Were Miles Teller And Top Gun: Maverick Pilots Really Acting When In The Jets? The Cast Explains

The intensity of new movie Top Gun: Maverick has drawn moviegoers out to the theater in record-breaking droves. Delivering Tom Cruise’s best box office opening weekend yet, and the third best Memorial Day weekend in the books, the highway to the Danger Zone has never had this much payoff before. Given the interest in the flick, we've already heard a lot about Glen Powell, Miles Teller and the other younger pilots going up in those very real planes. But were they actually acting while flying in those jets? 

CinemaBlend's own Sean O’Connell flew out to San Diego to take part in the premiere for Top Gun’s long-awaited sequel and when he sat down with Miles Teller, as well as Powell, Greg “Tarzan” Davis, and Manny Ramirez, there was one question he really wanted to know the answer to: How much of the scenes shot in the jets was actually acting and how much of it was simply reacting to the crazy situation they were in? Starting off with Miles Teller, here’s what CinemaBlend found out about what and how those in-plane scenes were shot:

It’s all performance, actually; because you have the four cameras in the cockpit, and to be fair, a lot of the time with the cameras, you couldn’t always see everything. I think that’s why we had so many hours in these things beforehand, so that we were as comfortable as we could be in the jet. Because you have to act like you’re flying the thing, and you have to be in perfect sequence with your pilot, otherwise the shot falls apart. So, I mean, that was a good thing. There were so many things we had to focus on up there to be able to get the shot.

Comfort is key, even though Top Gun: Maverick’s cast weren’t actually flying the fighter jets their characters were seen in. Per Pentagon regulations, anything greater than small arms cannot be controlled by non-military personnel. Though Miles Teller, who plays Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw in this weekend’s triumphant hit, nails it right on the head with his description. The acting was mostly in syncing up with the reality of the situation, conducted by the naval aviators calling the ball. 

That wasn’t the end of the acting for the cast of Top Gun 2. It seems that in terms of the drama being told at several Gs, Tom Cruise’s training camp prepared them a little too well. At least, that’s what it sounds like when it came time to act out the harrowing drama in the dogfighting sequences. For more on that, here’s what the rest of the cast told CinemaBlend: 

"Danny Ramirez: Well, there is a little bit of both.

Greg ‘Tarzan’ Davis: Acting is reacting. 

Ramirez: We got so used to going up there, and our bodies were so adept to the Gs, that I think like in a month or two into being in the air, Tom was like, ‘All right, so you guys have adapted so well that now you guys have to start adding more intensity in certain moments.’ So then we had to just act. Like as we’re scraping the side of a mountain, we also had to be like, ‘All right. We’re so used to it that we have to add a little bit more.’

Glen Powell: Professor Cruise trained us so well that we … you know, when you’re flying 500 knots through canyons, you’re not as fazed as you were months earlier."

Looking at in-air footage released from Top Gun: Maverick, you can see some of the rougher days the cast had to contend with. Sure enough, with the right preparations, it sounds like everyone became top flight performers in the air. They certainly had the sense memory to act out the rougher days in the air when the time was right, and it makes all the difference when watching the finished product. Thanks, Professor Cruise!

Flying high in theaters at the moment, Top Gun: Maverick is finally entertaining audiences in the best way possible. Should you feel a bit nostalgic after checking it out, a Paramount+ subscription will let you relive the thrills of the original Top Gun, as that’s the streaming home for the film at the time of this writing. Should you want to take a look at what awaits on the roster of upcoming Tom Cruise movies, that’s a mission anyone should be equipped to accept.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.