Top Gun Maverick’s Director Has A Funny Story About How He And Tom Cruise Concocted Some Of The Insane Fighter Pilot Footage In The Film

Tom Cruise flying a jet in Top Gun: Maverick
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

By now, a lot of people have seen Top Gun: Maverick and experienced the impressive fighter jet action that the movie has on offer. In the lead up to the movie we heard a lot about the movie’s commitment to getting that footage practically, and the work that Tom Cruise and the rest of the cast put in, in order to make it happen. Director Joseph Kosinski previously spoke about how that was done, and perhaps more importantly, why it was necessary.

A big part of the reason why Top Gun: Maverick needed to use real jets is, of course, that it’s the only way Tom Cruise was ever going to make the movie. We know about Cruise’s commitment to realism and director Joseph Kowalski, having previously directed Cruise in Oblivion, knew that to be the case. Beyond that, however, Kosinski also told a CinemaCon audience earlier this year that the movie not only needed practical footage, but needed it to be better than what was already available in the world. The director explained…

I had done movies with Tom before, so I knew that not only is he capable of doing anything in this film but that it’s essentially a requirement that he is as grounded and realistic as possible. So I knew that was one of the fundamental parts that the film had to be that way. I had seen these videos on YouTube of Navy pilots putting Go Pro cameras, sticking them in their canopy and just shooting their training. And you know, it was just done with a Go Pro on the Internet. It was spectacular. It’s was better than anything I’d seen in film as far as aerials go. So I showed that to Tom and I said, ‘This is available on the Internet for free. If we can’t beat this, there’s no point in making this film.’

So it wasn’t just about getting real fighter jet footage, but getting it in such a way that it would still wow a big screen audience. That certainly raised the bar, and it’s what eventually led to the version of Top Gun: Maverick we got and the insane action sequences we saw. They figured out how to cram multiple IMAX cameras into a cockpit. The movie is a massive IMAX spectacle.  Then had to get the cast trained to be able handle the high intensity work. Kosinski continues…

He agreed and then basically began like a 15-month project to figure out how to get a motion picture camera in the cockpit. Honestly, where we got to, we got six IMAX-quality cameras in the cockpit of these airplanes. Working very closely with the navy to do that. Obviously, the challenge after that was: I knew Tom would be able to handle everything [sic]. But could we get Glen [Powell] to go in the plane? Be able to do everything he needed to do and all the rest of the actors. Then began this long training program that Tom designed for the actors to prepare.

The Top Gun training program clearly worked, though, some, like Miles Teller, had some initial health issues because of it. In the end, everybody got up in the air and the result was some fantastic aerial combat sequences. If there is a Top Gun 3 in 20 years that movie is going to have its work cut out for it.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

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