TOP GUN: MAVERICK Exclusive Interview With Director Joseph Kosinski

With Top Gun: Maverick soaring to higher and higher heights at the box office, we caught up with director Joseph Kosinski to talk about filming the action sequel, reuniting with Tom Cruise, and more!

Top Gun: Maverick is a bona fide blockbuster and prior to its release, we were able to catch up with director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion; Only the Brave) to talk about helming the action sequel the world has been waiting over thirty years for. 

He tells me more about the reuniting with Tom Cruise, the stunning Darkstar opening sequence, casting the young TOPGUN pilots, pairing Cruise with fellow '80s icon Jennifer Connelly, the long-awaited reunion between Maverick and Iceman, and a whole lot more.

Check out the full video interview below!

ROHAN: What initially brought you on board to direct this project? I know they were years apart, but had you spoken to Tom Cruise during Oblivion, or did he reach out to you later, or was it the studio that sought you out?

JOSEPH: Tom says we talked about it a little bit on Oblivion, I think it was more in a very abstract sort of way, but this this one started with Jerry Bruckheimer sending me a script that they were working on, which I read and had some very specific kind of ideas about what direction to take it and I went and met with him and he liked kind of what I was thinking about and thought we should go and pitch it to Tom directly, which we did.

We flew to Paris where he was shooting Mission: Impossible and I got like twenty minutes of his time between setups to pitch my take on the movie and I think he really liked the character journey of Maverick and what I was pitching for this film, and the relationship with Rooster being the kind of core of the story and how I wanted to shoot it, obviously, all practically, which I knew would be a requirement for him.

He liked the title I had, which was Top Gun: Maverick, and where we find Maverick at the beginning of the story, which I liked the idea of finding him in the world of testing cutting edge aircrafts, and he picked up the phone and called the head of the studio and said, “We're going to make this movie.” And that was the beginning of this whole thing.

ROHAN: I know you had experience with aerial sequences before, but this is a whole different animal. How did you prepare to shoot this movie, where did you start your research?

JOSEPH: The first thing I did is, I called up the Navy and I got myself on an aircraft carrier out at sea, I went out to the Teddy Roosevelt and got connected with some naval advisors, technical advisors, guys who were XF-14 Tomcat pilots, Super Hornet pilots, and just started diving into their world because I knew the character journey we wanted to tell, but I just needed to familiarize myself with what it meant to be a naval aviator, and pick their brains on what the mission could be and how difficult it could be and what the training would be. From there, we just started building the story, one layer at a time, took about 15 months to get the draft in shape, and to figure out how to get these cameras inside the cockpit capture for real.

ROHAN: I read that you had 400-800 hours of raw aerial footage, how long did it take for you to put together an assembly cut of the film?

JOSEPH: We were just assembling as we went along. Most of the aerial footage was captured at the end, so we started with the ground story and all the aerial sequences were just storyboards in the middle of it, but we built it up as we went along and refined and honed it into the movie that you see now.

ROHAN: You'd worked with Jennifer Connelly on Only the Brave, a supremely underrated film, and you reunite with her here and pair her opposite Tom Cruise. Two '80s icons on the screen together for the first time, did you know you had movie magic on your hands from the first chemistry read?

JOSEPH: Jennifer, she has this incredible emotional intelligence that she always brings to her characters and I needed someone that was a great actor that could go play in scenes with Tom, but also provide what Penny Benjamin provides to Maverick in his journey on this story, and yeah, like you said, they both have worked for almost 40 years, but somehow have never crossed paths, never been in the same film. So, I just felt like they would have been a tremendous couple on screen and, like you said, to put two actors of that caliber together, it just it turned out better than I could have ever hoped.

ROHAN: I love the opening sequence in the Darkstar jet, and Maverick taking it to Mach 10 - can you tell me more about how that whole sequence came to be?

JOSEPH: That was very much inspired by movies like The Right Stuff and the character of Chuck Yeager in that film, these test pilots who go out there and do things that have never been tried before and this cutting edge machinery, and it just felt like it exemplified the idea of pushing the envelope, which is what Maverick does as a character. So, for me, just being kind of an aviation buff, and always loving that world, the idea to give people a peek behind the curtain of secret projects - I worked with Skunk Works, which is the division of Lockheed, that actually makes these type of aircraft, because I wanted it to feel as real as possible.

So, every detail of that is based on reality, the way the aircraft functions, the way it looks, all the switches, and stick are actually taken out of real experimental aircraft. We built a full scale model, a full scale mock up of the Darkstar aircraft that you see Maverick in in the movie. Yeah, I just wanted to show the audience that the first few minutes definitely feels like a Top Gun movie, but once he gets in that jet, I do also want you to know that we're telling a whole new story and that sequence kind of helped set that tone up for the movie.

ROHAN: The entire cast is so great from all the veterans to the new cast. What were you, Tom, Chris McQuarrie, and Jerry Bruckheimer looking for while casting those young TOPGUN pilots?

JOSEPH: We looked at hundreds of actors, my casting director, Denise Shamian, pulled a bunch of faces that I hadn't seen before, which is always very exciting and ones that she felt had a lot of promise, we did a lot of auditions and basically narrowed it down to what I thought were like the top two or three for each role and then, I sat down with Jerry and Tom and watched their tapes, and really drew on Jerry and Tom’s experience, decades of experience of casting some of the most famous actors of all-time to kind of find the perfect person for that role and luckily, when we put them all together as a group, they just hit it off immediately. The chemistry was so natural and so, what you see on-screen was happening off-screen as well. It's just every day, working with that group of people was a really, really great experience.

ROHAN: I love the scene between Tom and Val Kilmer, such an emotion, poignant moment, can you tell me more about that day of filming?

JOSEPH: It was incredible to see them both playing - two actors of that caliber - playing their most iconic roles, reunited on screen for the first time since Top Gun, obviously, a very emotional scene, and a very emotional day. They were both in great spirits. They have so much respect for each other, as actors, but yeah, it was a very memorable emotional day and what I'm most excited for people to see, is Val and Tom, two actors at the very top of their game, just doing an incredibly emotional scene.

Plus, check out our exclusive video interview with actor Glen Powell ("Hangman") below:

In our review, we said, "Top Gun: Maverick is the must-see cinematic experience of the year! Packed with jaw-dropping aerial sequences, thrilling edge-of-your-seat moments, genuine heart, epic romance, huge stakes, and one of the absolute best performances of Tom Cruise's legendary career, this is the theatrical experience you've been waiting for."

Tom Cruise headlines the feature as Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, with original co-star Val Kilmer returning as Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky. The iconic pair are joined by an all-star supporting cast consisting of Jennifer Connelly as Penny Benjamin, Miles Teller as Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, Jon Hamm as Vice Admiral Cyclone, JOSEPH Powell as Hangman, Lewis Pullman as Bob, Ed Harris as Rear Admiral, Monica Barbaro as Phoenix, Charles Parnell as Rear Admiral Warlock, JOSEPH Ramirez as Fanboy, Manny Jacinto as Fritz, Bashir Salahuddin as Coleman, Jay Ellis as Payback, Jake Picking in an undisclosed role, Raymond Lee in an undisclosed role, Lyliana Wray as Amelia Benjamin, Jean Louisa Kelly as Carole Bradshaw, Greg Davis as Coyote, and Bob Stephenson in an undisclosed role.

Top Gun: Maverick is now play in theaters worldwide!

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.

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