Monica Barbaro and Lewis Pullman talk Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise, and acting in fighter plane

by W. Andrew Powell

What is acting in a fighter jet like? “You’re riding on the back of a fire breathing dragon, and you’re just totally cool, and totally cool about it,” actor Lewis Pullman said, “and it’s not a big deal.”

Monica Barbaro and Pullman, who star as Phoenix and Bob in the new Tom Cruise film, sat down with me to talk about making the action-packed new drama, and the thing that they both came back to frequently was how much Cruise did to make the film spectacular.

Monica Barbaro as Phoenix

“Tom designed this aviation program for us where we started with a Cessna, learned basic aerodynamic principles,” Barbaro said. “Then we went to an Extra and started pulling Gs, and doing acrobatics, and then we did some dog fighting and an L39, and then finally got into the F-18, where by that point we were like physically prepared to fly in these planes.”

The real trick as an actor though is then bringing the performance to the plane.

“Then from there on out it was just just casually worrying about props, flight patterns and, you know, oh, by the way, lines and acting and rolling cameras and taking time codes, and yet we could just go on and on.”

“I will just say, we were really lucky,” Lewis said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the flight training that Tom designed for us. That was integral.”

“We’re all pedestrians learning how to do something incredible that takes these people a long time to learn,” he said, “and so to kind of compress that in a way that was manageable was was really impressive.”

Lewis Pullman as Bob

The two stars admitted that it was hard to pick one moment in the film that was the best part. Barbaro said though that the friendship with the cast was a big part of it for her.

“When we discovered that we all are going to have a really good time together, that was definitely a highlight and lucky that was the case because when we went through so much together, we really relied on each other and the bonds we had, we had built and were developing over time.”

For Pullman, his favourite moment was a spectacular, surreal moment in the air.

“It was pretty dang cool to fly so low at Whidbey Island; that was unreal. You look out and [it’s] like your wings are clipping off the pine needles on the trees next to you, and you just feel like you’re in a dream,” he said.

“You’re riding on the back of a fire breathing dragon, and you’re just totally cool and totally cool about it. And it’s not a big deal.”

“We’d done enough F-18 flying at that point that we weren’t so much troubleshooting,” Barbaro added, “we knew what we were doing at that point, so I think we got to enjoy the ride a little bit more.”

Top Gun: Maverick is available now on 4K Ultra HD + Digital copy, Blu-ray + Digital copy, and DVD. Watch the full interview with Monica Barbaro and Lewis Pullman above, and watch my interview with co-stars Danny Ramirez and Greg Tarzan Davis on YouTube, and Charles Parnell below.

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