There are some moments in cinematic history that remain etched in people’s minds forever. From the last speech in Dead Poets Society and the great revelation in Star Wars to dodging bullets in The Matrix and that menacing Joker laugh in The Dark Knight, there are endless instances that give viewers goosebumps.

One such iconic scene was in Tom Cruise’s blockbuster movie Top Gun which took viewers by surprise. We’re talking about the memorable volleyball scene where the main characters are tossing the ball around on a sunny day on a beach. As great as the scene was, the story behind the scene is much more interesting.

The Top Gun Scene that Almost Got its Director Fired

Tom Cruise in Top Gun | Paramount Pictures
Tom Cruise in Top Gun | Paramount Pictures

Oftentimes we have heard of situations where the production house places some restrictions on the creative crew of a team and curbs their liberty to bring greatness to the big screen. Fans are relieved that the crew of Top Gun decided to keep the iconic volleyball scene in the movie even though it angered the executives of Paramount Pictures.

The situation became so serious that they wanted to fire the director of the movie, Tony Scott. In a conversation on The Hollywood Reporter’s Behind the Scenes podcast, the editors of Top Gun Chris Lebenzon and Billy Weber said,

That scene was scripted as a real game. They kept score and everything, and Tony shot it like a commercial, and they were angry. The studio was so pissed off. The head of production, Charlie McGuire, he said, ‘I’m gonna fire him’ … because he spent a whole day shooting this scene. And then of course it turns out it’s one of the most famous scenes in the movie.

A still from Top Gun | Paramount Pictures
A still from Top Gun | Paramount Pictures

Top Gun became a cultural phenomenon because of so many reasons from Tom Cruise’s suave acting to the apt soundtracks that added life to every scene. The editors of the movie further emphasized how music really helped bring out all the emotions in the film, leading to one song from Top Gun even winning an Oscar, Take My Breath Away. On top of that, Top Gun is said to be the first major movie that shot Cruise to global stardom, eventually making him the superstar we know today.

Challenges of the Flying Plane and Fight Footage

Flying scene in Top Gun: Maverick | Paramount Pictures
Flying scene in Top Gun: Maverick | Paramount Pictures

Another major challenge in making Top Gun a great movie was the scenes of flying planes and the end scene that featured the magnificent fight between planes. The crew only had one camera to shoot the scenes, so they had to do retakes to shoot from different angles. At the end of it all, the editors were given over 200,000 feet of reel to work through and edit. The editors recalled,

When the pilots who had to do the flying read the script, they told Tony, “This reads really great. But of course, we can’t do anything that’s written here.” He said, “What do you mean?” And they said, “The planes don’t do this.” And so Tony called and told us what they told him.

And we said, “Well, go shoot and see what happens.” And it was incredibly boring because the cameras were on the ground and the planes were way up high in the air and they couldn’t get near them because you couldn’t shoot from a helicopter because they’d just get blown right out of the sky.

The challenges of bringing those epic scenes to life were endless. Despite it all, the crew worked through the hurdles and found solutions to every issue. They eventually climbed atop a hill and took their camera with them. The crew couldn’t get close to the planes but the pilots could fly past the camera set on the hill to give the required shot. The rest, as they say, is history.

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