Tom Cruise Apparently Had To Be Convinced To Make Top Gun: Maverick, And Director Joseph Kosinski Shares His Epic Pitch

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick
(Image credit: Skydance Media)

Light spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick lie ahead, so read at your own risk.

After a long road to the big screen, Top Gun: Maverick has finally arrived, and it’s making some serious noise. The film has been a box office success (despite not having secured a China release), even giving Tom Cruise his biggest opening weekend ever. Critics have also heaped praise on the aerial sequences and Cruise’s performance, among other things. With all of this in mind, some may be surprised to learn that the actor originally didn’t want to make the sequel. Now, director Joseph Kosinski has revealed the epic pitch he made to him. 

Joseph Kosinski seems to have had a strong desire to revive the character of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and eventually got a hold of Jerry Bruckheimer. The veteran producer was pleased with Kosinski’s idea but, of course, he then had to get through to the face of the franchise. As the director explained to Vulture, they arranged a meet-up with him, though Kosinski didn’t realize until closer to the chat that the actor had not interest in returning to the franchise:

At the time I came into it, Tom Cruise didn’t want to do the movie, which I found out later. This all started almost exactly five years ago. Jerry Bruckheimer sent me an early draft they were working on and wanted my thoughts. I pitched him my take. He liked it and said, ‘You’ve got to pitch this to Tom directly.’ Jerry and I flew to Paris, where Tom was shooting Mission, and we got about a half-hour out of his time. What I didn’t realize was Tom did not want to make another Top Gun. I got a hint of it when Tom called me after I landed. He said, ‘Joe, thank you for coming out. No matter what happens, it’ll be great to see you regardless.’ And I was like, Oh, wait, he doesn’t want to do this.

That development had to be somewhat surprising for the Only the Brave director at the time. Nevertheless, he did have a leg up in the situation, as he and the Maverick actor had already made a movie (Oblivion) and had established a firm working relationship. From there, Joseph Kosinski was able to pitch his story and, based on his description of that fateful meeting, he did so in a very passionate and epic way, which ultimately hooked Tom Cruise:

But because I had made a film with him before, I knew I had to grab him emotionally. So I opened with the idea that this is a rite-of-passage story like the first film. The first film is a drama, even though it’s wrapped in this glossy action film. This would be the same thing, but it would be Maverick reconciling with Goose’s son set against this mission that would take them both deep into enemy territory. And as soon as I said that, I could see the wheels in his head start to turn. Then I pitched the idea of Dark Star, the opening sequence, what Maverick’s doing when we find him. Which I think was also important because Maverick is still Maverick, but he’s not buzzing the tower at the local air base. He’s on the cutting edge of aviation, pushing the envelope as always. But he’s alone. He’s alone at the beginning of this film. Then I talked about shooting practically, and obviously Tom’s 100 percent in for all that. And then the title. I said we can’t call it Top Gun 2. We’ve got to call it Top Gun: Maverick — a character story. So he pulled out his phone, called the head of Paramount, and said, ‘We’re making a sequel to Top Gun.’ And it was boom, green light.

How could you not be on board for the movie after hearing an extensive and detailed spiel like that? You have to love a director who knows what they want and how they want to accomplish it all. And it can’t be understated just how impressive it is that he was able to get Tom Cruise to buy in. The actor seems to be very particular about the productions he’s chosen in recent years, though most have admittedly been other legacy sequels. Still, kudos to Joseph Kosinski for pushing through, despite the obvious hesitation on the actor’s part. 

Funny enough, there are even more great aspects of the movie that the filmmaker didn’t even mention while detailing his pitch. There’s the shirtless football scene, during which the actors got to show off their well-earned abs. And of course, one has to point out the poignant reunion between Maverick and Iceman, played by the returning Val Kilmer. Interestingly, the director previously revealed to our own ReelBlend podcast that Kilmer greatly contributed to the creation of that scene.

Simply put, Joseph Kosinski (and his numerous collaborators, of course) deserve a lot of gratitude from Top Gun fans. Not only did they make a sequel that honors the original film, but they also created a movie that’s now a perfect way to kick off the summer blockbuster season. So let this be a lesson, folks. When you’re pursuing something you’re passionate about, don’t get discouraged by obstacles – even if one happens to be Tom Cruise. 

Top Gun: Maverick, one of the year's biggest new movie releases, is now playing in theaters.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.