In the movie business, the hardest shots to pull off aren’t always the most complex, or even the most technical. Just ask Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinkski, who revealed that the hardest aspect of filming the blockbuster wasn’t the insane fighter jet sequences. But rather, it was a scene on the water.
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The computer-generated era of movie effects has improved the quality of films, no doubt, but many directors still prefer to capture what they can live and in-person. Remember the scene when Tom Cruise’s Peter “Maverick” Mitchell joins Jennifer Connelly’s Penny Benjamin out in the boat yard to get her engine fixed? Maverick is a pro when it comes to flying planes, but it’s abundantly clear in this scene that he’s out of his element. Ironically enough, that’s how the crew felt filming the scene, as well.
“I mean, the hardest [scene to shoot], which is one that you wouldn’t think, was actually the sailing sequence,” Kosinski admitted to Vulture. “Because there was so much out of our control. I had to shoot that scene three times in three different places before we got it. I shot it off the coast of Los Angeles — there was no wind. Then two weeks later, I shot it off the coast of San Diego — there was no wind. Then we took the whole scene and crew up to San Francisco — and the wind blew like hell.
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“So what you’re seeing is Tom and Jennifer Connelly on a very, very fast carbon-fiber racing boat doing 20, 22 knots,” he explained. “We had an America’s Cup team stuffed into the hull of that thing in case anything went wrong. And Claudio Miranda, the cinematographer, and I are on a boat next to it with a Technocrane. I’m literally holding on to Claudio’s chair for dear life, trying to look at the monitor, and he’s operating the camera.”
Kosinski also shared that while boating scenes were most troublesome, the entire third act of aerial stunts and storyboarding really challenged him and the team as filmmakers.
“The logistics of being able to pull off a sailing sequence gave me so much more appreciation for [sailing scenes]. This is really, really difficult to pull off,” the director lamented. “So that was an unexpected challenge that was very different than the aerial stuff.
“But from an aerial point of view, the third act was a monster of logistics, planning, storyboarding, and working in a naval low-level training range up in the Cascades,” Kosinski continued. “So that was an extremely complex sequence to figure out. Mav’s low-level, when he proves that the course can be run in two minutes and 15 seconds, was probably the most extreme thing we shot. Just watching that footage, you can see Tom looking directly into the sheer rock face next to him and seeing the shadow from his own jet about 15 feet away. That tells you how extreme the flying was for that sequence. That was probably the most dangerous thing we did.”