After a decade in the making and almost two years of release delays due to the pandemic, the Tom Cruise-starrer Top Gun: Maverick finally hit the theatres a few weeks back. Being a much-anticipated sequel to the original Top Gun movie from 1986 that made Tom Cruise the Hollywood superstar he is today, a lot was riding on it, especially the 59-year-old actor’s stardom. However, the action-packed movie ended up breaking the Memorial Day weekend records with a collection of around $160 million in its first four days of release, which is great news for not just Tom Cruise and everyone involved in making the Top Gun sequel but also for entire Hollywood that has been struggling to emerge from the pandemic.
One of the main reasons for the movie’s grand success can be attributed to the mind-bendingly complicated and thrill-inducing aerial action sequences. Tom Cruise is famous for doing almost all his death-defying stunts and the ones seen in Top Gun: Maverick is no different. In fact, the actor wanted the scenes to be so real that he ambitiously asked permission to pilot the F/a-18 Super Hornet himself while filming the movie. However, the US Navy forbade him from piloting the fighter jet, per a report by ScreenRant.
In an interview with Empire back in 2020, Cruise said he agreed to reprise the role of Maverick in a Top Gun sequel only on one condition. : “I said to Jerry [Bruckheimer], ‘I’ll do it if…’ meaning, I’m not going to do the CGI stuff.” He wanted all the aerial sequences to feature real aircraft carrying out the actual stunts without any green screens involved. As a producer of the movie, the celebrated actor was also in charge of creating a special training program for all the actors playing pilots and insisted that they learn how to fly fighter jets. The grueling training program prepared the actors to fully understand the gravitational forces experienced by pilots, operate cameras inside the cockpit by themselves, and not fall sick while the real Navy pilots pulled out those crazy maneuvers.
The production team was given access to Navy F/A-18s, aircraft carriers, and military bases. According to reports, Paramount Pictures Studios spent as much as $11,374 USD an hour for fighter jets used in the movie. However, they had to get a clearance from Pentagon’s media entertainment office, which included Cruise’s request to fly an F-18. “[Producer Jerry] Bruckheimer maintains that the US Navy ultimately denied Cruise’s requests to fly the Super Hornet, which boasts a price tag in excess of $70 million,” the ScreenRant report adds.
Like the rest of the actors, Cruise was a passenger in the twin-seater Super Hornet that was operated by an actual Navy fighter pilot. It is still pretty impressive as the aerial stunts were still very real. Furthermore, the Hollywood actor did fly “some” helicopters and a P-51 propeller-driven fighter plane while filming the movie. In fact, Tom Cruise has had his Pilot License since 1994 and personally owns quite a few aircraft, including a WWII-era P-51. He even took talk show host James Corden on a spin on his P-51 recently while promoting the new Top Gun movie. So, why did the US Navy refuse Cruise’s request to fly the F-18 when he certainly has the skills for it? Well, there could be several different logical reasons behind it.
Firstly, we are talking about a real US Navy fighter jet that has a base price of $70 million, which is almost half the actual budget for the movie. Then, it takes years of training to earn the skills to fly such a sophisticated military jet and it’s certainly not easy as it looks. Lastly, it would be a PR disaster for the US Navy in the event of a crash with the actor behind the controls. And it’s safe to say that the Navy will any day have more trust in their own pilots, irrespective of the skillset of a Hollywood actor. Moreover, the insurance department would have never cleared it.
Even if Tom Cruise wasn’t actually piloting the Super Hornet, the action sequences of Top Gun: Maverick look quite real. You can even find many YouTube videos of real US Navy F/A-18 pilots giving their views on the flying sequences that were previewed via the trailers, and most of them give positive reviews. In fact, the Hollywood movie seemed so authentic that China reportedly moved its spy satellite to photograph the fictional hypersonic jet dubbed “Darkstar” that can be seen in it. You can read more about it by clicking here. Top Gun: Maverick is proving to be one of the career-best projects for Tom Cruise and it might just be his first to cross the coveted $1-billion-mark if it continues on the same trajectory.