Tom Cruise Went To Even Greater Extremes Than Real Top Gun Pilots For Top Gun: Maverick

There are a lot of actors who end up putting so much of themselves into the characters they play that they become almost indistinguishable from one another in terms of personality or expressions. Likewise, there are characters whose entire schtick is that they are meant to remind us of the actors who play them. Well, Tom Cruise may not fully be like Les Grossman or Lestat de Lioncourt, but he definitely lives up to the monicker of his "Top Gun" character: Maverick.

It's been talked about again and again that Tom Cruise risks his life for our entertainment, and he may indeed be doing things that any rational person would call a weird death wish. From his "Mission Impossible" stunts that escalate in level of danger, to his apparent mission to outdo the "Fast and Furious" franchise and Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity" and actually shoot a movie in space.

Well, it seems Cruise got all the preparation he needed to go to space in the (surprising) biggest movie of the year because the lengths the actor went to for his stunts in "Top Gun: Maverick" surpassed even what real pilots do.

A real Maverick

In the December 2022 issue of Empire magazine, director Joseph Kosinski broke down the standout sequence from "Top Gun: Maverick" where the titular Maverick steals a jet and pulls an elaborate stunt to show his superiors and his students that they could accomplish their mission.

Well, if you expect me to say that it was Cruise doing the entire stunt, shooting that missile, and almost passing out while climbing and hitting 10 Gs, expect to be disappointed. Instead, it was ace Navy pilot Frank 'Walleye' Weiser who did the stunt, with Cruise as a very, very expensive backseat driver taking all the credit for just being there. Still, there's a reason it was Tom Cruise who led the actors' boot camp during the making of "Top Gun: Maverick." Even if he wasn't in the driver's seat, he was still experiencing the thrills and also the terrors of that stunt.

"That was the most extreme thing we shot in the film, just in terms of the practicality of what you're actually seeing on screen," Kosinski said. "It's all in-camera, it's Tom Cruise at 550 knots, going 30 feet above ground through the Toiyabe [Canyon] low-level training grounds. That's a real 'Top Gun' training thing, but they never fly as low as he does."

Thankfully, the scene was shot in one take, because after they landed, Kosinski says Walleye told him he'd never do that stunt again. As for Cruise, "he would have done it 100 more times!" Kosinski said laughing. "In fact, I smile because when I watch that sequence, he's wincing through the Gs, but I know under the mask he's smiling for most of it, because he's having the time of his life."