Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski explained the difficult process of shooting the sailing boat scene between Maverick and Penny Benjamin.
Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski details the challenges of shooting Maverick and Penny’s sailing scene. In between all the high-flying action of the Top Gun sequel, Tom Cruise’s rebellious pilot strikes up a romance with Penny (Jennifer Connelly), an admiral’s daughter who runs a bar near the Navy flight school. During one sweet moment, Maverick joins Penny out on the open water as she steers her boat back home amid rollicking waves.
In a recent interview with Vulture, Kosinski reiterates that one of the most challenging scenes he shot wasn’t one of the aerial sequences – even if he describes some planning challenges for the third act – but Top Gun: Maverick‘s sailing boat moment between Maverick and Penny. At first describing how windy it was when they shot the scene in San Francisco, Kosinski also details the tricky logistics of having a camera in a Technocrane while strong winds are pushing a boat. The director says:
I mean, the hardest one, which is one that you wouldn’t think, was actually the sailing sequence. Because there was so much out of our control. I had to shoot that scene three times in three different places before we got it. I shot it off the coast of Los Angeles — there was no wind. Then two weeks later, I shot it off the coast of San Diego — there was no wind. Then we took the whole scene and crew up to San Francisco — and the wind blew like hell. So what you’re seeing is Tom and Jennifer Connelly on a very, very fast carbon-fiber racing boat doing 20, 22 knots. We had an America’s Cup team stuffed into the hull of that thing in case anything went wrong. And Claudio Miranda, the cinematographer, and I are on a boat next to it with a Technocrane.
I’m literally holding on to Claudio’s chair for dear life, trying to look at the monitor, and he’s operating the camera. The logistics of being able to pull off a sailing sequence gave me so much more appreciation for … you remember that movie Wind with Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey? I watch that movie now and go, Holy s–t, how did they do that? This is really, really difficult to pull off. So that was an unexpected challenge that was very different than the aerial stuff. But from an aerial point of view, the third act was a monster of logistics, planning, storyboarding, and working in a naval low-level training range up in the Cascades. So that was an extremely complex sequence to figure out. Mav’s low-level, when he proves that the course can be run in two minutes and 15 seconds, was probably the most extreme thing we shot. Just watching that footage, you can see Tom looking directly into the sheer rock face next to him and seeing the shadow from his own jet about 15 feet away. That tells you how extreme the flying was for that sequence. That was probably the most dangerous thing we did.
Why Practical Action Was Top Gun: Maverick’s Biggest Feat
While many invisible edits snagged Top Gun: Maverick a visual effects nomination at the Oscars, the movie contains numerous practical sequences that add authenticity and tension to the movie. Part of the reason the sailing boat sequence between Maverick and Penny is fun to watch is that it was done practically, and that the actors (and filmmakers) are braving the strong winds for the scene to feel as real as possible. The same can be said for Top Gun: Maverick‘s aerial scenes, which required a great deal of preparation ahead of filming.
It’s part of the reason why the movie resonated with so much with audiences. Many blockbusters contain plenty of CGI-driven sequences, while Top Gun: Maverick brought back the joys of having action sequences crafted practically. Not every scene is practical, and visual effects enhanced some practical scenes. However, most of Top Gun: Maverick‘s stunts were filmed practically with several IMAX cameras inserted inside the fighter jets, which brought a level of realism cinema had been missing.
Top Gun: Maverick not only tells a gripping story and features incredible performances across the board, but its practical action scenes were made to be experienced on the biggest screen possible. Part of the reason why it was so successful in theaters was that it crafted action scenes to enthrall audiences and unite them to witness how great a film can be when it shoots action on camera and with minimal aid to enhance them. It’s unclear if Top Gun: Maverick will win any Oscars, but it has already earned acclaim for its dedication to practical filmmaking.