Top Gun: Maverick Director Joseph Kosinski Talks Val Kilmer And The Ghost Of Goose [Interview]

"Top Gun: Maverick" is finally hitting theaters this week after years of pandemic delay, and let me tell you, it's absolutely, positively worth that wait. In the film, we not only get to see the return of Tom Cruise's Maverick, but Val Kilmer's Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky. I got a chance to speak to director Joseph Kosinski about Kilmer's return, getting the young actors up in those planes to shoot their own footage, how they actually managed that, and more.

Maverick's best friend and RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) Goose (Anthony Edwards) is no longer with us, but his presence is absolutely felt, especially because his son Lieutenant Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller) is a key character this time around. Kosinski also talks about Goose's spirit is an important part of this new movie.

By the way, when I got to speak to Kosinski for a second time on the red carpet for "Top Gun: Maverick," I asked him about "Star Wars" nods in the film. He said he didn't think about "Star Wars" himself (though I bet you will when watching it), but added, "I think when Jerry [Bruckheimer] made 'Top Gun,' I think 'Star Wars' was definitely an inspiration for them, so it makes sense that DNA would carry into ours."

In addition, Kosinski said they shot over 800 hours of footage and said there are a couple of hours of behind-the-scenes footage that he's seen that is "really great. So when the movie comes out on home video, people will get to see exactly how we made it." May I buy it now, please?

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Actors, Gravity, And Training

Were you ever concerned about having the actors go up in the planes?

Absolutely. I mean sending Tom up in one of these things is one thing, but sending up these young actors -- for some, this is like their first big movie -- certainly that was something that weighed on me every night before the flights, but I knew they were with the best of the best in terms of the Naval aviators that were flying them out. We had real Top Gun pilots flying our actors in this movie. So, can't do better than that.

Was there ever a concern that some of them wouldn't be able to handle the Gs, the nausea that comes from that?

Well, Tom knew what they were in for. So he developed a course for them to go through. Three months, working their way from a Cessna, which is like a slow trainer airplane, up to an aerobatic plane, then to a small jet, and then eventually to the F-18. So, by working their way up through the different G levels, they built up their tolerance. And listen, it wasn't easy. It was still very, very difficult.

This film leans on nostalgia, but it does it in the best way. It sort of trusts the audience. I'd just love to hear your thoughts on what you decided to bring back.

Well, I wanted to create the feeling that I felt when I was a 12-year-old kid and saw "Top Gun" on the big screen. So those first few minutes definitely tell you this is a "Top Gun" film, but shortly after that, I think it transitions into a new sequence that tells you this is going to be "Top Gun" for 2022 -- a new story. It's still Maverick, but a new story for him.

'You Can By My Wingman Any Time'

As someone who was a huge fan of the original, seeing Val Kilmer back was a really big deal. And I'd love to hear about working him into the story.

You know, Val actually came in and met with Jerry [Bruckheimer] and I and had kind of an idea of how Iceman could be integrated in. Tom, Jerry, and I couldn't imagine doing the film without him, and seeing him and Tom together on screen for the first time since 1986, that's something. That's one of those days on set I'll never forget.

I'd also love to hear about even putting sailing into this as another way to get the "need for speed."

Yeah. Well, Penny Benjamin is a character that we re-introduced in this film. Obviously, she was mentioned in the first film, but now we get to finally meet her. She's the [daughter] of a Navy Admiral. And we like the idea that she brings Maverick into her world for a scene and shows him what she can do. So I love that scene. The idea that kind of came from one of the Naval advisors that I talked to early on.

Goose has a major presence in this film even though he's not really in it. How important was that to you?

I mean, the friendship between Maverick and Goose is, I think, the thing that people remember most from the first film. That whole notion of a wingman as someone who always has your back. To have that spirit of Goose present throughout this film, and certainly embodied in the character of Rooster, his son, that was, I think, the emotional hook that really got Tom excited about going back.

After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy's top aviators, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of TOPGUN graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: "Rooster," the son of Maverick's late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka "Goose."

Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.

"Top Gun: Maverick" will hit theaters on May 27, 2022.

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