CORONADO, Calif. — The new ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ movie is still going strong, following its world premiere right here in San Diego.
If you've seen it, you know it's full of high flying action.
But here's something you may not know-the actors aren't actually flying.
They're sitting behind military pilots who are.
The scenes look real, because they are.
The movie's creators made sure of it, by having all the actors go through three months of rigorous training to avoid air sickness.
Then, when filming began, they would sit inside the cockpits of fighter jets behind actual pilots who would fly them.
"I became involved because my background with the Blue Angels had me flying low altitudes a lot of times and so they were looking for a few scenes where the aircraft were at extremely low altitudes," said Frank Weisser, a retired Navy Commander, who spent the latter part of his career as a Blue Angel Officer who helped them transition from the legacy F18 to the Super Hornet.
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He was one of several Navy pilots hired for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ though you'll never see his face.
Most of the scenes he filmed were done inside a two-seat F18.
As he piloted, the actor, which in many cases was Tom Cruise, would sit behind him, with cameras positioned solely on them.
"And so you see their faces and if you see the pilot from the back, it's usually one of the Navy pilots over the shoulder camera looking forward. I flew the scenes that were low over the ground in the desert, flew the scenes that were the low takeoff you see at the start of the movie and then the funeral fly-by scenes", said Weisser.
In between scenes, Weisser says he and Cruise talked a lot about flying.
Cruise has had his pilot's license since the early 90s.
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“My sense of Tom is that he's an incredibly hard-working individual that he really cares a lot about what he's doing and who he's doing it with,” said Weisser.
Weisser worked on the film in the fall of 2018 and the summer of 2019, traveling from his base in Atlanta to San Diego, China Lake, and Naval Air Station Fallon near Reno, Nevada.
He returned back to San Diego last month for the premier, saying he's glad it was held where the movie's roots are, and hopes it will leave a lasting impression just as the first film did.
"I hope it's as beneficial for the Navy and Navy aviation as the first one was," said Weisser.
The first ‘Top Gun’ led to a massive boost in Navy recruitment.
Weisser credits his involvement to Brian Ferguson, a Navy captain in San Diego who was the technical advisor for the film.