The star of Top Gun: Maverick (and, you know: Jerry Maguire, Collateral, Magnolia, Risky Business, and ALL THE Mission Impossible MOVIES) has a reputation for life-defying stunts, yes, but he's also got a reputation for just being a fucking great guy. We're talking this-guy-may-just-be-a-robot-programmed-to-maximum-niceness level.
For the Men's Health May/June cover, we talked to three of Tom Cruise's newest costars—Glen Powell, Jay Ellis, and Danny Ramirez—all of whom shared the screen (and the skies) with the 59-year-old star in Maverick. And they had plenty of good Cruise content to share.
Maverick has the same spirit of the 1986 original, but also benefits from Cruise's last 35 years of bombastic action movie experience. "I feel like sequels usually drop dead, and are so disappointing because you're trying to recreate the magic of the original," Powell says. "I'm saying this as one of the biggest Top Gun fans: we beat it. I really think we beat it. And I think we wouldn't have had that unless we would've had 35 years of Tom Cruise movies in between."
You don't hear this often, but the reviews seem to agree: The sequel (currently with a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes!) is the better movie. The chemistry that Cruise cultivates may be part of that. And it's clearly something he works to make sure he gets just right. Or maybe he doesn't have to work hard at it—maybe he's just that great. Maybe he's a robot. Either way, here are the best Tom Cruise stories we heard from the Men's Health Top Gun: Maverick cover interviews.
On how Tom reaffirmed Glen's decision to join Top Gun: Maverick after not landing the role he initially auditioned for:
Tom and I got to talk about the making of Rain Man for a long time. He broke down how he made that movie.
He's an expert in absolutely every department. But I remember in that moment, I realized, "He was talking about my character in the movie as if it was his own. He was really concerned and attentive to how my character was going to operate in the movie, even down simply to the call sign." My character went through five, six different call sign versions. And he was understanding how that word would translate internationally.
The reason I felt really great about my decision is it wasn't like he said "You're in the movie. Now do what you do. Say the lines and do what you do." It was a constant remolding of the clay. And it wasn't like he's like, "Oh, I'm going to mold my clay over here. You mold your clay." He looks at acting like a team sport, and I think really great actors who have managed to do this for decades and decades continue to look at it like a team sport where everybody has to carry their weight—otherwise the movie can't be a classic.
On Tom checking in:
I've got to say, even with the Linklater movie that Rick and I are writing, I called Tom on story advice. I'll talk to him all the time. He'll call me out of the blue and be like, "Hey, how's your family? What's going on?"
I've gotten to work with a lot of my heroes, and that's the beauty of the job. Tom is the only movie star I've ever met that will reach out to check in.
When I got my pilot's license, I sent Tom pictures from the plane. I didn't tell him when I was going to finish my pilot's license. And when I got on the ground after completing my check ride, there was a certificate for stunt driving school, where I would learn how to do all sorts of crazy stuff with a car as soon as I got on the ground. And it said, "Welcome to the skies. Your friend, Tom."
When you're a movie star, there's so many more exciting people and exciting things, and you can just exist without having to care about other people's great moments. He's been passing it on, and it's a really, really nice thing. After being like, "Hey, I'm writing a movie with Richard Linklater," he's like, "Are you kidding me?!? Richard Linklater?!?" He just loses it and he loves it.
Even something as simple... my little sister wrote a song that was in the Olympics, that the soccer team ran out to. And he remembered the song and remembered to hit me up about it. I played it for him on the set and then he remembered. It's little things like that. It's just really just generous and authentic.
On trying not to injure Tom, and then injuring himself:
It's not in the movie, so I can probably spoil this: there's a bit that's written in there where I'm basically supposed to tackle Maverick in the football sequence. And I'm fired up on the day. I'm all covered in coconut oil, doing the pushups already, and I have to do the scene where I have to hit Tom and put him on his back. Everybody is very nervous, very early in the shoot. Everybody's very nervous that I'm going to hurt Tom. And Tom's like, "Hey, we're good. I know how to do this. I know how to take a hit." But everybody around Tom is like, "Please don't hurt Tom."
So I'm like, "Okay, we're not going to hurt Tom." So I run towards Tom, I wrap him up, but I'm really careful to lower him down softly. But in trying to be careful, I slammed my knee on the sand and I busted what they call a lymphatic sack around my knee. I couldn't walk. So, I'd been prepping for this thing for months, so excited to finally play football and flex on the beach, and I was out on the sidelines and so bummed out. And then I realized after the scene, that we had to re-shoot the scene anyway, because we didn't have time. It's all at magic hours, so we had to re-shoot Tom's stuff. And then after everybody went out for beer and tater tots, Tom's like, "Hey, we're going to shoot that scene in a week and a half."
On the future and surprises from Tom:
I would love to play in the Mission: Impossible world, but my mom won't let me. It's just too damn dangerous. I told Tom when we were doing reshoots on Top Gun, I was like, "Hey man, I really want to go skydiving while I'm out here in London. Where can I go?" And he sent a helicopter and was like, "You're going to go with the National Skydiving Team. I'm going to send you doing it." We got out there. The winds were so aggressive that they were like, "It's way too dangerous."
So, I got back to LA, and kind of went back to living my life. And then I get a call from Tom, and he's like, "Hey man, what the hell?" And I'm like, "What?" And he's like, "You never took me back up on my skydiving offer. Are you scared?" And I'm like, "No, I'm not scared." So, he literally sent a helicopter, and some of the other guys from Top Gun and my now-girlfriend—this was our third date—all went out to Paris, California and skydove.
Tom said, "Hey, I'm going to hook all this skydiving stuff up. You're going to go with the Mission: Impossible team. The only kicker is, you can't go tandem on your first time. You have to go solo." So, we all went solo jumping out of this airplane the first time we'd ever been skydiving, which was wild.
But now Tom will send me videos training for Mission: Impossible, where he's jumping at very low altitudes or doing all sorts of crazy stunts. And my mom just said, "You can't play with Tom Cruise anymore. This is too dangerous. This is crazy."
On Tom being a student of film, and sharing truly teachable moments:
Watching the way he prepares, first and foremost, I like to think of myself as a student. I love to learn. I love to read. I love to know why people do it the way they do it, and that’s from a sociological standpoint down to craft and trade. I thought, "There is nobody who out studies me or outworks me." I’m a nerd. I’ll sit in bed and read stuff all night. I’ll watch whatever movie, doc or whatever.
To see Tom take it to the next level, and see how he prepares so thoroughly, it made me feel like, "You’re in the PhD program and I just started my freshman year." It was inspiring to see how someone at his level still is learning every single day, and breaking things down. What was really cool was to see that in practice on set every day.
On the various Top Gun: Maverick stars being right where they belong:
Tom was very clear: "You guys are movie stars, and you’re action stars. And I can show you how I’ve done this and built this in my career. You can take whatever you want and leave whatever you want, but this is what I’ve used. These are the roadmaps I’ve used to get where I’m at. I believe you guys are there as well."
On Tom's door always being open:
Early on, Tom basically told us, "I think you all [Ramirez, Powell, Ellis, and costars Miles Teller, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro, and Greg "Tarzan" Davis] are the next wave of movie stars. Not just in this movie, but in the future of filmmaking. We feel really confident that you guys are not just going to do these roles right, but that you'll continue to push the needle forward. So my door's always open for you. Whenever you have any questions, my door's open. Whenever you have any concerns, door's open."
And I was skeptical because I've heard that a lot of the times. But then I thought, Well, let me try. Why not? If a moment comes where I need to ask him for advice or anything else, I'll just ask him. And if he says no, that'd be fine, and if he says yes, that'd be great.
But it turned out that every single time I had any questions or I needed any advice, he was there. He's so willing to share his knowledge, and his passion, and what makes filmmaking special for him, and the boundaries he wants to push and why, that it honestly raised morale so high. I realized that he's not a boss just to be a boss. Rather, it felt like going to film school with that one really passionate professor, who you know just has it in their blood. You feel touched that they're sharing their knowledge with you and bringing you in.
And since then, he's given me notes on pitch decks that I've shared with him, and sent those pitch decks to directors that he's worked with that he thought would be a good fit. He's advocated for me for different parts with different directors. It's been nonstop support.
I bring this up every time because I think it's one of the most amazing leadership qualities to actually back up all your talk. He walks the walk like a true leader.
On the responsibility Tom believes every actor should take:
At one point, Tom was telling us that there's a responsibility that's handed to the performer and to everyone that's a part of making a movie.
He mentioned a hypothetical family going to the movies. It's a family with two parents and two kids. So what does it cost them to go to the movies? Maybe 45 bucks, 50 bucks? Depending on where you go, maybe 60 bucks. And two hours out of each of their days. The parents have been working their butts off during a week, so they're investing in you, for you to entertain them and to give them an escape from the real world, for you to take them somewhere beautiful. We've all been inspired by movies, by different scenes, different moments, even different frames that we've connected with. And we never know which is going to be the moment that draws an audience into a character.
So for every frame that you're on camera or for every minute you're in production, keep them in mind—and multiply it by the hundreds of thousands of people that go out to the movies. It's so many cumulative hours of people's time, so you have a responsibility to give it your all. And of course he worded it all a lot more beautifully. But I'm so grateful to have walked away with that perspective and to bring it into other projects.