Top Gun: Maverick’s actors really did go up in those F/A-18s – and it was just as brutal as you’d imagine

Danny Ramirez in Top Gun: Maverick
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

In abstract, Tom Cruise bootcamp sounds fun, right? We’re imagining lectures on scaling buildings, advice on a long Hollywood career, and time for anecdotes of working with everyone from Ridley Scott to Steven Spielberg. Well, think again. For Top Gun: Maverick, bootcamp meant a four-month-long training process to get the cast ready to tackle a feat previously unachieved on screen – filming in the Navy’s F/A-18s.

"It was very intense," Jay Ellis, who plays Payback explains to Total Film. "I mean, training for it was crazy. It was nonstop." 

The cast started off in a prop plane before graduating to real jets as they built up their g-force resistance. All the while, they were working on their fitness, swimming strength, and the ability to not puke every time the jets took a turn. "We were thrown into like hours of flight training, 40 hours of flight training across three different aircraft," Ellis continues. "We were doing swim training along the way with the US open water Olympic swim coach because there was this big swim fitness test that we had to take in order to be able to fly in the F/A-18s."

"We started in the same procedure that you would go through if you were trying to get your pilot's license," Miles Teller, who plays Rooster, continues. "We would fly in a specimen and then move our way up. And yeah, I mean, it was a lot. We were flying at one point every day and certainly multiple times a week pretty much for about a year."

And this isn’t to mention some of the exercises they had to go through, including an underwater endurance test that has had a lingering effect on some of the cast. "Water only belongs in a bathtub," jokes Greg 'Tarzan' Davies, who plays Coyote. "It was a traumatic experience. Imagine being strapped up to a seat, blindfolded at some point, and the water's just going down. You just feel the water rising, your eyes are closed. And you’re being rotated upside down. And then you can't get out just yet, you have to wait till it completely stops." The actor admits it’s put him off bubble baths for life...

Then they’re up in the F/A-18s – and according to the actors, nothing can really prepare you for that feeling. Teller explains: "I mean, we had got our g-tolerance up in some smaller aircraft, but no nothing really compares to the F/A-18s. That was something that, the first time I went up, I was like, 'Oh, this is this is a beast of a different name.'"

Top Gun: Maverick

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

But for Danny Ramierez, who plays Fanboy, the pain was worth the results. "Every time that somebody asks, 'How was it to be in the back of a F/A-18s?', there's no word that encapsulates the 15 sensations happening at one point. So the coolest thing ever is seeing how Claudio [Miranda], the cinematographer, Tom [Cruise], and Joe [Kosinski], were able to encapsulate our experience of 10 months into two hours and 10 minutes of what we live through. And that's the best way to be like, 'Hey, this is it.'"

Although, not all of them are itching to get back in the skies just yet. When asked if they miss the flights, it’s a mixed response. "I don’t know," Teller admits. "There are moments because we will go up for about a little over an hour and the first 30 minutes I found to be pretty enjoyable. And then the last 30 minutes I was just like, trying not to puke." While Ramirez, who used to be afraid of flying, has admitted that he’s hooked. "Oh yes! If anybody's out there with a F/A-18, hook us up,” he pleads. "Give us a cool little ride. Blue Angels, what’s up?"

Top Gun: Maverick is exclusively in UK cinemas on May 25 and US theaters on May 27, in 4DX and IMAX. Check out our guide to 2022 movie release dates to see what else is coming out this year. 

Fay Watson

I’m an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering TV and film for the Total Film and SFX sections online. I previously worked as a Senior Showbiz Reporter and SEO TV reporter at Express Online for three years. I've also written for The Resident magazines and Amateur Photographer, before specializing in entertainment.