To make “Top Gun: Maverick” soar, the movie’s stars entered the danger zone.
Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro and Lewis Pullman depict elite Navy pilots in the much-anticipated sequel and underwent a rigorous flight training program set up by Tom Cruise to authentically portray their characters.
The months of preparation allowed the actors to shoot all of their scenes inside the cockpits of actual fighter jets being flown by real-life military pilots, satisfying Cruise’s vision to film real scenes rather than rely on computer-generated imagery.
“Tom really understands the effect a movie can have on an audience if it’s done correctly,” Powell, 33, told the Daily News.
“If there is a way in which he can affect an audience emotionally, if he can put them in the back of an F/A-18, he’s like, ‘We’re going to do this practically.’ You watch this movie, and you cannot have the emotional effect of caring about these aviators in these jets without shooting practically. The (G-force) on a face. … The ground rush of mountains going by and cliffs streaking past canopies. It’s something you can’t fake.”
Zooming into theaters Friday, the film serves as a long-awaited follow-up to 1986′s original “Top Gun,” with Cruise reprising his role of the hotshot pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
Maverick is now tasked with training a new generation of Navy aviators ahead of a high-stakes mission, but continues to aggravate his higher-ups with his insistence on doing things his way.
The original “Top Gun” doesn’t feature any footage of Cruise’s co-stars actually flying inside their jets because the G-force took such a toll on their appearances on camera.
Cruise made sure his fellow actors were ready this time around, introducing Powell, Barbaro and Pullman to Cessna 172 Skyhawks, an Extra 300, L-39 Albatross jets and finally the speedy F/A-18s during the preproduction boot camp.
“It felt like you had an elephant sit on top of you,” Pullman, 29, said, describing G-force. “You’re trying to keep all the blood to your brain so you don’t pass out, and you’re trying to remember your lines and you’re trying to look cool doing it.
“But in so many ways, it was like returning back to that stage when you’re 11 years old and you’re just daydreaming, like what would it be like to just glide over the city and through the skyscrapers and down above the river? It was like that, but on steroids. It was like that, but at 800 miles an hour and you were strapped to a rocket,” said Pullman, who is the son of actor Bill Pullman.
The film introduces Powell as the confident Hangman, Barbaro as the smooth-flying Phoenix and Pullman as the soft-spoken Bob. The characters are each graduates of the Top Gun academy who jockey for Maverick’s approval as he selects pilots for his mission.
The intense flight training continued throughout production, the actors say.
“We were doing it during the entire time we were filming, which was a 10-month shoot,” Barbaro, 31, said. “If we ever had a day off from filming, we would be sent over to the airport to go fly … to keep sustaining Gs. It would’ve been a huge disservice to get out of shape.”
All three actors were fans of “Top Gun” before joining the franchise, and praise their movie for capturing the spirit of the original while telling a new story.
Powell believes anyone can relate to the original 1986 film through its themes of friendship and discovering “what it is to be a hero.”
“It’s something that we all strive for,” Powell said. “I think ‘Top Gun’ hits an emotional core of people. It hits us all in different ways, but the one thing that is absolutely universal is that everybody has a soft spot for this movie. It means a lot to people.”
The cast embraced the challenge of making a worthy sequel.
“I’ve idolized Tom Cruise my whole life, and there’s always such a sense of mystery of, ‘How does he do what he does?’ Because so much of it seems unachievable and like a pipe dream,” Pullman said. “It does kind of start like that. … Then he just figures out a way. He is unstoppable. There’s no barrier that he can’t figure out a way around.”
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