When you shoot a Tom Cruise action movie, there's a lot of pressure. Those movies are expensive and have to clean up at the box office.

Director Joseph Kosinski is not a stranger to this world. He's worked with Cruise before on Oblivion, but nothing prepared him for working on the sequel to Top Gun, Top Gun 2: Maverick. This was a high-octane adventure they shot in real planes.

The filmmaker tells Empire in the new issue, “Out of a 12- or 14-hour day, you might get 30 seconds of good footage. But it was so hard-earned. It just took a very long time to get it all. Months and months of aerial shooting. We shot as much footage as the three Lord of the Rings movies combined. I think it was 800 hours of footage.”

That's an incredible amount of work. It's hard to imagine even editing and focusing on the shots you want from it.

But when the movie's release date was pushed thanks to the pandemic, it meant every one of those shots really mattered. This movie is carrying a lot of weight to be successful, but even without the pandemic, the stakes were always high. Using real jets to shoot footage enhanced the realism. But they couldn't send a whole camera crew up there. They had to rely on the actors to get the shots they needed in the air. 

Producer and star Cruise said, "We had to teach the actors about lighting, about cinematography, about editing, 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.”

That kind of pressure definitely got to the actors at times.

“You had to be incredibly efficient,” said Miles Teller. “You had to, a lot of the time, create an imaginary eyeline to where another jet would be, and when you say a line, your face better be telling the story. The sun needs to be at the right angle.”

This sort of trust in the team is how you get a movie with everyone invested. Still, it can really put the pressure on. Especially after a long COVID-19 lockdown. These kinds of shots and authenticity can either be the word-of-mouth that brings people in, or the thing that people clown on later. 

Top Gun: Maverick is finally coming to theaters on May 27. Are you excited?