The box office numbers of “Top Gun: Maverick” are soaring, but it’s the aerial sequences that are unmatched.
According to the film’s aerial coordinator and camera pilot, Kevin LaRosa, there won’t be another film like this- unless there’s a third installment to the franchise. “This is a pinnacle movie and I don’t think there will ever be something that reaches the bar that we set,” LaRosa said.
When it comes to the high-flying scenes in the film, the actors aren’t pretending to be pilots through a green screen- they are actually in the planes. All the aviation the audience sees is 100% real.
LaRosa was part of a team that put the cast through an extensive program to take to the skies. “All the cast, heavily driven by Tom [Cruise], went through a training program,” LaRosa explained. “By the time they got in these aircraft they were seasoned pros, and that’s why they’re delivering these epic performances.”
One could compare the training from graduating from a compact car to a Ferrari.
The actors were first introduced to flying through a Cessna 172, an entry-level airplane, to teach them the basics. From there they moved on to an Extra EA-300, which are used in air shows for aerobatic stunts.
“From there we built their G tolerance up,” explained LaRosa. “G tolerance allows us to get that G fatigue level up so that we don’t get so tired, we don’t get sick and they look great on-camera.” From there the cast moved on to an L-39, which is a maneuverable fighter jet, then finally the F-18.
“It’s a thrill ride and we wanted to make sure, that we literally took the audience for this thrill ride,” he said. “We wanted them to feel like they were really riding in these F-18s.”
Once inside the cockpit, the actors were also directing themselves. They were also figuring out the camera shots because they couldn’t bring a director with them while up in the air.
This meant the footage shot in the air couldn’t be seen until after the flight was over, which led to some do-overs.
“That’s the movie business,” LaRosa reasoned. ” The thing about ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is we wanted perfection, so if we learned from something that wasn’t great- we would do it again and do it better.”
“Top Gun: Maverick” is in theaters now.