Top Gun: Maverick's Jon Hamm On Pilot Culture, Playing The Heavy, And Shooting On An Aircraft Carrier [Interview]

Jon Hamm plays a Navy Vice Admiral with the callsign "Cyclone" in "Top Gun: Maverick." His character is an adversary to Tom Cruise's Maverick, and the logical counterpart to Maverick's outside-the-box thinking. Hey, there has to be someone, right? 

In the film, Maverick has been working as a test pilot when he's called to train Top Gun graduates for a dangerous new mission. Cyclone is very familiar with Maverick's reputation, and isn't exactly sure his approach to training is the right one.

I got a chance to chat with Hamm about playing the heavy, the culture of pilots in the military, the specific nostalgia moments that he loved in the new film, and shooting on an aircraft carrier. This film is a wild ride, so make sure you see it on the biggest screen you can manage if it's safe for you to do so! It's worth watching the original again (which is streaming on Netflix right now), but if you can't, fear not! You do not have to have seen it to enjoy the newest trip to the danger zone.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

'Somebody has to represent the voice of reason and the voice of responsibility'

You kind of played a heavy in this film. Can you tell us a little about your character?

[Heavy]-ish. Yeah. You know, somebody has to represent the voice of reason and the voice of responsibility. And in this particular film, it's the person who's in charge of not only all of the men and women under his command, but the vast amount of military dollars that are being expended. So yeah, that's basically my guy — he's the guy in charge. And when he runs up against a guy named Maverick, he knows they're probably going to be butting heads.

What was the impact of the original film on you?

You know, I think the original film, that defined what it meant to be cool for a lot of kids in my generation. I was 15 years old. I just know me and my friends thought everything about that movie was so cool. I know if you ask a couple of the Naval aviators and veterans that we have here, that inspired a whole generation of men and women that joined the Navy as well. And I think the lessons that you learn when you join the service as a Naval aviator, or a sailor, or Armym or whatever branch you choose, are sacrifice, and you learn about teamwork, and you learn about loyalty, and you learn about duty and responsibility and all those things. Those are the themes we have in the film, and those are the themes that really drive the dramatic push of this movie.

And what did you learn about the culture of pilots in the military from this?

It was fascinating. Obviously, the culture as it stands is so enamored with the original film. It's the reason that most of the guys that are our age were Naval aviators in the first place. They saw that movie and they signed up. So it was very exciting to see that in person and to see that whole culture and to watch it happen and watch the incredible amount of teamwork that goes into getting any plane ready to go and launching off of an aircraft carrier was spectacular.

Did you get to go up in the planes?

I didn't get to go up in the planes. We saved that for the younger, fitter generation — or Tom, as it were. But no, I stayed on the boat.

There's so much nostalgia in this movie in the best way. Are there any specific nods that were your favorites?

A big part of what I love that's so nostalgic for me is the music. The score, and how it just immediately from the first note of the soundtrack and score, brings you back into that world, so viscerally. And there's so many visual nods to what Tony Scott did in the first one. It's a love letter and a continuation of the story at the same time.

'There's something to be said for anticipation, but this is a little ridiculous'

What was it like shooting on the aircraft carrier?

It's impressive. When you realize that you're standing on a 10-story — from top to bottom of an aircraft carrier's about 10 stories, and then it's about, I don't know, a city block long or something. It's a floating city, essentially a floating airport, and there's two nuclear reactors that power the thing. It's an impressive piece of machinery that you can't understand how it all works. And yet it does.

Is there a skill that you think Tom Cruise doesn't have?

The ability to go to sleep? I don't know. He is a hundred percent, a hundred percent of the time. And it's inspiring to watch. It can be tiring to watch, for sure. He go, go, goes, but he is the luckiest person in the world — and he'll say this — because he loves what he does and he gets to do it at the highest level.

I believe this finished shooting in 2018. What's it been like to actually get this out in front of people?

Well, yeah, there's something to be said for anticipation, but this is a little ridiculous. Obviously, the pandemic had a big role in the pause that we all had to go through, but it's tremendously exciting for us for people to actually see this. And it's really exciting that it's only going to be in theaters. It's not going to be streaming. You're not going to watch it on your phone. You're going to watch this in a movie theater. It's a welcome back to the movie theaters. It's welcome back Hollywood. It's very, very exciting for us.


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Here is the film's official synopsis:

After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy's top aviators, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of TOPGUN graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: "Rooster," the son of Maverick's late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka "Goose."

Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.

"Top Gun: Maverick" will hit theaters on May 27, 2022.