Top Gun: Maverick Director Reveals The Hardest Scene To Shoot For Tom Cruise’s Sequel, And It Might Surprise You

In an age where it’s easier for ever for blockbuster productions to simulate all sorts of things using computer-generated imagery, Top Gun: Maverick prioritized going practical whenever possible by having Tom Cruise and the actor playing his fellow pilots learning how to fly actual jets and taking to the skies. And yet, according to Maverick director Joseph Kosinski, the hardest scene to shoot in the sequel wasn’t anything aircraft-related. Quite the opposite, as it actually involved something that happened on the water.

Those of you who’ve seen Top Gun: Maverick (and if you haven’t, it can be streamed with a Paramount+ subscription) will remember a moment when Tom Cruise’s Peter “Maverick” Mitchell joins Jennifer Connelly’s Penny Benjamin as she sails her boat to the “yard” to get its engine fixed. Maverick may be a whiz when it comes to flying planes, but it’s abundantly clear in this scene that he’s out of his element when traveling across the waves, though Penny does a good job instructing him on what to do. As for why the sailing scene was so challenging to shoot, Joseph Kosinski said the following to Vulture:

I mean, the hardest one, which is one that you wouldn’t think, was actually the sailing sequence. Because there was so much out of our control. I had to shoot that scene three times in three different places before we got it. I shot it off the coast of Los Angeles — there was no wind. Then two weeks later, I shot it off the coast of San Diego — there was no wind. Then we took the whole scene and crew up to San Francisco — and the wind blew like hell. So what you’re seeing is Tom and Jennifer Connelly on a very, very fast carbon-fiber racing boat doing 20, 22 knots. We had an America’s Cup team stuffed into the hull of that thing in case anything went wrong. And Claudio Miranda, the cinematographer, and I are on a boat next to it with a Technocrane. I’m literally holding on to Claudio’s chair for dear life, trying to look at the monitor, and he’s operating the camera.

So this wasn’t just a matter of shooting Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly off one area of the California coast over a few takes. Joseph Kosinski and his crew had to shoot this sequence across multiple locations over the span of a few weeks, and throwing in the wind complications and Kosinski himself doing his best just to keep his balance on the other boat, it’s understandable why this was quite the ordeal. The filmmaker continued:

The logistics of being able to pull off a sailing sequence gave me so much more appreciation for … you remember that movie Wind with Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey? I watch that movie now and go, Holy s--t, how did they do that? This is really, really difficult to pull off. So that was an unexpected challenge that was very different than the aerial stuff. But from an aerial point of view, the third act was a monster of logistics, planning, storyboarding, and working in a naval low-level training range up in the Cascades. So that was an extremely complex sequence to figure out. Mav’s low-level, when he proves that the course can be run in two minutes and 15 seconds, was probably the most extreme thing we shot. Just watching that footage, you can see Tom looking directly into the sheer rock face next to him and seeing the shadow from his own jet about 15 feet away. That tells you how extreme the flying was for that sequence. That was probably the most dangerous thing we did.

Tom Cruise and his fellow actors went through a lot of training to fly in Top Gun: Maverick, so it says a lot that the sailing scene was the most “dangerous” one to shoot. If you need a reminder about how the final product turned out, rewatch it below:

It’s been almost a year since Top Gun: Maverick arrived in theaters and spent much of 2022 as the highest-grossing movie of the year, although Avatar: The Way of Water (which comes out on digital release at the end of March) ultimately surpassed it. Now we’re just a few days away from seeing how Maverick does among the other 2023 Oscar nominees, with the sequel competing in the Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Sound, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects categories. Maverick producer Jerry Bruckheimer has also shared why he thinks there’s a chance Top Gun 3 could happen, though no discussions have happened with Tom Cruise about that yet.

Find out how Top Gun: Maverick does at the 95th Academy Awards by tuning in to ABC Sunday, March 12 at 8 pm ET. After that, Tom Cruise can next be seen on the big screen in Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning: Part One, which opens on July 14 among the 2023 new movie releases.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.