Audiences exiting “Top Gun: Maverick” this weekend want to know one thing, do the actors really fly these fighter jets? The short answer is yes.
Tom Cruise, who returns as “Maverick”, is renowned for his own stunts, and he wanted his stars Miles Teller, Monica Barbaro and Glen Powell to learn to fly. That’s where the film’s aerial coordinator, Kevin LaRosa Jr., came in.
LaRosa Jr. worked with Cruise to put together an intense flight schedule that began with the cast flying in a smaller plane. “We started with the Cessna 172 and taught them the basics of flight. It allowed them to see what it was like to take off, land and know where to look and put their hands,” LaRosa. explains Jr. This starter plane also gave the actors a sense of what a small g-force looked like.
And just like in a real training program, once the actors were comfortable with that, they moved on to the next level and that was on the aerobatic plane, the Extra 300. “It was similar to what the general public would see at an airshow where these planes do crazy maneuvers. It can pull up to eight g-forces. It’s exhilarating,” says LaRosa Jr.
Again, exercise would build their G-tolerance. “For me, it’s almost like muscle memory. If I don’t fly for a long time, I might get on and get sick. But if I fly all days and I pull those Gs, it’s almost like a brain muscle and you’re going to get used to it and get better. He adds, “We built them up to the point where they didn’t usually get sick.”
Next is the L-39 Albatros. “It allowed them to experience a fighter trainer. When they graduated, we had aviators. LaRosa Jr. adds that some cast members are working towards getting their full license. Glen Powell, who plays hangman, got his.
By the time the actors were placed in the F/A-18, LaRosa Jr. says, “They were confident and they felt good. They were used to these G-forces, and then they could focus on working with Joseph and Tom to tell this incredible story. He continues: “They didn’t have to worry about being in this high performance fighter jet flying through canyons.”
As someone who has dedicated his life to being an air coordinator, flying and teaching, LaRosa Jr. praises the talent of the cast. Barbaro, he said, was the most impressive. “She absolutely killed it and did a great job adjusting to the physiological effects of everything.”
Equally impressive was Powell, who fell ill while filming the F/A-18 scenes. Said LaRosa Jr., “He would go mind his business and then get back into the game. One of the most impressive things was how some of the actors were able to process that and recover.
The training program got the actors in place, so when they were ready to fly and film, Cruise’s determination to want the best performances possible was delivered.
For the mission training program the pilots undergo, LaRosa Jr. says jet-to-jet photography allows the public to live with the fighter jets while IMAX cameras have been mounted inside and out. exterior of the F/A-18. “As an audience, it feels like we’re riding with them.” LaRosa Jr. adds, “When you mix all of these things together, you end up with the perfect mix of aerial storytelling. It’s a perfect mix of living with our actors who are absolutely in these planes, maneuvering and shooting G’s and also letting the audience see where we’re at to get some spatial orientation and see these planes maneuvering low and in and around the training range. ”
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