How “Top Gun: Maverick” Goosed California’s Economy
When Tom Cruise landed a helicopter on the USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego for the world premiere of Top Gun: Maverick, he was putting perhaps the perfect final touch on an epic story of movie-making magic. It’s been 35-years since we last saw Cruise play Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in director Tony Scott’s Top Gun, but Cruise’s return, after an inspired pitch by Maverick director Joseph Kosinski, blew away audiences in both San Diego and Las Vegas, where Paramount debuted the film at CinemaCon. The story of how Top Gun: Maverick came to be, what it required, and what it brought to California’s economy are all nearly as stunning as the aerial maneuvers on display in the film.
The first step was that pitch from Kosinski, who got into a room with Cruise and producer Jerry Bruckheimer to tell them his vision for a Top Gun sequel. As The Hollywood Reporter reveals, Kosinski came prepared with a fleshed-out story, a poster, and a lookbook. “After he finished pitching it, Tom pulled out his phone and called Paramount and said, ‘I’m making another Top Gun movie,’” Bruckheimer told The Hollywood Reporter.
Of course, this is just the very beginning—the pre-production process included fine-tuning a script that saw Maverick returning to the Navy after a request by a certain Admiral Kazansky (better known as Iceman, played by Val Kilmer, in the original Top Gun), to help train a crop of new Top Guns for a top-secret and highly dangerous new mission. One of those Top Guns is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Goose (Anthony Edwards), Maverick’s best friend and radar intercept officer who died during one of Maverick’s training flights in the original Top Gun. In this way, Maverick has to face his past while helping these young hotshot pilots, a breed he knows a few things about, for a mission unlike any other before.
Production in California was, in a word, epic. The aerial action was real and required Kosinski to film more than 800 hours of footage. As we wrote back in 2018, Top Gun: Maverick deployed real Navy jets and aviators. “Much like the first film, these are going to be real jets and real U.S. Naval aviators flying in these scenes,” Naval Air Forces spokesman Commander Ronald Flanders told us. “We’re excited about it.”
As always, Cruise was adamant that the case train hard and do as many of their own stunts as possible. That included two hours of swimming and two hours of flying a day. Cruise also helped train the crew on the camera equipment, as the actors were often required to work the cameras while in the cockpit. “We had to teach the actors about lighting, about cinematography, about editing,” Cruise told Empire Magazine. “I had to teach them how to turn the cameras on and off, and about camera angles and lenses. We didn’t have unlimited time in these jets. If they were going up for 20-30 minutes, I had to make sure that we got what we needed.”
As for the economic impact that Top Gun: Maverick made on California, the proof is in the numbers. The production added $150 million to the local economy and created 2,820 jobs for Californians. When a production as massive as this comes to town, that means millions of dollars are not only poured into the economy via wages ($80 million worth here), but also in rentals, purchases, and supplies to build and dress sets ($6.7 million), in lodging ($3.9 million), transportation ($2 million), catering ($1.4 million), and hardware and lumber supplies ($1.2 million). Big movie, big impact.
Joining Cruise, Kilmer, and Powell in the cast are Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Monica Barbaro, and Greg Tarzan Davis. And don’t worry, if you’re a Top Gun fan and wondering whether Top Gun: Maverick will reproduce one of those most iconic scenes from the original, you won’t be disappointed. There is a beach volleyball scene, and according to castmember Jay Ellis, it required so much baby oil that lighting a match near the cast could have been dangerous.
Top Gun: Maverick zooms into theaters on May 27.
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Featured image: Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films. Credit: Scott Garfield. © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation.