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What It Really Took For Tom Cruise To Agree To Star In Top Gun

There are so many moving parts involved in making a blockbuster film. Get one thing wrong and the whole thing falls apart. You could have the same cast, script, and special effects crew that made "Terminator 2" a blockbuster, and it still would have stunk up the joint if Uwe Boll had directed it — not because he's a bad director, but because "Terminator 2" came out the same year that Boll was working on his feature film debut, "German Fried Movie." He just would've been stretched too thin. Also, he's a bad director.

And there's an argument to be made that "Top Gun" wouldn't have stuck the critical and commercial landing without its star, Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. That's his real name. We don't talk about that enough. Tom Cruise was already a well-established Hollywood sensation when "Top Gun" rolled his way, and his performance as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell was the charismatic shot in the arm that the picture needed.

Like any iconic role, rumors have been making the rounds for years about all of the actors who were almost cast as Maverick, but according to a Variety interview with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, "It was always Tom. Once we finished the screenplay, he was the only actor we talked to." What came next was the hard part — convincing Cruise to join the project.

Tom Cruise had an undiscovered need for speed

"It wasn't easy," Bruckheimer told Variety, recalling that the actor's discerning approach when it came to which parts he would take. "We wanted Tom after we saw 'Risky Business' and he kind of hemmed and hawed."

The solution to getting Cruise on board wound up being the same solution that most people turn to when they need someone to agree to something: They stuck him in a jet plane and spun him around until he said gave in. "So we arranged for him to fly with the Blue Angels at the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California," Bruckheimer said. "He drove up there on his motorcycle and he had just finished a movie with Ridley Scott, 'Legend, and his hair was long and in a ponytail. And they took one look at him and thought, we're going to give this hippie a ride. They took him up on an F-14 and flipped him and did all kinds of stunts to turn him around and make sure he never got back in a cockpit. But it was just the opposite. He landed and he walked over to a phone booth and called me up and said, 'Jerry. I'm making the movie. I love it.'"

As of this moment, it's uncertain whether other productions have brought Cruise into the fold by giving him a real-life taste of the action. Nobody knows whether he was convinced to join "Mission: Impossible 3" after the director put a bomb in his wife's brain, for example, or if he was taken to a museum and given permission to wrestle preserved Egyptian corpses ahead of 2017's "The Mummy." What is clear is that more jobs need to start including free rides in stunt planes as part of their onboarding process.