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Tom Cruise explains why it took decades to get 'Top Gun: Maverick' off the ground

Tom Cruise doesn't "do things just to 'do' it."

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick

Even though more than three decades have gone by, we still get weepy thinking about what happened to Goose. When the long-awaited Top Gun: Maverick lands in theaters this May, 36 years will have passed since Tom Cruise first earned his ace airman nickname in Top Gun, the original 1986 blockbuster that inspired it. 

That’s a long time for a film franchise — especially one as big as Top Gun — to stay off the radar, though Cruise and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have perfectly airtight reasons for keeping Maverick safely grounded until the time for the sequel was right. Speaking recently with Total Film, the duo said the story — not to mention the flightworthiness of moviemaking technology — both had to pass inspection before Pete "Maverick" Mitchell could deploy for another tour.

“Just through time, the story was never right. I don’t do things just to ‘do’ it,” Cruise explained, adding later that he originally “wasn’t interested in doing a sequel. All over the whole world, people were asking for it, and asking for it. [Producers Don] Simpson and Bruckheimer — I remember back in ’87, they had an idea. It was the germ of the idea, actually, that ended up with the concept of [the sequel].”

But, Cruise added, that initial idea for Top Gun: Maverick never seemed ready for takeoff until he started mulling it anew, talking it over with Oblivion director Joe Kosinski while filming the post-apocalyptic 2013 movie together. 

“I had lots of discussions for years with Tony [actor Anthony Edwards, who played Top Gun’s ill-fated Goose], with Jerry, with McQ [Maverick co-writer Christopher McQuarrie] about it,” Cruise said, “and when I was doing Oblivion, talking to Joe…I just had to wait for that right moment. And I realized it was either going to be now or never. And basically, I liked the concept of the idea. And I was like, ‘Alright.’”

“Joe had an idea for the movie,” added Bruckheimer. "And Tom loved the idea. And we loved it. So that’s where it all started.”

The tragic demise of Nick "Goose" Bradshaw in the first film is the stuff of big-screen legend, a 1980s pop culture touchstone that pretty much everyone can bond over even if they’re perfect strangers. Goose’s legacy isn’t forgotten in Top Gun: Maverick, which carries on the family name with Miles Teller as pilot-in-training Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw — who just so happens to be the son of Maverick’s late best friend. 

The nerve-scorching aerial action shots that made Goose’s fateful bailout such a high-impact moment back in 1986, though, are getting a major upgrade in Maverick, a key condition for making a sequel that lives up to the franchise’s high-flying standards. This time out, Cruise said the idea is “to put the audience inside that F/A-18.”

Directed by Kosinski with a screenplay from Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and longtime Cruise collaborator McQuarrie (Mission: ImpossibleJack Reacher), Top Gun: Maverick is cleared for a Memorial Day weekend takeoff, buzzing theaters everywhere beginning May 27.

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