Before signing up to star in the original “Top Gun,” Tom Cruise asked to take a test flight in a jet. Cruise wasn’t world famous yet, so when he arrived at the hangar, his long hair still in a ponytail from “Legend,” the pilots decided, according to one of the film’s producers, Jerry Bruckheimer, to give this Hollywood hippie a look. ride of his life. Zipping at 6.5 Gs — more than twice the G-forces some astronauts undergo during rocket launches — Cruise felt the blood drain from his head. He vomited into his fighter pilot mask.
He agreed to make the film.
Cruise continued to fly so fast and so often that he learned to squeeze his thighs and abs to stay conscious. His stomach adjusted to the speed. When director Tony Scott placed a camera in the cockpit, Cruise was able to laugh at his close-ups. His castmates weren’t so prepared.
“They all threw up and their eyes rolled back in their heads,” Bruckheimer said in a telephone interview. The original footage “was just a mess,” he admitted. “We couldn’t use any of it.”
“Top Gun” made Cruise a superstar – and the experience of shooting stayed with him so much that he was convinced he had to lead a three-month flying course for the cast of “Top Gun: Maverick”, a sequel, now in theatres, which have had 35 years to build suspense. In the new film, Cruise’s Capt. Pete Mitchell (known as Maverick) leads a dozen young pilots on a perilous mission to destroy an underground uranium factory in an enemy country. Behind the scenes, Cruise did much the same, gradually increasing the air tolerance and confidence of the actors, from small prop planes to F-18 fighter jets. “He’s got every kind of pilot’s license you can think of — helicopters, jets, whatever,” Bruckheimer said.
Essentially, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a 450 miles per hour heist. The mission leaders come up with a difficult set of challenges for the pilots: zoom low and fast, jump over a steep mountain, turn upside down, plunge into a basin and survive a near vertical climb on 9 G’s while dodging missiles.
A contender for the boldest actor since Buster Keaton, Cruise was adamant that every stunt had to be accomplished with practical effects. Each jet had a US Navy pilot at the wheel, while the actor twirled like a leaf in a storm. The deserts and snow-capped peaks in the background are real, and so are many of the performers’ grimaces, squints, pants and moans.
“You cannot fake the forces exerted on your body during combat,” director Joseph Kosinski said on the phone. “You can’t do it on a soundstage, you can’t do it on a blue screen. That is not possible with visual effects.”
From the safety of theater seats, the audience faces its own challenge: to unlearn the computer-generated complacency that has turned modern blockbusters into intoxicating dullness. The images of the sky and ground spinning behind the heads of the actors in “Top Gun: Maverick” look like it must be digital wizardry. It’s not.
The film’s aerial coordinator, Kevin LaRosa II, and the aerial photography director, Michael FitzMaurice, filmed from above using three aircraft: two types of jets with external cameras mounted on wind-resistant gimbal suspensions, and a helicopter, which proved to be the best. are the speed of actors whizzing past when capturing. A specialized jet could film the same scene using two different focal lengths of the lenses to double the shots captured during a single flight. When LaRosa learned that the long-awaited sequel was finally coming true, he also developed his own plane, a glossy black plane with cameras that can withstand up to 3 Gs.
“That had never been done before,” LaRosa said in a video interview. While flying alongside the cast, LaRosa dodged trees while checking the monitors to make sure FitzMaurice, who controlled the cameras from the back of the plane, had taken the photo.
Kosinski, the director, also worked with the Navy for 15 months to develop and install six cameras in each F-18 cockpit, which involved passing rigorous safety tests and ensuring the military was safe to use its own equipment. to delete. Fortunately, Kosinski said, there were “Top Gun” fans among the commanding officers. “All the admirals in charge now were 21 in 1986, or close to that when they applied,” he said. “They supported us and let us do all these crazy things.”
Usually, the Navy prohibits pilots from flying below 200 feet during training. One of the film’s most stunning images is of Cruise in an F-18 soaring just 15 meters above the ground, a height roughly equivalent to its wingspan. The plane flew so close to Earth that it stirred up dust and shook the ground cameras. The pilot landed, turned to Cruise and told the superstar he would never do that again.
Actor Monica Barbaro didn’t know how nervous she must be when she agreed to play the pilot Natasha Trace (nickname: Phoenix).
“When I met Joe during my callback request, he was the first to make me sign a denial stating that I had no fear of flying,” Barbaro said on the phone. “It just gave me goosebumps. I was so excited.”
Each flying day began with a two-hour briefing for the pilots and film crew to discuss every upcoming shot, move and dialogue. Then the actors and pilots of that sequence practiced the maneuvers in a wooden mock-up of the jet cockpit until the movements were ingrained. Then they took to the skies to film as many takes as possible before the jet, or the performers, ran out of fuel. In the afternoon they did it again.
Barbaro and the rest of the cast soared above the crew, taking on a Swiss Army Knife of skill. Instead of hitting her mark on the ground, she had to hit it in the air. The sun was her spotlight. A pilot’s kneeboard on her lap showed her script, her movements and her necessary coordinates, plus reminders to check her parachute and shoulder straps, do her hair and makeup, adjust her fly visor, flip the bright red switch who controlled the cameras, and write down the time codes. Finally, Barbaro had to do her real job: acting.
“Tom just really encouraged everyone, if you’re going to throw up, just learn how to do it and move on,” Barbaro said. “We applaud when someone throws up, so it was celebrated.” Glen Powell (he plays the hot shot Lt. Jake Seresin, who is called Hangman) even waved his barf bag as it slid upside down and waved his thumbs up.
Barbara held on to her lunch. But after her first dailies, she said, her face looked so calm that it gave the impression that the clouds whizzing behind her were just a green screen. Cruise’s training had prepared her too well.
She was sent back into the air for a rematch.