Tom Cruise in today’s Hollywood is a bonafide A-lister. One of the few actors currently working in the city of angels, whose name alone is enough to get people to theatres and watch a movie. But four decade ago, Tom was still a budding actor with a lot of potential and Jerry Bruckheimer, the producer of Top Gun, approached him with some over the top tactics to get him to play Maverick.
Coming into the 80s, Tom Cruise already had a few hits under his belt with Risky Business announcing him the world. Soon he was getting offers left right and center, but Tom was selective about his choices, trying not to damage his possibility of becoming a super star in Hollywood. So, when Jerry came in with the offer for Top Gun, the actor was hesitant about taking on the role.
If you ask a Tom Cruise fan to name three movies starring the actor, Top Gun will most likely be there at the top or within the three-name list. Maverick is one of the most iconic characters in American cinematic history and to think Tom Cruise needed convincing to play the character is interesting. The producer behind some of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood spoke at lengths with Variety on what it took to get Tom to sign.
Over-the-Top Effort to Get Tom Cruise as Maverick in Top Gun by Jerry Bruckheimer
35 years ago, this month was when Top Gun arrived in theatres. The film was a massive success at the box office and despite the Navy’s hesitancy to support the filmmaking process, Top Gun has become one of the best recruitment tools for the military branch. The film also has a massive fan following and we will soon be getting a sequel nearly four decades later.
But all of it almost did not happen because Maverick actor Tom Cruise, then a budding star, was reluctant about appearing in the film. It is hard to imagine Top Gun without Tom but Jerry Bruckheimer said it took some over-the-top stunts by the producer to get him to sign. Jerry knew Tom was the man for the job so he did what he had to and helped cement Tom’s place as an A-lister in Hollywood.
Top Gun is a movie about Navy pilots who are invited to train at the Top Gun school. Selected from the best the Navy has to offer, Maverick and Goose are a team looking to be on top of their class. The film shows military excellence, love, and loss, with realistic flying at the center of everything. Everything contributed in making Top Gun a film classic and it was the flying that did it for Tom, according to Jerry.
The producer explained Tom Cruise’s reluctance to playing Maverick so he decided to send him to California and fly with the Blue Angels. Top fighter pilots saw a young man with long hair and a ponytail so they decided to “give the hippie” a scare. They wanted to make sure Tom would be afraid of flying forever and they performed all kinds of rolls to scare him.
Well, the scare-tactics had an opposite effect on Tom, who we know as a daredevil in 2021. Top Gun soon found its lead actor and it was some over-the-top recruitment process that allowed Jerry Bruckheimer to get the star he wanted.
Jerry explained, “He drove up there on his motorcycle and he had just finished a movie with Ridley Scott, Legend, and his hair was long and in a ponytail. And they took one look at him and thought, ‘we’re going to give this hippie a ride.’ They took him up on an F-14 and flipped him and did all kinds of stunts to turn him around and make sure he never got back in a cockpit. But it was just the opposite.”
As Bruckheimer later explained the experience had exactly the opposite effect than one intended by the pilots at the California base. After getting on land Tom walked straight to a phone and told Jerry he was doing the film. And the rest you know what happened as the Mission Impossible actor fought with Paramount to do his own flying in the movie.
That is where the origin of Tom’s fascination of doing his own stunts can be traced to. Tom Cruise got so good in the movie that he continued flying after the film was over, and more recently he explained he got a helicopter license to do the stunts in Mission Impossible: Fallout. So, everything worked out fine for Jerry and Tom in the end.
Top Gun: Maverick is coming to the theatres on 19 November 2021, after multiple delays the date appears to be final.
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