Top Gun: Maverick was the smash blockbuster movie hit of Summer 2022, and reached yet another pinnacle of recognition by nabbing a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. The movie is a fast-paced good time, but wouldn’t quite complete the sequel equation without the central romance between Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly’s characters. Now, director Joseph Kosinski has shared how their characters’ relationship changed throughout filming the movie to better suit the story Kosinski was going for.
The Oblivion director sat down with Vanity Fair to detail behind-the-scenes factoids about the most difficult scenes to bring together for Top Gun: Maverick, and how the different character relationships were established. The action filmmaker revealed that Cruise and Connelly’s relationship was approached much differently as written in the original script, and he explained why changes were made while filming, revealing that establishing scene between the characters at her bar was just as hard to capture in some ways as the high-flying stunts. In his words:
For sure, the bar scene is as intricate if not more than any action scene. You’re introducing all of those people, but you’re trying to maintain Maverick’s point of [view] throughout it. So all those eyelines, making sure that you’re clocking him, watching him observe all these people come together. That was the probably the scene that we spent the most time writing and rewriting, and probably changed the most over the course of the film. Because we really changed the Maverick-Penny storyline halfway through, and that’s the scene that sets it all up.
This is such an important scene in the film because it not only pull the audience into Penny and Mav's relationship, but also the various dynamics between other characters, as well as Maverick’s internal battles concerning his past. The scene is doing a lot of heavy lifting in terms of exposition, and was likely very difficult to achieve due to changing dynamics between the characters. Kosinski further detailed how the central romance became reworked throughout the production process by explaining:
Well originally Penny and Maverick had not seen each other since 1985. So you ended up with him seeing a character that he hadn't seen since she was 18 or 19 years old. And after shooting it that way and putting the film together, there was too far for that relationship to go from not having seen someone in 36 years to where we wanted to get to at the end of the film. So that's when we came up with the notion of this is a relationship that's been on and off for decades, and Maverick and Penny would be ready to finally connect in a more meaningful way. The bar scene is the kickoff for that, so that's, that's why it required kind of so much tweaking to get it there.
The romance is the beating heart of the film, giving Maverick additional emotional stakes, and other plot elements populating Top Gun: Maverick may not have worked as well without that being handled properly. Kosinski clearly made the right decision by tweaking the dynamic between these two characters. Their love story is totally believable as an on-again, off-again relationship that's spanned many years, and Cruise and Connelly's chemistry makes us root for them.
The actors are also clearly supportive of each other off-screen as well. Connelly has described Cruise as “extraordinary” for his work throughout the film, and stated that she believes the megastar deserved an acting Oscar for his efforts. Cruise was unfortunately snubbed for the acting nomination, even as the film received plenty of Academy recognition. Connelly has sung the Mission: Impossible star’s praises over and over again before and since the blockbuster hit theaters, and the experience was seemingly a blast for the actress.
Cruise can be an intimidating actor to work with, due to his undying commitment to getting the intense action scenes perfect, but it seems like Connelly kept up just fine. Would she have been as enthused had their storyline revolved around re-building chemistry after reuniting for the first time in 30+ years? Impossible to say, and we thankfully don't have to worry about it.
Anyone who missed the action flick in theaters can stream Top Gun: Maverick now with a Paramount+ subscription. For more fun popcorn movies coming to theaters and streaming in the near future, make sure to check out CinemaBlend’s 2023 movie release schedule.