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One Risky Maneuver A Navy Pilot Told Tom Cruise He'd 'Never Do' Again While Filming Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick is a big hit at the global box office and one of the reasons that is being given credit for the film’s runaway success is that rather than relying on CGI, Maverick used real fighter jets for the film’ action. That action is pretty incredible, but one moment in the film was apparently so dangerous that even the professional fighter pilot told Tom Cruise he would never try it again.

All the actual flying scenes in Maverick saw an actor paired with a fighter pilot who did the flying, while the actor performed their scenes for the camera. One of Top Gun: Maverick’s biggest moments comes when Tom Cruise’s character flies his jet only about 50 feet above the ground, this obviously puts the jet close to crashing. According to the New York Times, the jet was so close to the ground that it kicked up dust and made the cameras on the ground shake. The moment was apparently enough to shake the professional fighter pilot.

Both Top Gun movies make reference to the “hard deck,” an altitude limit that pilots must stay above while training. I’ll admit that as a kid, I never understood what the hard deck was for, as obviously during actual combat no pilot would hold themselves to an arbitrary altitude limit. However, Top Gun: Maverick makes it clear that the limit exists as a way to ensure safety for the pilots, as well as the very expensive jets.

So flying so close to the ground is something most pilots don’t have a lot of experience doing, and the margin for error is very slim, making the possibility for accidents only greater. It makes one wonder just how the film was able to get away with doing things that would never been allowed during normal training. Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski explained to Times that it ultimately came down to the fact that the people making decisions at the Navy were a bunch of Top Gun fanboys. Kosinski says…

All the admirals that are in charge right now were 21 in 1986, or around there when they signed up. They supported us and let us do all this crazy stuff.

It’s an often repeated story that Navy recruitment went through the roof following the release of the original film, even though apparently Navy pilots can be a little overzealous in their love for Top Gun. It’s pretty wild to consider that some of the people who were inspired by the first film to join up have now been promoted to positions in the last 35 years that puts them in charge of making decisions when the long awaited Top Gun sequel finally becomes a reality. 

Dirk Libbey
Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.