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The Intense Training Top Gun: Maverick Actors Had To Complete

In an era of instantaneous sequels, where a film's franchise potential frequently outweighs the relevance or originality of its narrative, it can be somewhat difficult to recall a time wherein a production could top the year's box office (via Box Office Mojo) and not automatically spawn a litany of sequels, prequels, and small-screen spin-offs. Such was the case, however, for producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott's Oscar-winning 1986 movie "Top Gun." 

First released nearly four decades ago, the iconic film introduced audiences to one of Tom Cruise's most beloved characters, the young, confident, and talented Navy fighter pilot known as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell. As revealed in a recent promotional video for the film's long-awaited follow-up, "Top Gun: Maverick", Cruise had a number of very specific requirements in mind if he was going to agree to return to the famed naval base. 

"I wasn't ready to make a sequel until we had a special story worthy of a sequel and until technology evolved so we could delve deeper into the experience of a fighter pilot," Cruise explained (via Paramount Pictures). Interestingly, the depiction of that experience required a lot from its actors, including the completion of an intense training program developed by Cruise and other experienced pilots.

Cruise helped his cast develop a need for speed

As Cruise explained, the cast and crew worked with the Navy's real-life Top Gun School — an instructional and tactical training course located in Fallon, Nevada (via All Hands) — to better understand how to realistically shoot the film's flight sequences. Rather than rely on CGI, the notoriously committed stuntman and actor was determined to put the film's actors in actual F-18s, a task that apparently required a whole three months of grueling training.

These three months kicked off with a difficult underwater program that required the actors to learn how to free themselves from a submerged plane, and that was only the beginning. "Tom designed this all-encompassing aviation training for all the actors," explained Monica Barbaro. For starters, the cast had to acclimate themselves to the small world inside the aircraft, perfect their spacial awareness, and familiarize their bodies with the intense sensations that accompany high-speed aerial acrobatics. The actors then moved from L-39s to F-18 Super Hornets.

Although it looks like the Navy wouldn't let the actors actually pilot the legendary aircraft, cast members appear to have enjoyed a significant amount of time in the sky. Of course, their training also included a Cruise-taught crash course in self-direction and cinematography. "The actors also had to learn how to run the cameras because when they're up in the jet they have to direct themselves essentially," said director Joseph Kosinski.

Despite the intensity of their prep, by all accounts, the film's stars were grateful. Miles Teller noted that many people thought it would be impossible to really put actors in the jets. "But that's the gift that Tom gave us," Glen Powell said. "By the time we got up there, we could handle it."