Top Gun: Maverick Director Explains The Extreme Scene That The Navy Pilot Flying Tom Cruise Said He'd Never Do Again

Top Gun: Maverick has been the most successful film on the 2022 movie schedule so far, as it brought tons of viewers into the movie theater to witness the spectacle of high-flying planes and death-defying action. While Cruise is known for, and does, most of his stunts, there was one scene in Maverick where a Navy pilot flew the track for him. When they finished filming the pilot said he never wanted to do it again. 

Joseph Kosinski explained to Empire that the most extreme scene they shot in the movie was Maverick’s speedy flight through the mountains during training. The pilots have to get through a low and curvy path really fast. To prove it’s possible Maverick ends up flying the course. It was agreed early on that these flights would be practical, and everything we see on screen came from “practical aviation assets flying in front of a lens,” as the aerial coordinator Kevin LaRosa Jr. said. So, for this scene, real-life Navy pilot Frank “Walleye” Weisser flew the course with Cruise in the backseat. He elaborated on the technical difficulty of the sequence saying: 

That was the most extreme thing we shot in the film, just in terms of the practicality of what you’re actually seeing on screen. It’s all in-camera, it’s Tom Cruise at 550 knots, going 30 feet above ground through the Toiyabe [Canyon] low-level training grounds. That’s a real Top Gun training thing, but they never fly as low as he does. After they landed, Walleye came up to me and said, ‘Did you get it?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think we did.’ He said, ‘Good, because I’m never doing that again.’

In other words, they were flying low and fast, and in a way that is never actually done in real Navy training. So, it makes sense the pilot didn’t want to do it again, it sounds like it was a massive and dangerous challenge both physically and mentally. Meanwhile, Kosinski explained that Cruise was having the time of his life, saying: 

He would have done it 100 more times! In fact, I smile because when I watch that sequence, he’s wincing through the Gs, but I know under the mask he’s smiling for most of it, because he’s having the time of his life.

Cruise is definitely committed to the art of great action movies. In the Mission Impossible movies, he’s hung onto the outside of an airplane taking off, jumped from roof to roof, and much more, each time upping the ante. So, it makes sense that in the long-awaited Top Gun sequel Cruise had a blast creating these incredible scenes.

While there are moments in the film that defy the laws of physics, a lot of it was practical. Many of the stars have spoken about training for and filming the scenes up in the air. Danny Ramirez explained how insane it was to film in the air, saying they had to wear multiple hats from acting to helping run the cameras in the airplane. Plus, with Cruise leading the cast, the bar was set high for everyone when it came to training and the filming of the jaw-dropping action. 

While dangerous, the payoff of these scenes was incredible. They really pulled off an amazing feat with this movie, and it’s wild that the action was so intense even a Navy pilot didn’t want to fly certain sequences again. 

You can watch all this action in Top Gun: Maverick which is out on demand. Plus, make sure to stay tuned to the 2023 movie schedule to watch more of Cruise's death-defying action in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning - Part One

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She has written for national publications as well as daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Spokane, Washington, Syracuse, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with her master’s degree in arts journalism and communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Since joining the CB team she has covered numerous TV shows and movies -- including her personal favorite shows Ted Lasso and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also has followed and consistently written about everything from Taylor Swift to Fire Country, and she's enjoyed every second of it.