top gun flying scenes

How TOP GUN: Maverick Shot Those Thrilling Flying Scenes

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The wait finally came to an end. After 36 years, the second part of Top Gun landed in theatres on May 26. I had already got to see it a week ago during the movie premiere in Berlin and Top Gun: Maverick is an absolute must-see for all Aviators. It was a thrill ride from the moment you are seated in the theatre, with popcorn in your hand. You did not need to be flying in one of those jets on the screen.

In this sequel, the flying ace, Maverick, has to prep a younger generation of pilots for a highly dangerous mission. During the movie, I was wondering: How in the world did they shoot the amazing flying scenes? The answer will surprise you as much as it did me. Spoiler alert: they did NOT use any green screen.

top gun flying scenes

Copyright: Paramount pictures

I Flew Aerobatics 🎢

I once had the chance to fly in an Extra 300 and Albatros L-39 fighter trainer. Personally, it cannot be thrilling enough when it comes to aerobatic flying. Loopings, barrel rolls, twists and tight turns are absolutely fun and easy to withstand for me. I neither had issues with my stomach. But I know that’s fairly unusual. High G-forces can have extreme side effects on your body and flying upside down just makes you throw up! So now I am thinking about the cast, who are not used to flying aerobatics. Plus they not only have to withstand the extreme forces and manoeuvres, they also have to act as if they are elite fighter pilots.

top gun flying scenes

My Connection To Top Gun ✈️

Tom Cruise, alias Maverick, instructs flight students in the new movie. So, like me, he has high responsibility for his cadets. I also have a personal story connected to the movie. Years ago, I had the actress Meg Ryan once on board as a passenger. I was very excited to meet her in person, since I had watched the first Top Gun movie so many times. After the flight, I checked in to the crew hotel, got to my room, turned on the TV and Top Gun was running with a scene starring Meg Ryan.

top gun flying scenes

How Fake Are The Flying Scenes? ❌

Now, you will probably be as surprised as I was when I found out! For the best movie experience, the mission was: How do you convincingly shoot scenes in which actors look like they are flying in jets with extreme G-forces contorting their facial features as the planes perform extreme aeronautical manoeuvres? You get the actors to do it for REAL. That, at least, was the conclusion of Tom Cruise when he began to think about how to shoot Top Gun: Maverick. That’s what they did in the end. All cast members are believably looking in the film like they are really in the skies because they really were in the skies.

The Big Issue of Throwing Up! 🤮

When filmmaker Tony Scott directed the original 1986 Top Gun, he too had hopes of shooting actors in the air but was thwarted when cast members began throwing up whenever they were taken for a ride. The new cast did throw up as well on board. Did Powell throw up over his plane? “Not on the plane,” says the actor. “You’ve got bags obviously. I never missed a shot in the bag.” How did they get this issue fixed: They thoroughly prepared the cast for the extreme flight manoeuvres so they were mentally and physically fit for it.

top gun flying scenes

How Did The Cast Prepare For The Flying? 👨🏼‍✈️

In the years after Top Gun made him a global star, Cruise became a pilot himself thanks to Sydney Pollack, who directed him in 1993’s The Firm and gave the actor flying lessons as a present. Cruise was determined to depict the aerial sequences in Top Gun: Maverick as realistically as possible, an ambition shared by Kosinski.

“That was Tom’s expertise,” says Kosinski about Cruise’s insistence that the actors be properly prepared for the shoot. “He’s a pilot, and he’s done aerobatics, and he was in the first Top Gun. He knew that they wouldn’t be able to get in the plane and hold their lunch down and be able to do these scenes, so he created a training program that they all went through.”

 

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Flight Lessons For The Cast 🎬

The actors began the schedule flying in single-engine Cessna 172 Skyhawks before moving on to the Extra 300, which is capable of more aerobatic manoeuvres, finally graduating to L-39 Albatros single-engine high performance jets, which prepared them for the F/A-18s in which they would be filmed during the shoot.

“You just feel the peril for everyone in the movie in a different way,” says Powell. “If you were using CGI, audiences are very smart, they can tell the difference. When you are whipping through canyons at 650 knots, you can’t fake that, and you can’t fake the Gs on actors’ faces.”

top gun flying scenes

The Great Difficulty Of On-Board Cameras 🎥

While the pilots were preparing to act like real pilots, Kosinski was figuring out how to shoot them doing so. “[That] took a lot of preparation,” says the director. “We had to work for about 15 months with the navy to figure out how to get cameras in the cockpit. We ended up getting IMAX-quality cameras into the cockpit with the pilots and the actor.”

During the shoot itself, Kosinski had the strange experience of “directing” actors who were many miles away during the actual filming.

“I’m there, with the actor, when they’re getting in the jet, I’m setting the cameras up, making sure all the angles are exactly what we need,” says the filmmaker. “But once that jet pulls out onto the runway, they’re gone for the next hour or two. As soon as they landed, we took the footage, we went into the debrief, we put it all in and watched it together. We give them notes on what didn’t work, and we’d cheer when something was great, and then we’d give them notes and send them up again in the afternoon. It was a very unique way to direct, because it was a lot of prep and a lot of rehearsal. And it was very tedious — you’re only getting a minute or two of good stuff every day. But it’s the only way to get footage that looks like this.”

 

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Will There Be Another Sequel? 🎞

So, if Top Gun: Maverick is a success, can Kosinski imagine overseeing more of such sequences in a sequel? “It’s all about the story for Tom,” says the filmmaker. “If we can figure out a way to tell what Maverick’s up to next, who knows?”

Top Gun: Maverick definitely exceeded my expectations and I seriously cannot wait to watch it again! To find out that all flying scenes are real, left me speechless because I know what a huge challenge it was for everyone involved.

Have your paper bags ready while watching it! Do not forget to like the post and leave me a comment with your feedback about the movie. 

Happy and thrilling landings

Your PilotPatrick

Source: here