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How The Character Of Goose Is Still A Big Part Of Top Gun: Maverick

In "Top Gun: Maverick," Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) has avoided promotion and remained a test pilot for decades, partially out of guilt: Some 36 years earlier, in the original "Top Gun," his cocksure attitude and refusal to fly as part of a team may have led, at least in some part, to the death of his best friend and Radar Intercept Officer Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), who is killed when he smashes into his aircraft canopy head-first on an emergency eject.

Although Maverick is not found responsible in "Top Gun" for Goose's demise after an official investigation, it's evident in "Top Gun: Maverick" that the loss still weighs heavily on him — and even dictates certain actions he takes.

When Mitchell is called upon to train a new squad of pilots for an incredibly dangerous mission against a hostile nation, one of the pilots who might make the cut is Goose's son, Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), seen only as a baby in the first film but now determined not to let Mitchell impede his progress. But Mitchell has a different agenda in mind for his late friend's child.

While Goose himself is only seen in photos and some flashback clips from the first movie, director Joseph Kosinski told Looper's sister site, SlashFilm, that the character is very much a strong presence in the sequel.

Why Goose was golden for director Joseph Kosinski and star Tom Cruise

In taking the assignment to make "Top Gun: Maverick," director Joseph Kosinski went back to when he first saw the film and the feelings it stirred up in him. He said that one of the things that has always remained with him — and audiences in general — is the story's central relationship. He also noted that referring back to it struck a chord with the film's star as well.

"The friendship between Maverick and Goose is, I think, the thing that people remember most from the first film," Kosinski explained. "That whole notion of a wingman as someone who always has your back. To have that spirit of Goose present throughout this film, and certainly embodied in the character of Rooster, his son, that was, I think, the emotional hook that really got Tom [Cruise] excited about going back."

Kosinski added that while he intentionally designed "Top Gun: Maverick" to lean into nostalgia for the first movie and its big emotional moments, he also did not want to simply rehash the original movie.

"I wanted to create the feeling that I felt when I was a 12-year-old kid and saw 'Top Gun' on the big screen," he says. "So those first few minutes definitely tell you this is a 'Top Gun' film, but shortly after that, I think it transitions into a new sequence that tells you this is going to be 'Top Gun' for 2022 ... It's still Maverick, but a new story for him."

"Top Gun: Maverick" opens in theaters this Friday, May 27.