Over $1.4 billion at the worldwide box office and already the sixth highest grossing movie in domestic box office history, it’s safe to say Top Gun: Maverick is far from the Danger Zone in movie theaters. Now, it has landed at Digital for fans to enjoy at home while it continues to draw crowds to multiplexes.
The success of the widely-acclaimed sequel, which is also the biggest movie of Tom Cruise’s career, has even taken legendary producer Jerry Bruckheimer by surprise.
I caught up with the filmmaker to discuss the record-breaking hit that made history during one of the most challenging times in cinematic history.
Simon Thompson: You are a seasoned professional but have the popularity and success of Top Gun: Maverick surprised even you?
Jerry Bruckheimer: To be honest with you, every time we have a successful movie, it surprises me. I always hope for the best and expect the worst, and this, fortunately, turned out even beyond anybody’s wildest imagination. It became such an enormous success. It’s always a thrill when you hit something out of the park, as this one did.
Thompson: Watching the box office come in must have been a very different experience to watching the box office come in on the original Top Gun. What was that like for you?
Bruckheimer: Grosses weren’t that big in those days, so we did very well back in 1986. It’s always a fascinating experience when you start riding that box office rocket, especially when it goes up. I’ve been on them when they go down, and this one is still going. That’s the amazing thing. Last week’s box office was bigger than the week before that. It keeps going and going and going, so everybody’s thrilled. It’s Tom’s biggest picture and well deserved. He did an amazing job not only with acting in the movie, but he was behind the scenes coordinating all the flying and training with the actors. Tom designed the flying program for them before they actually got in the F-18s and was really instrumental in designing the aerial sequences with our director, Joseph Kosinski.
Thompson: Top Gun was Tom’s second movie as a leading man. He was already popular from Risky Business, but Top Gun put him on the map. Tom’s relationship with Hollywood and the relationship with the production of these films is very different now. How different was the experience for you, as a producer, to work with Tom this time? What was different in that process?
Bruckheimer: We let Tom in on a lot on the first one. He was our partner in it, and I think he never forgot it, and we were so generous with our time. How we made the movie gave him an inside look at everything, and Tom got to see the dailies when we were making the film. It is really unusual for a 21-year-old actor actually to sit in and be part of the process. What’s changed is that he was a young, excellent actor, and now he’s got the knowledge of being a terrific filmmaker and producer. He’s made many terrific films with great directors, writers, and other actors who have guided him. He’s a sponge, and he loves taking in knowledge about filmmaking, storytelling, and experiences. Tom can do just about anybody’s job set as good if not better than they can because he’s been a student of the process. He loves making movies and coming to work in the morning, and that’s what you want in an actor. It’s so exciting when somebody comes there and says, ‘How do we make this better? Make me better, and let’s make everybody else better.’ That’s Tom’s ethos and his work ethic. They are just off the charts.
Thompson: How many iterations of a Top Gun sequel have been put to you over the years? I know we’ve had many conversations about a Top Gun sequel over the years, so Top Gun: Maverick has been a long time coming. Do you know many versions of a sequel or a prequel have been discussed over the last 36 years?
Bruckheimer: There have been quite a few. I couldn’t give you a number, but we finally settled on this one. Joe Kosinski came in with a strong idea, and we’d been toying around with a similar one. What happened was that we went to Paris where Tom was shooting Mission: Impossible at the time and we had a meeting with him, Joe and me. Joe had a lookbook, came in, and told him the story about Goose’s son, showed him what it would look like, and the one thing Tom said to Joe was that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it for real. He wanted the actors in the jets, and Joe said that was the only way he wanted to do it too. They were in sync right away on how the movie was going to be made and the story they would tell. Tom picked up his iPhone or whatever and called the head of the studio and said, ‘I want to make another Top Gun,’ and they were thrilled.
Thompson: The reality of this Top Gun: Maverick having Oscars continues. Did that ever occur to you as a conversation people would have? Do you have a vision for how this would be presented to the Oscars if that happens? Could you lobby for Lady Gaga and Kenny Loggins to perform together?
Bruckheimer: (Laughs) I would love all of it, but that’s not up to me. It’s up to the Academy and the voting body. Hopefully, they saw the film and enjoyed it the way the rest of the world has. What’s fascinating about the movie, and I would have never predicted this, is that the foreign box office is outgrossing domestic. That’s without China or Russia. Can you imagine what this film represents to the whole world about competition, camaraderie, and excellence? It’s terrific when you make a movie that when people walk out of the movie theater, they feel better than when they walked in. My whole career has been trying to entertain audiences, and Tom feels the same way. He makes movies to entertain an audience. We want to get them out of their houses and into theaters, and the theaters are doing well with it, and it’s still playing really strong.
Top Gun: Maverick is in theaters on Digital. It lands on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on Tuesday, November 1, 2022.