Spiderhead Has Two Sneaky Top Gun: Maverick Easter Eggs

It used to be quite rare to see a director promoting more than one film in the same year. But thanks to pandemic-era pushbacks, this rarity is becoming increasingly common. Ridley Scott released both "House of Gucci" and "The Last Duel" within a month from each other in 2021. And though Joseph Kosinski's record-breaking "Top Gun: Maverick" is still taking 2022 by storm, his follow-up, the dystopian satire "Spiderhead," is now making the rounds as well, albeit on Netflix.

At first glance, "Spiderhead" already shares more than just a director with "Maverick." Both films also feature Miles Teller, who's now worked with Kosinski in three separate projects to date. The stories of each film couldn't be more different — one follows a group of fighter pilots as they train for a mission halfway around the world; the other limits its scope to a remote prison where inmates submit to experimental drug testing. But in "Spiderhead," Kosinski and his crew were keen on honoring the director's previous project, and they did so with a few "blink and you'll miss it" nods to the "Top Gun" movies.

What's cooler than being cool?

"Spiderhead" is laser-focused on uncovering the increasingly-disturbing mystery of the eponymous facility — but the film does manage to squeeze in a nod to two of the best "Top Gun" characters. Kosinski recently sat down with Netflix to break down the films and other details that influenced "Spiderhead." Early in the film, Jeff (Teller) calls himself "ice cold," the same phrase that Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) uses to describe Tom "Iceman" Kasansky (Val Kilmer) in "Top Gun." "It's the way he flies," Goose explains, "Ice cold, no mistakes."

While Kosinski attributed the line to "Spiderhead" screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, he did take credit for the other Goose reference in the film. "In the opening scene in Jeff's bedroom, if you look closely, you'll see Rooster's F-18 model sitting on his desk," Kosinski told Netflix. You can see it in the video above around the 1:46 mark.

A certain point of view

"Spiderhead" also takes the time to honor its source material in what might be the best way possible. The film is based on "Escape From Spiderhead," a story penned by George Saunders and published in The New Yorker in 2010. "Escape from Spiderhead" later appeared in Saunders' short story collection "Tenth of December," which the character Rogan (Nathan Jones) is seen reading in a key scene in the film (pictured above).

Kosinski also borrowed a line or two verbatim from Saunders' story, particularly when it came to Chris Hemsworth's duplicitous warden, Steve Abnesti. After a fellow patient suffers an adverse reaction to a debilitating drug, Jeff asks Abnesti whether she survived. Abnesti settles for a vague, "She's not the best," but it's pretty clear that circumstances couldn't have been worse. "It kind of gets to the essence of Abnesti's personality," Kosinski explained. "About never being exactly straight with you, trying to spin everything."

Saunders also composed the final lines of the film, where Jeff concludes the story himself. The author sent Kosinski 10 options for a final monologue, and the director found "a really beautiful summation of the theme of the film" there. Kosinski also appreciated that Jeff's narration "put the film firmly in Jeff's point of view at the end." Given that "Escape from Spiderhead" is told exclusively from Jeff's perspective, it was a pretty fitting way to bring it all full-circle.