10 Behind-the-Scenes Facts You Might Not Know About ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

36 years in the making, "Top Gun: Maverick" returned Tom Cruise to one of his most legendary roles. Then, it ignited the box office and the Best Picture race.
Scenes from "Top Gun: Maverick," plus Joseph Kosinski and Jerry Bruckheimer on set
Scenes from "Top Gun: Maverick," plus Joseph Kosinski and Jerry Bruckheimer
Courtesy Everett Collection

“It’s not the plane, it’s the pilot.” When Miles Teller’s Rooster spits out that gem of a line toward the end of “Top Gun: Maverick,” the second-in-command action star certainly isn’t talking about Hollywood awards season. And yet, it’s an apt metaphor for the blockbuster Best Picture nominee and its spectacular ascent to Sunday’s Oscars.

A sequel to one of cinema’s most iconic fighter pilot movies was always flyable as a business idea: the metaphoric plane, if you will. But after the death of original “Top Gun” director Tony Scott — who passed in 2012 with his own unrealized vision of a follow-up in the works — recruiting the right people to pilot the tentpole for Paramount Pictures grew complicated. Not only did eventual director Joseph Kosinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer face the uphill battle of evolving a beloved property, but they also had to convince Cruise to come back as Maverick.

“We wanted to bring out a movie purely designed as entertainment,” said Bruckheimer in an interview with IndieWire. “It’s what I’ve been doing my whole career. Tom Cruise felt the same way: when entertaining audiences you hope to get the best story, characters, and scenes, and the best people behind and in front of the camera.”

As producer-star, Cruise was an essential linchpin from beginning to end: even vehemently advocating for a theatrical release when “Top Gun: Maverick” almost got relegated to Paramount+. He’s not up for Best Actor this year, but Cruise could help collect the statuette for Best Picture should the fan-favorite win over “Avatar 2” and the category’s more traditional fare.

The crowd-pleasing sequel also received nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song (Lady Gaga and BloodPop’s “Hold My Hand”), Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects. It won big at the box office too, with “The Fabelmans” director Steven Spielberg even quipping that it “saved Hollywood’s ass” at an Academy Awards luncheon in February.

It’s not the plane, it’s the pilot. Here are 10 behind-the-scenes facts to know about Best Picture contender “Top Gun: Maverick” before the 95th Academy Awards.

Check out 10 behind-the-scenes facts you might not know about “The Fabelmans” next.

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