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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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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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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Greg Davis, who plays Pilot Coyote, recalls the intense training that took place before and after grueling days of filming.
“Every one of us went insane. We’d all seen the original scene from ‘Top Gun,'” he says. “I’ve eaten more weed than a rabbit and protein bars. I was in great shape. It was like ‘Oh yeah.’ “
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Nur Cruise, 59, insists he hasn’t been training differently to prepare for the big game. “I just did it,” he says.
Powell recalls the night before the football scene as a muscle pandemonium at the hotel’s gym, where all the actors were working out frantically — except for Monica Barbaro. “She said, ‘I’m fine,'” says Powell.
“There was a lot of male insecurity, the guys were eating protein paste,” says Powell, who recalls the prep work that continued into the game. “Everyone had resistance bands and weights on the beach trying to get one last pump before we played soccer.”
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Kosinski made the most of an epic fall day at the beach in Coronado, California. Former pro football quarterback Matt Moore worked as a choreography consultant to help bring the most physical bang to the screen.
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“In the beginning it was like, ‘How does this game work?’ “says Danny Ramirez, who plays Pilot Fanboy. The ex-professional soccer player was recruited to hurl epic 60-meter bombs for the camera. “We found some flow and were able to build some classic moments.”
Powell organized the best group celebration on the scene, “biting off the end of the football and throwing it at me so it kind of explodes,” he says. “I was very proud of it because it was able to involve everyone in what I hope will be an iconic moment.”
Cruise repeated his infamous volleyball fashion choice: shirtless with blue jeans. “Maverick wears jeans, that’s what he does,” says Kosinski.
But Cruise still managed to outrun the kids, according to Davis, who tossed Cruise a goal pass. “Tom runs and burns past everyone,” says Davis. “I felt like Tom Brady.”
First thing the cast ate after the beach shoot? Tater tots
At the end of the day, the cast changed into their shirts and partied at Bar Bubs with lots of brat tots.
“We lived it out,” says Powell. “Then we get a call right after dinner. It was like, ‘We’ve got the vibe, but we need more. We have to reshoot in a few weeks.’ “
The group kept partying anyway, says Powell. “In that moment, we’ve killed more Tater Tots than a human has ever eaten.”
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