Tom Cruise is somewhere between Evel Knievel and God, but when it came to Top Gun: Maverick there was one plane he wasn’t allowed to fly.
Over the past 20 years, Cruise has taken his cinematic daredevilry to places nobody asked him to, whether it’s climbing the Burj Khalifa, holding his breath for more than six minutes, or putting his career on the line with The Mummy.
It’s been 36 years since the original Top Gun, and he still very much has the need for speed. Nearing 60 years old, his stunt antics are both jaw-dropping and a bit humbling to his younger colleagues.
Alas, even when it seems like there’s nothing Cruise can’t do, there are some things he’s simply not allowed to do.
Tom Cruise wanted to avoid CGI on Top Gun: Maverick
Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer broke new filmmaking ground in 1986. Even today, the aerial photography they managed to pull off is staggering – that said, they did have the full backing of the US Navy.
However, Cruise wanted to take things to the next level with Top Gun: Maverick.
Appearing at Cannes, he said: “I wanted to push the art form. How can I immerse an audience into this kind of action? How can I entertain them?”
In an earlier interview with Empire, Cruise recalled: “I said to Jerry [Bruckheimer]: ‘I’ll do it if…’ meaning, I’m not going to do the CGI stuff.”
The US Navy said no to Tom Cruise
He wasn’t kidding: Cruise was so adamant about circumventing the hokey pitfalls of visual effects that he actually thought he might be allowed to fly an F-18 Super Hornet, capable of speeds of more than 1,190mph. They also cost nearly $70 million, funded by the taxpayer.
For these reasons and a myriad of others, the Navy denied Cruise clearance to fly the F-18 himself. Though, just like the other cast members, he still took to the skies in the fighter jets, just with experienced pilots behind the joystick.
Cruise explained: “What we have achieved with the aerial footage is really something that people will never have seen before.
“We have trained actors to fly and act in real F/A-18s. And to do that, we took the best fighter pilots in the world and we taught them about movies – the pilot and the actor had to work as a team.”
It’s not like he was completely denied the right to fly: in the film, he takes Jennifer Connelly’s Penny up in his very own Red Tail. By his own account, he’s performed more aerial sequences than any other actor in movie history.
Top Gun: Maverick soars into UK cinemas on May 25, 2022, before docking in the US on May 27.