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Why Tom Cruise Wasn’t Allowed To Fly An F-18 Fighter Jet

Given the actor’s reputation for wild stunts, it’s not surprising that fans were wondering did Tom Cruise actually fly in Top Gun: Maverick. Joseph Kosinski’s sequel has surpassed the original 1986 Top Gun with its box office success and a Best Picture nomination. Much of this has to do with how the movie prioritized practical effects over CGI, adding authenticity to the aerial action. That said, while it’s no secret that Tom Cruise does his own stunts a lot, some of the tricks proposed for Top Gun: Maverick were a little too ambitious, even by Cruise’s standards.

When it came to the long-awaited sequel, Cruise signed on for the project only with the assurance that the film’s effects would not be reliant on CGI. Cruise was so ambitious, in fact, that he had initially hoped to fly a real Boeing F-18 fighter jet. A certified pilot, Top Gun: Maverick’s Cruise is well-accustomed to high-octane aviation stunts. Many Cruise fans will already be aware that many of the more impressive helicopter stunts in 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout were performed by Cruise. However, Bruckheimer maintains that the US Navy ultimately denied Cruise’s requests to fly the Super Hornet, which boasts a price tag in excess of $70 million.

RELATED: Steven Spielberg Is Right About Top Gun: Maverick’s Success


Why It’s Sensible That Tom Cruise Wasn’t Allowed To Fly A Fighter Jet

Tom Cruise as Maverick in Top Gun 2

The Super Hornet jet does feature in the sequel, but Tom Cruise did not fly them in Top Gun: Maverick as those scenes were all completed with assistance from Navy pilots. According to producer Bruckheimer, Cruise does fly a P-51 propeller-driven fighter plane, as well as some helicopters. With the assistance of skilled editing, the action sequences are convincing to even the best-trained eye. There’s no confirmation about why the US Navy might have denied Cruise’s aspirations to pilot a Super Hornet, even though the actor has experience flying Top Gun‘s supersonic military aircraft. However, the most logical reason would be insurance concerns, which is always enough of a consideration to prevent actors from doing their own stunts.

The cost of the plane also figures into this – a real F-18 Super Hornet would make up roughly half of Top Gun: Maverick‘s $152 million budget. That would be likely to create logistical nightmares for the insurance of the film. That’s not even to mention insuring Cruise himself, who, though already a certified pilot, may not have the specific training required to fly the F-18 safely. Insurance woes aside, should an inexperienced pilot such as Cruise lose control of a high-speed aircraft, it could also mean peril for civilians and/or military personnel on the ground. Besides, while Tom Cruise does his own stunts to great effect, the real Navy pilots in Top Gun: Maverick‘s brought more than enough authenticity to the sequel.

Why Does Tom Cruise Like To Do His Own Stunts?Tom Cruise scaling a building and ridiing a motorcycle

The real reason why Tom Cruise does his own stunts is simple: it’s the best way to tell whatever story is at hand. In the actor’s own words, “It has to do with storytelling… It allows us to put cameras in places that you’re not normally able to do.” Indeed, if the lead actor in an action movie is able to physically perform the character’s stunts, this removes the necessity to shoot from strange angles or use editing tricks to make dangerous scenes appear real. This ultimately translates to smoother action sequences and scenes closer to the writer, stunt coordinator, and director’s vision.

Moreover, whenever Cruise puts himself in danger for a risky stunt, everyone involved – from the film crew to the audience – is much more invested in the results, a level of authenticity that simply can’t be achieved in any other way. Outside of the Top Gun series, this stunning effect can also be observed in the stunt-filled Mission Impossible franchise.

Related: Every Tom Cruise Movie Ranked Worst To Best

The F/A-18 Super Hornet Requires An Advanced Pilot

Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick in an action shot in a plane cockpit, wearing a helmet and oxygen mask

While Tom Cruise did really fly in Top Gun: Maverick with certain aircraft, confirming his exceptional pilot skills, the F/A-18 Super Hornets are not the kind of plane just anyone can jump into and take off. It requires specially trained pilots to operate these aircraft given their immense power and the danger involved. Some of the impressive specifics about the plane (via: Military.com) include its maximum speed of 1,190 mph and the ability to climb 45,000 ft per minute. Such power is needed as the Super Hornets have a 30,500 lb weight while empty which can increase to 66,000 lbs with its maximum weapons load.

It seems as though Tom Cruise will do anything for his stunts, and that likely includes the necessary training to handle an aircraft like this. However, even if he was denied that opportunity, the Super Hornets didn’t come at a discounted price. It was reported (via: Bloomberg) that the movie rented the Super Hornets from the U.S. Navy for over $11,000 an hour. However, given that Top Gun: Maverick more than surpassed box office expectations, it seems as though it was a price worth paying.

Tom Cruise’s Wildest Stunt

Ethan Hunt hanging from a movin plane in M:I - Rogue Nation

By Tom Cruise’s own reckoning, the wildest and most dangerous stunt he’s ever performed is when he hung on to a moving plane in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the fifth movie in the MI series. Not surprisingly, for Tom Cruise, flying a Super Hornet would qualify as a less dangerous stunt, as that would have at least required the actor to be inside the plane. Although Cruise was harnessed to the plane in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, no amount of safety precautions could account for all the inherent dangers involved with a person wearing virtually no protection while hanging onto a moving aircraft. This just goes to show the level of sheer dedication Cruise brings to his movie projects.

However, recently Cruise has suggested a new stunt in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 might be his wildest stunt yet. While aspects of the movie are being kept secretive, the stunt seems to involve Cruise jumping a motorcycle off of a cliff and then parachuting to safety. It is a stunt that took years of planning and training to get right and promises to be another spectacle from the dedicated actor. Clearly, even if Tom Cruise didn’t really fly the F-18s in Top Gun: Maverick, he is not slowing down at all when it comes to his onscreen stunts.

MORE: How Fast Is Mach 10? What Speed Maverick Travels In Top Gun 2

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