After three years spent grounded in the Paramount studios hanger, Top Gun: Maverick finally flies into theaters this week – but the blockbuster sequel wasn’t the inevitability many may have thought it to be.
In an exclusive interview with TechRadar to promote the upcoming movie, Top Gun: Maverick producer Jerry Bruckheimer revealed just how close the movie came – or rather didn’t come – to being made in the last 20 years, and shared an unsurprising story about how leading man Tom Cruise finally secured lift-off for the long-awaited project.
“It was never close,” Bruckheimer told us at a press event in London. “And it was never about the technology. Making a sequel came down to taking the right approach. Of course, technology had something to do with making the movie better – because we could get those cameras in the plane – but it was always about the story, the character journey and the emotion.”
Cruise himself famously turned down several sequel proposals following Top Gun’s stratospheric success 1986 – the actor recently told the BBC (opens in new tab) he spent years rejecting “terrible ideas that didn’t work in any way, shape or form” – but it was Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski who would finally convince him to reconsider his reluctance.
“So Joe had this idea for the story,” Bruckheimer said, “and we flew to Paris where Tom was shooting Mission: Impossible Fallout. We sat with him between setups – he had about half an hour to sit with us – and Joe came there with a lookbook, a poster and the fact that he wanted to shoot everything real. He told Tom the story, and Tom pulled out his cell phone, called the head of Paramount and said, ‘I want to make another Top Gun.’ And that’s what got the movie propelled. That’s what made it happen.”
So there you have it. In a single phone call, Tom Cruise took Top Gun: Maverick from unlikely concept project to in-development sequel. And it was only once he, Bruckheimer and Kosinski had ironed out the movie’s story that the trio turned to the magic of modern technology to bring it to life.
“The cameras were obviously the main difference [between this and the original Top Gun] – they were a big part of the fact that we could shoot digital,” Bruckheimer explained.
“Although it looks like traditional film – and we made sure it looked that way, that was a prerequisite from Tom and Joe – we used a process to make sure everything had the same grain feeling that the original movie had. So that was a big advantage, and the lighting, too.
“Everything has gotten smaller and better in the last 35 years. Even the editing process – the machines we edited the movie with were completely, completely different to those we used on the original Top Gun.”
As for whether Bruckheimer believes the theatrical experience can maintain its importance in the era of streaming services, his stance betrays that of a legendary producer whose career – and almighty fortune – has been built on audiences’ willingness to embrace the big screen.
“It’s always, always about the story,” he told us. “If you’re lucky enough to get a Tom Cruise [to attract audiences into theaters], that’s great. But it’s about the story and the emotion of a movie – but of course it’s nice to have a recognisable actor that you know is brilliant, that draws you out of your house.”
For what it’s worth, we think Top Gun: Maverick has all three in abundance: a great story, plenty of emotion and an actor who, despite pushing 60, remains at the absolute peak of his powers. See it on the biggest screen possible.
Top Gun: Maverick releases exclusively in theaters worldwide on May 27.