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The Surprising Way The Top Gun: Maverick Flight Scenes Were Filmed

After numerous COVID-19-related delays, "Top Gun: Maverick" is finally set to hit theaters in May, and with it comes some of the most intense flying sequences and action scenes ever filmed for a Hollywood movie. Surely, considering actors are involved, the stunts would all be captured using green screens and other CGI technology often deployed in films of this genre and caliber nowadays, right? Sequel star Tom Cruise says think again.

More than 30 years after the release of the first "Top Gun" movie, the upcoming sequel finds Cruise's Pete Mitchell, aka "Maverick," in charge of training a new class of TOPGUN school graduates. One of these graduates is Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick's late friend and wingman, Lt. Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards). As seen on the official "Top Gun: Maverick" website, the movie's synopsis reads, in part, "Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it."

Speaking in a special pre-release "Top Gun: Maverick" featurette (via YouTube), Cruise and other members of the cast and crew described exactly what it was like to film such an action-packed, advanced military movie where they used shooting techniques and camera work, unlike anything Hollywood has ever seen.

Top Gun: Maverick actors had an active role in filming the movie

According to Tom Cruise and others who were interviewed for a new "Top Gun: Maverick" featurette, the actors involved in the fighter jet scenes were inside actual F-18 cockpits and doing their own camera work. This means Cruise and his co-stars — Miles Teller, Jay Ellis, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro, Danny Ramirez, and Greg Tarzan Davis — were all given control of a camera to capture their in-flight performances.

"The aviation sequences had to be real," explained producer Jerry Bruckheimer, noting how the cast had to go through an intense flight training program. Part of this training program included experiencing what it would be like to crash-land in the water and try to make it out of that situation alive. The featurette also revealed just how involved Cruise was in flight training, with the "Top Gun" star taking each of his co-stars on a flight to show them the basics. 

But really, the biggest reveal of this preview featurette was learning just how involved the actors were in the filming process. "The actors also had to learn how to run the cameras," said director Joseph Kosinski. "Because when they're up in the jet, they have to direct themselves, essentially." Cruise, who is also a producer for the film, noted how he would give each of his "Top Gun: Maverick" colleagues tips on how to get the best shots from the air. "I had to really teach them cinematography and the lighting so that they understood what's gonna look good on camera," he shared.

"Top Gun: Maverick" is currently slated to hit U.S. theaters on May 27. In addition to Cruise and the younger cast playing the new set of TOPGUN recruits, "Top Gun: Maverick" stars Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer.