Tom Cruise has soared back to the big screen in style with Top Gun: Maverick. The action sequel picks up with the titular protagonist over 30 years after the original film as he is tasked with training a new group of TOPGUN graduates, including Goose’s son Rooster, for a dangerous new mission.
Alongside Cruise, the ensemble cast for Top Gun: Maverick includes Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, Monica Barbaro, Glenn Powell, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, and Lewis Pullman.
In anticipation of the film’s home media release, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with star Jay Ellis to discuss Top Gun: Maverick, his surprise at the sequel’s success, his thoughts on a possible third film, and more.
Screen Rant: How are you doing, Jay?
Jay Ellis: I’m good, man, I got a movie in a box office still going, I’m great.
It’s crazy to see how far Top Gun: Maverick‘s gone just in the couple of months since it’s come out. I remember before, when you were talking about the film, you hadn’t yet seen it with an audience and had only seen it with your co-stars. Have you since had the chance to see it in a theater with a full audience?
Jay Ellis: Man, I’ve seen it with about 11 or 12 audiences now around the world. I’ve seen it with a South Korean audience, with a French audience, with an English audience, Atlanta, Miami. Glen Powell and I, the weekend the movie came out, we actually kind of bounced around Los Angeles and would go to theaters and just watch the audience watching the movie, which was also an interesting experience and a lot of fun. But yeah, I’ve probably seen it with 11 different audiences now, I would say.
Wow, that’s quite a few, that’s awesome. What has it been like for you, seeing that overwhelmingly positive response?
Jay Ellis: Yeah, it’s crazy, man. One thing I think is really amazing is no matter where we’ve been, or where I’ve seen the film so far, a lot of the moments that hold up for me, and hold up for us, hold up across the world, regardless of language, regardless of age, there’s so many moments that hold up in this film, which is such an awesome thing, because it is a film that is truly universal and made for a worldwide audience. You hear a lot of people say that about movies, but when you actually can say that you’ve seen it in multiple countries now, it just reaffirms the power of filmmaking and the power of story and how amazing story can be and how we can entertain people across the world.
This is a film that’s obviously done that and it’s been really cool. It’s also really cool to hear there are obviously a few places where people laugh at different things. So it’s really interesting to hear where a South Korean audience laughed versus a French audience versus the Naval audience down in San Diego. It has been interesting to hear these little places where you don’t necessarily see a funny, and people just bust out laughing or chuckling and it’s great.
That’s awesome that it’s connected so universally. When a sequel takes as long to be produced as Top Gun: Maverick has, sometimes there’s a reservation amongst audiences or even the cast of whether it can live up to the original. When you were first hearing about Top Gun 2 being in the works, what was that like for you, did you have that similar feeling of, “Well, can this match the iconic status of the original?”
Jay Ellis: Yeah. I think in Hollywood, I think we all have that feeling. I think there’s a lot of sequels that have been made and then, obviously, remakes as well. I think we all have that feeling, you’re like, “Ah, man, I don’t know, but I really want to see it.” Especially, I think what’s interesting about this film is you really want to see where Pete Maverick is 30 years later, you really want to see how that guy ended up. You want to see how Iceman ended up, it is really interesting. I think with this film, one of the reasons that I definitely was like “I’m in,” and so many people were in, is because you really want to see where those characters ended up all these years later.
Then, obviously, flight and aviation looks slightly different, we are 30-plus years in the future from then, so it looks different, so what does flying look like and what does filming flying look like? I think is also another thing that a lot of people were really drawn to. But one of the things we talked about on set was like this movie, it was one or the other, it was either gonna be a flop or it was gonna be the most amazing thing ever only because this title is so loved. Top Gun is so loved by people that we knew the bar that we had to get to to make sure that everybody loved it as much as we did.
Now that it has become as big of a success, as you sort of anticipated, there have been hopes and talks of a potential Top Gun 3. What are your feelings on that possibly happening?
Jay Ellis: Grant, I feel like you’re trying to make me take the swim test again, and I gotta tell you, man, it was a hard swim test. It was really tough, Grant, it was really tough. [Chuckles] Listen, I would love to be in a third, if Paramount’s listening right now, let’s make a third one, why not? We’ll see. I think one of the things that is going to really be a big part of a third, if there ever were a third, and I have not heard that there’s a third, is like, how do you film the flying? How is flight different from this film to the next film?
Because I think that’s one of the things that Tom will tell you, in the 30-plus years of him not making this movie, one of the reasons that it took him a while was because he really wanted to be able to film the flight experience for what it is and the only way to do that was to be able to get in the back of F-18s and put cameras in there and put actors in there. I think we’ve now created that experience, so it’s what is the next version of that, the next iteration of that, I think, is really a big part of whatever that next film could be.
Well, it’ll be exciting to see what comes from that because you’re right, it has evolved in such a way that’s made it even more exciting than the original film with this new one. Now, before I let you go, the beach football scene is obviously one of the most talked-about moments in that it recreated that volleyball scene feel. I remember a story about Glenn recalling how he went and enjoyed a bunch of sweets right after filming and then had to come back for reshoots. Did you have a similar situation with that?
Jay Ellis: Yeah, you know, we all went out the night after we shot that scene. We all went out to a place downtown San Diego, I think it was called Busby’s, it was a tots place, it was like tots and wings, that was kind of their specialty.
We all sat around and had a beer and ate wings and tots and dessert, like sweets and cookies and cakes, and Danny ate a ghost pepper hot wing and literally like burned his lip, because he just took, I mean, just a massive bite. But we all did that and we all paid for it, because about three or four days later, our first A.D. and Tommy, our executive producer, walks over to us and they’re like, “Yeah, we gotta shoot that again.” From that moment, everyone was like, back to broccoli for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus we were on treadmills, plus we were working out, plus we were in the sauna sweating just to get ready to reshoot it.
Top Gun: Maverick Synopsis
After more than 30 years of service as a top naval aviator, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot. Yet, Maverick must confront the ghosts of his past when he returns to TOP GUN to train a group of elite graduates and comes face-to-face with Lt. Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his former wingman, “Goose”. Bitter rivalries ignite as the pilots prepare for a specialized mission, which will require the ultimate sacrifice from those chosen to fly it.
Check out our previous interviews with the cast and crew of Top Gun: Maverick as well.
Top Gun: Maverick is now on digital platforms and hits shelves on 4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on November 1.