick

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

So many fans have been waiting patiently for Top Gun: Maverick to open. After delaying the movie for years, knowing that it will play best on the big screen and not someone’s living room, Tom Cruise is finally ready to invite the world to see his latest blockbuster. The promotional tour will include a Cannes Film Fest tribute for Cruise, and a red carpet in San Diego that CinemaBlend will be covering. Look for Top Gun: Maverick in theaters on May 27, and scan our list of upcoming 2022 movies to find out what else is coming to a multiplex near you this year.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.