Why Top Gun: Maverick Opted For 'Dog Fight Football' Instead Of Another Volleyball Match

While "Top Gun: Maverick" retreads some ground from the original 1986 "Top Gun," director Joseph Kosinski chose to depart from franchise tradition when it came to the sport that Tom Cruise and company play on the beach in the 2022 legacy sequel.

One of the most famous — or infamous — scenes in the first "Top Gun" is the homoerotic beach volleyball scene, where the camera fixates on shirtless men as they glisten with sweat and the Kenny Loggins song "Playing with the Boys" enlivens the soundtrack. In his DVD/Blu-Ray commentary, director Tony Scott himself once likened this scene to "soft porn," and it reportedly got him in trouble with studio executives, who were upset that he took a whole day to film a scene that was only one paragraph in the script.

For "Top Gun: Maverick," Kosinski had some big beach sandals to fill, bur rather than rehash old volleyball glories, he decided to go a different direction and have Cruise's character and his co-ed team of off-duty pilots bond over a game of "dog fight football," as he terms it. Kosinski told The Hollywood Reporter:

"When I was prepping the movie, it was the thing that I got asked most about — is there going to be a volleyball scene? — which kind of surprised me. So the challenge was, if we're going to do a beach scene, we got to work it into the narrative of our story. We're not just going to do one to do it. Our screenwriting team figured out a smart way to integrate that scene into Maverick's training. There is a reason — this notion of dog fight football offense and defense at the same time is a nice foreshadowing of what we're going [to] see in the third act."

'It was a matter of just having fun'

Google "dog fight football" and you're liable to come back with a bunch of search results related to Michael Vick, the NFL quarterback whose career was hit with scandal when his involvement in illegal dog fighting — with dogs, not jets — came to light. It seems the concept of "dog fight football" is one that was an invention of the aforementioned screenwriting team behind "Top Gun: Maverick:" Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie.

As Kosinski notes, however, having the pilots and players run offense and defense at the same time was a way to prepare them and the audience for their jet assault on a heavily fortified uranium enrichment site in the film's third act. This provided the beach football scene with a narrative justification in Kosinski's mind. The director told THR:

"Once it was clear that we were able to push the story forward and continue the narrative, then it was a matter of just having fun and being able to shoot a beach scene for Top Gun and just making the best version of it that I could. Obviously got to give a lot of credit to our cast who worked very hard to prepare themselves for that scene."

"Top Gun: Maverick" is in theaters now.