Top Gun: Maverick’s director explains how he convinced Tom Cruise to come back

Nearly 40 years in the past, Top Gun made moviegoers really feel a small fraction of the joys that comes with being a fighter pilot — partly thanks to Kenny Loggins’ anthem “Danger Zone,” but additionally largely due to the skills of the solid and crew, beneath the route of the late Tony Scott. Arriving in theaters a long time later, Top Gun: Maverick has to do proper not simply by the followers, however by the primary movie’s creators. How do you make audiences accustomed to the informal magic of CGI really feel like they’re within the cockpit with these pilots in 2022 the way in which Top Gun did in 1986? For director Joe Kosinski, the reply was: You do it for actual.

As his earlier movies Tron: Legacy and Oblivion show, Kosinski is completed at each making unlikely sequels to decades-old movies and delivering blockbuster motion starring Tom Cruise. Top Gun: Maverick exhibits the director combining these abilities for a throwback summer time blockbuster that feels actual in a approach big-budget motion pictures haven’t in a while.

In a name with Polygon, Kosinski dove into the way in which Top Gun: Maverick makes viewers really feel like they’re in these jets, how he convinced Tom Cruise to star, and how the fitting villain for a Top Gun film may simply be nobody.

Maverick stands in profile with his class of young bucks in a hella dramatic sunset shot for Top Gun: Maverick

Photo: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

Polygon: Let’s begin together with your connection to Top Gun. What was your expertise like with the primary film?

Joseph Kosinski: I noticed the film for the primary time as a 12-year-old child, and for me, it was the prototype for the last word summer time film. It made Tom Cruise a celebrity, and [producer Jerry] Bruckheimer and [producer Don] Simpson had executed Beverly Hills Cop and Flashdance at that time. When you noticed that twin lightning strike firstly of a film, it meant you have been gonna have a great time.

But in any other case, it was not essentially a film that I had revisited rather a lot, till Jerry despatched over an early model of a script in 2017 that he needed me to check out. I’d made [Oblivion] with Tom at that time, and clearly had an unbelievable expertise doing that.

Was everybody on board for Maverick from the beginning?

So I learn the script, I had some concepts, and Jerry appreciated these concepts. He mentioned, “You know what, you gotta go pitch this to Tom directly.” So we flew to Paris, the place Tom was taking pictures Mission: Impossible, we obtained a few half hour of his time between setups. And I mainly had half-hour to pitch this movie, which I didn’t understand once we have been flying over. But once I obtained there, I discovered that Tom actually didn’t need to make one other Top Gun.

It’s a type of moments as a director, you have got one on each movie, the place you’re on the spot to make a case for why this film ought to be made. I had half-hour to do it. And on the finish of the pitch, he picked up the cellphone, he referred to as the pinnacle of Paramount Pictures and mentioned, “We’re making another Top Gun.” It’s fairly spectacular to see the facility of an actual film star in that second.

How did you pitch it to Tom Cruise? Did he let you know what convinced him?

Well, I labored with Tom, and I knew to begin with character and emotion. I simply pitched this concept of Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller) rising up to change into a naval aviator, and him and Maverick having this fractured relationship that had by no means been repaired. With Maverick getting referred to as back to practice this group of scholars to go on a mission that he is aware of may be very, very harmful.

The battle [is about] the distinction between being an aviator who goes in and dangers his personal life, and somebody who’s in a extra senior place that has to ship others in to threat their lives. I talked to some Navy admirals who talked about that distinction. It’s a unique kind of strain, it’s virtually more durable to ship others in somewhat than go your self. And to me, it felt like that leveraged the emotion of the previous movie and people relationships that all of us love, however took it in a brand new route. So that’s the place I began.

A behind the scenes shot of Tom Cruise standing in front of a memorial at the Top Gun school in Top Gun: Maverick.

Photo: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

I feel that was actually the factor that basically grabbed Tom, as a result of it gave him an emotional purpose to return to this character. The second factor was, what’s Maverick been doing? You know, the place do we discover him? And that is sort of my very own ardour, you realize, coming by and pitching the Darkstar sequence [in the beginning], simply being somebody who has at all times liked airplanes and aerospace and studied aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering and liked The Right Stuff. So the concept of discovering him as a take a look at pilot on the bleeding fringe of what’s doable appeared to me like the proper approach to discover him, and Tom liked that.

He additionally should’ve liked how you deliberate to shoot this.

I confirmed him some movies of Navy pilots who put GoPros of their cockpits, and I mentioned, “You know, this is out on the internet for free. If we can’t beat this, there’s no point in making this.” And he agreed. And then lastly, I simply had the title, you realize, which I feel sort of summed all of it up. “We aren’t going to call it Top Gun 2, we’re going to call it Top Gun: Maverick.” It’s a character-driven story, a drama with this big motion movie round it. And that to me was what a Top Gun film is.

Let’s speak a bit bit about that Darkstar sequence. Jerry Bruckheimer says you have been closely concerned in its conception.

Yeah, I imply, it was my dream. Skunk Works is that this division of Lockheed that makes these planes which can be high secret. They fly at evening, nobody is aware of they exist. We discover out about them 20, 30 years after they fly.

I had simply executed a film that was financed by Fred Smith, who’s the founding father of FedEx. And he informed me he had a contact at Lockheed. He had simply executed a tour there — it helps to have pals in excessive locations. He arrange a gathering between Jerry, I, and Skunk Works, and we drove out into the center of Palmdale and met with their senior workers. And I simply mentioned, “Listen, I want to put an airplane in this film that does this, this, and this. I know you guys have some experience in that area. We’re gonna give people a glimpse of something they’ve never seen before.”

Tom Cruise does some mechanic stuff, hotly, in Top Gun: Maverick.

Photo: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

And they mentioned sure. I feel the actual purpose they helped us was so we might make it as actual as doable, however not too actual, you realize? We modified a few particulars so we’re not giving any secrets and techniques away, nevertheless it has numerous options and particulars for individuals who actually are into this world. I feel they’ll get a kick out of it.

How do you get individuals enthusiastic about these pilots and the planes? Like different individuals I’ve talked to about it, I had an expertise watching this, like, “Apparently I really like planes. Have I always been this way?”

Our method is a traditional film method. The solely factor they might do within the ’80s was seize these things, at the very least the outside pictures, for actual. You simply can’t pretend what it looks like to be in one in every of these jets, the forces, the way in which the sunshine modifications, the vibration, the sense of velocity, all of that. There’s simply no alternative for that.

I’ve observed that folks see this film, they usually simply hold saying the identical factor again and again: “It just feels so real.” And it’s humorous, as a result of possibly we’ve misplaced monitor of that a bit bit with fantasy movies or superhero movies, the place they’re creating photographs which you can’t seize for actual. So you depend on CGI. But there’s simply one thing completely different about capturing it for actual. And for this movie, we discovered a approach to do it. And it simply feels completely different.

In the unique Top Gun, the villains aren’t actually named. In Maverick, the pilots are coaching for a mission in opposition to a obscure “shadow state.” What went into that call?

It was particularly designed to be a faceless, anonymous enemy, similar to the primary movie. You know, it is a film about friendship and sacrifice and teamwork and competitors, similar to the primary movie. It’s not a film about geopolitics. We didn’t need it to be. So we designed it that approach — the jets are fictional, they’re faceless enemies. The mission itself is about holding the world secure.

And that was all by design, simply because we needed the main focus to be on on the Maverick story, and his relationship with these characters. We made the film in 2018. We began filming in 2018. And, you realize, the world modifications continuously. It’s actually onerous to make one thing that feels related, as a result of the world is at all times altering.

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