How Did Tom Cruise Fly in Top Gun?

Top Gun: Maverick marks the return of Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who gets back into an F-18 for one of his most dangerous missions yet. Cruise is well known for his quest to do all of his own stunts, unconcerned if it will result in a broken bone or two, and the actor has had a pilot’s license since 1994. And, he even owns the P-51 that is shown in Top Gun: Maverick. Here is everything you need to know about the flying sequences in the Top Gun sequel, and how much of it was shot in real-life.

Did Tom Cruise Really Fly in Top Gun: Maverick?

To quickly answer this question: Yes, Cruise and his co-stars really did fly planes for Top Gun: Maverick. But what is interesting is how much work and thought went into the incredible flying sequences. To get ready for Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise created a three-month navy approved boot camp training course for himself and his co-stars, director Joseph Kosinski revealed in an interview with IGN. Kosinski explained to the publication: “I think when you see the film you really feel what it is like to be a TOPGUN pilot, you can’t fake that… we wanted to capture every bit of that and shooting it for real allowed us to do that.”

How Were the Flying Sequences Filmed?

The cast were filmed from inside the plane, the director shared, and Cruise worked with the navy for 15 months to find the perfect way to add in cameras into the plane without stopping them from using the controls as usual. In the end, Cruise succeeded and cameras were placed inside and outside the F-18s that the cast fly in the film, and pilots from the real TOPGUN also helped fly planes that were designated to film them in the air. The actors would have to turn on their cameras themselves, though, and only when they returned from their flight would Kosinski be able to watch the footage back, he explained: “I’d be there on the flight line setting up the cameras but once they pulled away I didn’t know until they got back.”

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What Flying Sequences Were Real?

All of the flying shown in Top Gun: Maverick is real, even the intense steep climb up the side of a mountain face. Miles Teller, who portrays Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, explained how difficult it was for the cast to fly their planes in those scenes, telling IGN: “The mountains are less than 100 ft off each wing tip and you’re moving so fast, there’s some cloud cover sometimes and you’re in the backseat you can’t necessarily see what is going on.”

Why Couldn’t Tom Cruise Fly the F-18?

Although he pilots several different aircraft in Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise was denied clearance by the U.S. Navy to fly the F-18 jet. The Super Hornet jet does feature in the sequel, but Tom Cruise did not fly them in Top Gun: Maverick as those scenes were all completed with assistance from Navy pilots. According to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Cruise does fly a P-51 propeller-driven fighter plane, as well as some helicopters. The U.S. Navy likely denied Cruise’s request to fly the F-18 due to insurance concerns and the high cost of the aircraft.

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Why Does Tom Cruise Like to Do His Own Stunts?

The real reason why Tom Cruise does his own stunts is simple: it’s the best way to tell whatever story is at hand. In the actor’s own words, “It has to do with storytelling… It allows us to put cameras in places that you’re not normally able to do.” Cruise’s dedication to performing his own stunts adds authenticity to the action sequences and creates a level of investment from both the film crew and the audience.

What Other Stunts Has Tom Cruise Done?

Tom Cruise is known for his daring stunts in movies, and one of his wildest and most dangerous stunts was hanging on to a moving plane in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Cruise has also performed other impressive stunts throughout the Mission Impossible franchise. While he didn’t fly the F-18s in Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise has shown his dedication to performing thrilling stunts in his films.

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Did Tom Cruise Own the P-51 Mustang in Top Gun: Maverick?

Yes, the P-51 Mustang shown in the Tom Cruise P-51 Mustang scene at the end of Top Gun: Maverick is owned by Tom Cruise in real life. Cruise has a passion for aviation and has owned the P-51 Mustang since 2001. The plane was originally named “Kiss Me Kate” after Cruise’s ex-wife Katie Holmes, but he has since removed the name following their separation.

Why Couldn’t Tom Cruise Fly the F-18 in Top Gun: Maverick?

While known for doing most of his own stunts, the U.S. Navy denied Tom Cruise’s request to fly the F-18 in Top Gun: Maverick. The reasons for this are likely insurance concerns and the high cost of the aircraft. Cruise did fly other planes and helicopters in the film, but the F-18 scenes were completed with the assistance of Navy pilots.

Did Paramount Use Tom Cruise’s P-51 Mustang for Top Gun: Maverick Marketing?

Yes, Paramount leaned heavily into the fact that Tom Cruise flew his own P-51 Mustang in Top Gun: Maverick when promoting the movie. Cruise’s passion for aviation and his ownership of the P-51 Mustang added authenticity to the film and created a deeper connection between the actor and his character, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.

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