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Did you know real combat jets were flown in Tom Cruise’s blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick?

Cruise is used to this: for a man who performs his own stunts and likes to live life on the edge, these stunts have defined his film career.

top gun maverick stunts
The film has already grossed $300 million on a budget of $170 million. (Reuters)

Tom Cruise’s latest thrill-seeking venture, Top Gun: Maverick, has shattered expectations to become one of the Hollywood icon’s best-ever openers. Released in 4,735 theatres for the widest release, the film was projected to gross $85–100 million in its four-day opening weekend, coinciding with Memorial Day.

After making an estimated $51.8 million on its first day, the best-ever for Cruise, Paramount Pictures, and Memorial Day weekend, the film debuted to $126.7 million. Maverick more than doubled Cruise’s previous best of $64.9 million (War of the Worlds, June 2005) and surpassed the previous record for the Memorial Day weekend, set by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($139.8 million, 2007).

Overall, the film has already grossed $300 million on a budget of $170 million — a remarkable feat for a sequel whose original came out 35 years ago. The film has garnered rave reviews from critics with the death-defying stunts boosting the film’s allure. But Cruise is used to this: for a man who performs his own stunts and likes to live life on the edge, these stunts have defined his film career.

FE Online looks at how Cruise and the crew managed the film’s death-defying stunts.

FIGHTER JETS ON SET

The action star earned his pilot’s licence in 1994 — his love for flying was what drew him to the original Top Gun film. He is a multi-engine instrument-rated pilot and also learned to fly a helicopter for Mission Impossible: Fallout, performing his own stunts in the film. In Top Gun: Maverick, he flies some of the P-51 propeller-driven fighter planes and some helicopters. However, the US Navy refused permission for Cruise to pilot the F/A-18 Super Hornet combat jet.

In a promotional video for the film, Cruise said: “I wasn’t ready to make a sequel until we had a special story worthy of a sequel and until technology evolved so we could delve deeper into the experience of a fighter pilot.” He personally designed a month-long training programme for his co-stars, introducing them to different jets and instructors as they learned to fly and built up their g-force tolerance.

The actors also went through intense training on the ground and in the air with Kevin LaRosa II, the film’s aerial coordinator and camera pilot, and US Navy pilots.  LaRosa confirmed in an interview to a US publication that the film didn’t use stunt doubles or CGI.

Cruise, who had flown in a jet for the original Top Gun, flew over a dozen sorties for the new film. However, due to Pentagon regulations barring non-military personnel from controlling Defence Department assets, the actors were forced to ride behind the pilots after completing training.

The film also stars Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Val Kilmer, and Monica Barbaro.

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