Maverick sheds jerseys, logic for the dogfight football scene

SAN DIEGO — During a thoughtful moment, “Top Gun: Maverick” star Glen Powell reflects on the action film’s sweaty and sandy distraction, the already famous dogfight soccer scene.

“I played football growing up in Texas,” says Powell. “And I don’t understand the rules of dogfight football. They make absolutely no sense.”

He’s right: The first rule of the film’s dogfight soccer is that it makes zero sense. It’s not so much a game by Tom Cruise’s flight instructor, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, but a baby-oiled excuse to show off the skinned, beautiful physical specimens that make up the cast of Top Gun: Maverick. No criticism, a thank you.

The muscle show is a direct nod to the iconic beach volleyball game from the original film, in which a toned Cruise, Val Kilmer and Rick Rossovich compete in the best of fashion for the top guns (Anthony Edwards wore a shirt).

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Glen Powell takes off his jersey for the dogfight football game "Top Gun: Maverick."

The shirtless dogfight soccer scene is a throwback to the original Top Gun.

Director Joseph Kosinski knew he had to inject a sweaty nod of sorts into the sequel.

“When everyone found out I was doing this movie, they said to me, ‘You know you gotta have a volleyball scene. Without them, it’s not a ‘Top Gun’ movie,'” says Kosinski. “But it can’t just be a random montage. It has to move the story forward.”

Kosinski credits screenwriter Ehren Kruger with developing Maverick’s on-screen team-building exercise. There are real rules: two balls in play, offense and defense at the same time, lots of running and touchdowns. “It was a brilliant solution for me,” says Kosinski.

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Glen Powell and Monica Barbaro get started "Top Gun: Maverick."

Rossovich, who believes he won the original body contest, told USA TODAY how hard the original “Top Gun” stars competed (“We were all trying to get an edge”). But the late Top Gun director Tony Scott surprised them all with the shooting date, dumping a truckload of sand and telling the actors to act.

Kosinski allowed his actors to focus on the big day.

“Everyone had their calendars circled with ‘This is dogfight football day. Get out the coconut oil and spray tan, let’s do this!’ ‘ says Kosinski. “And I knew I just had to fuck the fuck out.”

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