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'Top Gun: Maverick' puts audiences in the cockpit

The aviation sequel used technological advances to improve on experiential flight footage. #k5evening

SEATTLE — If there’s one thing you won’t see in “Top Gun: Maverick,” it’s CGI.

"We had the best Top Gun pilots in the world doing our aviation and they made sure we stayed honest,” said producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “Anyone who thinks we're faking it — they don't know aviation."

The flight scenes were filmed live, requiring the cast to undergo months of training to get in shape, practice safety protocols, and learn how to handle themselves. They also went through a series of aviation training, designed by Tom Cruise himself.

"I think I sorely underestimated how much training it takes to be able to act and stay present and film while you're in a jet pulling seven and a half G's with the best pilots in the world,” said Miles Teller, who stars as Rooster.

Most of the actors experienced air sickness, and a few became well-acquainted with “barf bags.”

"Sometimes I was a liar because I would bring two puke bags, and I would puke in one and hold up an empty,” said Glen Powell, who plays Hangman.

When it came time to shoot, six motion picture cameras were installed inside the cockpits and the actors were required to essentially direct themselves. They also had to assess the lighting and “direct” the cinematography from the air.

Credit: Scott Garfield
Monica Barbaro and Tom Cruise on the set of "Top Gun: Maverick" from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

"We had a mockup of the cockpit on the ground and before they'd jump in the plane, we'd go through every step of every scene, every eyeline, where the light should be, what the terrain should be, and the choreography with the naval aviator,” said director Joe Kosinski.

Cruise was also an elemental part of that process.

"Pretty much every location we flew in, Tom was the first person to go fly. He would come back, land, they would download his cards from the camera and we would watch his footage,” said Jay Ellis, who plays Payback. "But all of it really goes out of your head because you're sitting across from Tom Cruise, one of the greatest actors of all time, and you're about to get in an F-18 and go 700 miles an hour.”

"Top Gun: Maverick" is rated PG-13 and opens in theaters May 27.

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