Early into aviation training for Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to the 1986 film Top Gun, actor Danny Ramirez wondered if he had made a terrible mistake.
“I thought, ‘This is not a good situation I’ve put myself in,’” Ramirez, 29, told Remezcla during a recent interview.
The problem? Ramirez had a serious fear of flying. Yes, he had accepted a role that would put him inside a real F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet that could hit maximum speeds of 1,190 mph, but Ramirez was someone who got extremely nervous taking a commercial flight.
“Every single time I’ve ever been on a plane prior [to Top Gun], I would have to have two glasses of wine and put my headphones on and forget that I was in an airplane,” Ramirez said. “Getting over that mountain was something I never thought would be possible.”
It took Ramirez some time, but luckily for him, his fear of flying was cured with the help of his co-star Tom Cruise, who wanted the aerial sequences to be the most authentic that had ever been captured for the big screen.
“Across the history of film, I don’t think anyone has ever trained as intensely as us to do something like this because no one has ever shot from the back of an F-18 before,” Ramirez said.
In Top Gun: Maverick, Ramirez plays Lt. Fanboy, a weapons systems operator who is part of the elite team of aviators sent on a mission to an adversarial country. Ramirez resonated with Fanboy’s energy and the fact that he is someone who loves his job. He was paired with a real-life fighter pilot from the United States Navy’s TOPGUN program during his scenes, who could pull off some of the craziest aerial maneuvers.
“I was riding a dragon that has a mind of its own with a pilot who is one of the world’s best,” Ramirez said. “It was this weird dance that didn’t feel natural because you have the forces of gravity pulling you in different directions.”
Ramirez added that articulating what it feels like to fly in an F-18 is impossible, which is one of the things he said makes the film so special. “[Top Gun] is able to find a way to express what it’s like to be in the F-18 without words. You’re able to see it on our faces.”
Even a brush with death isn’t deterring Ramirez from speaking fondly about his overall experience making the movie. After months of aerial training, his near-death encounter actually happened during underwater training when he couldn’t unbuckle his harness during one test and started running out of air.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to drown,’” Danny Ramirez said. “I’m about to give up and take in a bunch of water…[but] I tried one last time and got out, breached the water, and took the biggest gasp of breath in my life. I looked around, thinking people were going to be like, ‘Oh, my God!’ but everyone was like, ‘We thought you were just chilling down there. You were really calm.’”
Top Gun: Maverick opens at theaters nationwide on May 27, 2022.