Tom Cruise May Be Learning to Take the Stick in Hornet, Hints at Plot from Video.
Unconfirmed rumors have been circulating about Tom Cruise learning to fly a Navy jet, possibly a two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet or a T-45 Goshawk, for the filming of “Top Gun: Maverick“. More than one Hollywood and social media source suggested the rumored instruction is part of the reason for the recent delay in release of the anticipated sequel to June 26, 2020.
The rumors surfaced mid-week in several media outlets from MovieWeb.com, Entertainment Weekly (EW.com) and the Daily Mail.
The story in Entertainment Weekly by James Hibberd published on November 9, 2018, said that, “The story making the rounds is that production has halted on Top Gun: Maverick so star Tom Cruise can take some time and learn to personally fly Navy fighter jets. The story first took off in the U.K. tabloids (always a dependable source for future-debunked news).”
Entertainment Weekly went on to report that, “First, the Top Gun sequel is still shooting and will continue filming through spring (aside from the usual breaks around the holidays). So, production hasn’t shut down. Second, civilians are not allowed to use government equipment, particularly militarized jets — so even Tom Cruise can’t just take off in an F/A-18 Hornet, even if he does feel the need, the need for speed. (I know, we’re a bit bummed about that too).”
Hibberd is right about the Daily Mail being a tabloid rumor mill, but as an entertainment writer he can’t be expected to know that Cruise may be able to fly rear-seat in a two-seat F/A-18 and get some actual stick time. As you already know, it is not unusual for civilians on media or VIP rides with flight demonstration teams like the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds to briefly be given the opportunity to hold the control stick and press on the pedals under the very close and careful management of the front seat pilot in command.
It’s also worth remembering that Tom Cruise is already a pilot with several ratings who owns a P-51 Mustang. Cruise learned to fly an Airbus AS350 helicopter for some of the scenes in last summer’s Mission Impossible: Fallout. Cruise was seen in his P-51 Mustang, registration number N51EW, flying out of Burbank Airport yesterday and heading up toward China Lake Naval Air Station.
Even though the rumors about Tom Cruise’s personal “flight instruction” being the reason for the Top Gun: Maverick delay are making the rounds, the more believable explanation may be related to the inclusion of the Navy’s F-35C Lightning II in the film.
The U.S. Navy began testing the wide-winged, heavy landing gear variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) late this summer and early fall. Aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron 125, VFA-125, the “Rough Raiders” from Naval Air Station Lemoore, and also from Strike Fighter Squadron 101, VFA-101, the “Grim Reapers” from Eglin Air Force Base performed carrier trials on board the USS Lincoln in August.
It’s likely the Navy would be somewhat reluctant to bring full Hollywood production crews on board the carrier during the F-35C’s trial and evaluation period. It is more likely the U.S. Navy would support the film’s production with F-35C media opportunities sometime next year, and that may be a contributing factor to the delay of the film’s release.
Meanwhile, the new Hollywood feature, Hunter Killer released on October 26, 2018 may have been the first Hollywood feature film to debut the Navy’s F-35C. The movie featured some brief stock footage of F-35Cs taking off from an aircraft carrier in support of a fictional U.S. Navy special operations mission.
Some clues about the plot of Top Gun: Maverick may have surfaced on Tom Cruise’s own social media and from some phone video that hit Instagram and Facebook last week. The stills and video showed Tom Cruise on a motorcycle with actress Jennifer Connelly. Connelly will play a single mother who runs a bar near the air base. The filming of Cruise and Connelly together on the motorcycle may suggest the two characters develop a relationship in the storyline. Recall the brief romantic scene in the original 1986 Top Gun when Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis rode together on Maverick’s motorcycle.
Top image: Tom Cruise and his fans are sharing photos on nstagram of him and Jennifer Connelly on set for Top Gun: Maverick. (Photo: Screen Grab via Instagram)