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Top Gun: Maverick's Glen Powell, Greg Tarzan Davis, And Danny Ramirez On Learning To Fly - Exclusive Interview

"Top Gun: Maverick" picks up more than 30 years after the original "Top Gun," with hotshot pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) testing planes for the Navy out in the desert after decades of avoiding promotions in rank. But when a dangerous situation involving a hostile nation develops, Maverick is called back to the Fighter Weapons School (a.k.a. TOPGUN) to train a new team of pilots for a classified mission that few can fly and even fewer might return from.

To achieve the kind of realism that Cruise, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and director Joseph Kosinski all deemed essential for a "Top Gun" sequel, Cruise — an experienced pilot himself — put the new members of the cast through a rigorous five-month course so that they could actually go up in the Navy's F/A-18 Hornets (with Navy pilots at the helm) and film their aerial sequences for real. The results are some of the most spectacular aerial sequences ever filmed, with the cast, from Cruise on down, right in the middle of them.

Three of those new cast members — Greg Tarzan Davis (who plays "Coyote"), Glen Powell ("Hangman"), and Danny Ramirez ("Fanboy") — told us about their filming experiences, which also included water survival training and coping with gravitational forces (G's) when flying that high and that fast.

Learning to fly also involved learning to swim

The underwater training sounds scarier to me than the flight training. I want to hear about that.

Glen Powell: You need to talk to Tarzan about that. Tarzan learned to swim on this movie.

Greg Tarzan Davis: Yeah. We had to do the water training. I didn't know that was a part of the process at the time, but to get in the F-18, you have to be able to do the water qualifications and stuff. I was learning how to swim, and I almost drowned because of [cast member] Lewis [Pullman] multiple times.

Danny Ramirez: We got taught how to swim by an Olympic swim coach, by the way. That's who was teaching us.

Davis: That's who was teaching us. But we're strapped in, and some of us have goggles. Lewis is sitting by a window, goggles on, so he can see. I'm blindfolded, so I'm going, [makes motions of swimming and feeling around with eyes closed]. I'm like, "What the ... Lewis, are you still in here? I need to go through the window!" So he almost caused me to drown.

On watching the original Top Gun for the first time

Did you guys see the original "Top Gun" film as kids, or did you see it recently?

Ramirez: I saw it in college, so I was more of a late bloomer to the game. But [when] I saw it, I'm like, "Oh my God, it would be amazing to be a part of the sequel if there is a part for me to be in." [to Davis] And then you said you saw it?

Davis: I saw it as a child.

Ramirez: You saw it as a child?

Davis: Yeah.

Ramirez: [to Powell] You saw it at 10 years old.

Powell: 10 years old, man. I think it was responsible for me ... Danny didn't have chest hair in college, and didn't see "Top Gun," and I was like, "God, what a late bloomer." So sad — no "Top Gun," no chest hair.

Ramirez: I was watching "Magnolia" way before "Top Gun." "Magnolia" is the Tom Cruise I knew before "Top Gun" Tom Cruise.

They learned filming and flying at the same time – with gravity pushing down

You actually had to learn how to shoot your own scenes up in the plane.

Powell: We actually had to run the camera up there, which is crazy. I mean, these are IMAX cameras that have only been made possible now. Like this technology of shrinking this IMAX camera so it can fit in the back of an F-18 is just –

Ramirez: And withstand G's ... But yeah, [for] the composition of shots, we had to line up the jets to be within the actual frame, so we had to know exactly how wide the shot was in order for us to like look back and be like, "The jet's right there." It was nuts.

How terrified were you up there?

Ramirez: I started off afraid, and then by the end of it, I loved flying. By the time we got to the F-18s, I was enjoying the entire time. I learned how to puke and rally, which is another great thing. That was the arc of my fear to then understanding that I am good up there.

Puke and rally?

Ramirez: I was afraid of being in a claustrophobic space and having to purge. But then I realized, "Oh wait — [our sick] bag is made exactly for that, and I am safe up here, and I am loved."

So you have the seat pocket in front of you with sick bags?

Davis: No, it's in our leg [pocket], so after you puke, you put this back into your leg so it rubs against you –

Ramirez: [to Powell] Yours wouldn't fit in that pocket. It's a Glad bag's worth –

Powell: You have your puke bag here [gestures to leg], and if you're pulling G's, you literally, physically can't get to it. All the G's are pulling you, so it almost got pretty hairy up there.

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

This interview was edited for clarity.