Actor—and arguably the most popular pilot in the U.S. this week—Tom Cruise recently treated comedian James Corden to a “Top Gun Day” of flight, subjecting the flight-adverse entertainer to a day he won’t forget anytime soon.
Cruise’s latest blockbuster, Top Gun: Maverick, opens nationwide Friday, May 27. For pilots, the scenes promise to be epic, thanks to a purpose-built L-39 Cinejet outfitted for filming the adrenaline-inducing sequences.
Standing under a light in the predawn hours alongside the darkened runway at Bob Hope Hollywood-Burbank Airport (KBUR), the British comedian summed up what was to come next: “I’m here because Tom Cruise has asked me to meet him here at 5 a.m. When Tom Cruise calls, you sort of have to say yes.”
The pair boarded a Honda HA-420 business jet, which Cruise flew to a remote desert landing strip to rendezvous with his own vintage warbird, a P-51 Mustang. Up in the air in the World War II-era fighter, Cruise showed off his aviator chops by performing a series of maneuvers that included threading a gap in a ridgeline.
“Tom, you’re a madman. You’re insane,” Corden said, coming up for air.
But there would be more. Flying an Aero L-39 Albatros fighter jet trainer, Cruise demonstrated tactical maneuvers, including loops and inverted flight.
Cruise, who has been a pilot since 1994, flew in many of the scenes in the Top Gun: Maverick.
“The Navy wouldn’t let him fly an F-18,” the film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer said, according to USA Today. “But he flies a P-51 in the movie and he flies helicopters. He can do just about anything in an airplane.”
It wasn’t Corden’s first aviation rodeo with Cruise. In 2018, and while promoting Mission Impossible: Fallout, Cruise talked Corden into going skydiving.