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Top Gun: Maverick Director Joseph Kosinski On Sending His Cast Into The Sky

When you go to watch "Top Gun: Maverick" on the biggest screen possible this weekend, remember to pick your jaw up off the floor after experiencing the incredible aerial sequences shot by director Joseph Kosinski and his crew.

As you sit in amazement at how they got cameras into actual F/A-18 Hornets — some of the most advanced fighter jets in existence — just keep this in mind as well: the actors playing the pilots from the Navy's Fighter Weapons School are actually in the planes. They're seated behind the professional Navy pilots doing the flying (who you can't see), but they are up there and experiencing everything that those pilots experience every day – while saying their lines and operating the cameras as well.

Star and producer Tom Cruise, an experienced pilot himself, insisted on absolute realism for "Top Gun: Maverick." He wanted to do as much flying himself as he could (although he was not allowed to fly the F/A-18 on his own), and the rest of the young cast would have to get in the planes as well. "Tom knew what they were in for," says Kosinski in an exclusive interview with Looper's sister site, SlashFilm, "but they did a great job."

How Tom Cruise got the cast of Top Gun: Maverick ready to fly

Not only did Tom Cruise return to Miramar base in Southern California — where "Top Gun" was filmed more than 36 years ago — to undergo a full survival training course before he could get in the Navy jets, but he also designed and implemented a lengthy training course for the rest of the cast before they were able to take to the skies.

"Tom knew what they were in for," explains Joseph Kosinski. "So he developed a course for them to go through. Three months, working their way from like a Cessna, which is like a slow trainer airplane, up to an aerobatic plane, then to a small jet and then eventually to the F-18. By working their way up through the different G [gravitational force] levels, they built up their tolerance. Listen, it wasn't easy. It was still very, very difficult, but they did a great job."

Although "Top Gun: Maverick" features some of the most realistic, thoroughly immersive, and genuinely gripping aerial footage ever filmed, Kosinski admits that he was still worried about his cast going up into the wild blue yonder during the shoot.

"Absolutely," he says when asked if he was concerned. "Sending Tom up in one of these things is one thing, but sending up these young actors — for some, this is like their first big movie. Certainly that was something that weighed on me every night before the flights. But I knew they were with the best of the best in terms of the Naval aviators that were flying them out. We had real TOPGUN pilots flying our actors in this movie. You can't do better than that."

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