‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Director Pitched Miles Teller to Tom Cruise Using a Photoshopped Mustache

“Top Gun: Maverick” reunites filmmaker Joseph Kosinski with Tom Cruise after their work together on “Oblivion,” but that’s not the director’s only reunion in the film. Kosinski also re-teamed with Miles Teller, who earned acclaim for the director’s under-seen “Only the Brave” and has a role in his upcoming Netflix movie “Spiderhead.” Teller stars in the “Top Gun” sequel as Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, son of Maverick’s late friend Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. The “Whiplash” star was at the top of Kosinski’s mind when he was mapping out the story for “Maverick.”

“I was actually in post on ‘Only the Brave,’ this was May 2017, so Miles Teller was on my mind,” Kosinski recently told Vulture. “The relationship in that movie is a very paternal one with Josh Brolin’s character. So I showed Tom a picture of Miles because Miles has blond hair in that film. And I think I’d Photoshopped a mustache on him. I’m like, ‘I just worked with this kid. He’s really good.’ We still went through the audition process, and Miles won the role on his own.”

The relationship between Rooster and Maverick is the emotional backbone of “Top Gun: Maverick.” Kosinski came up with that narrative center for the movie himself, and it’s the hook that baited Cruise into finally deciding to make a sequel to “Top Gun.”

“But because I had made a film with [Tom] before, I knew I had to grab him emotionally,” Kosinski said. “So I opened with the idea that this is a rite-of-passage story like the first film. The first film is a drama, even though it’s wrapped in this glossy action film. This would be the same thing, but it would be Maverick reconciling with Goose’s son set against this mission that would take them both deep into enemy territory. And as soon as I said that, I could see the wheels in his head start to turn.”

“Then I talked about shooting practically, and obviously Tom’s 100% in for all that,” the director added. “And then the title. I said we can’t call it ‘Top Gun 2.’ We’ve got to call it ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ — a character story. So he pulled out his phone, called the head of Paramount, and said, ‘We’re making a sequel to Top Gun.’ And it was boom, green light.”

“Top Gun: Maverick” has emerged as one of the most critically acclaimed studio tentpoles in years. The film opened to a recored-breaking  $160 million over the Memorial Day holiday weekend and will easily cross the $250 mark domestically by the end of its second weekend.

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