Maverick’s stuntman reveals behind-the-scenes secrets

He needs speed!

Kevin LaRosa II, 36, is the aerial coordinator and camera pilot who coached all the actors and did all the action-packed footage for Top Gun: Maverick, which premieres Friday.

Born in 1986 – the year the first film premiered – LaRosa comes from a long line of aviation experts. He is a third generation pilot and a second generation flight coordinator and stunt pilot.

“My father is a well-known stunt pilot. And when you grow up in a house where your dad does something that cool, you’re just hooked,” he told the Post.

“But I love telling people there was one thing that almost derailed me. And this is the first Top Gun movie, believe it or not. I almost changed course because I wanted to be a pilot in the F-14 Navy.”

Ultimately, LaRosa followed in his father’s footsteps and now he has fulfilled his Top Gun dreams while working with Tom Cruise on the highly anticipated sequel.

“I can tell you right now that man can fly a plane,” LaRosa said of Cruise reprising his role as Navy enlisted Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, once a hot-blooded young pilot-turned-trainer and dedicated to his deals with the past. “Tom is already an incredible aviator,” he said, adding that the 59-year-old actor (who is confirmed shirtless in the film) is “an accomplished pilot” and has the motivation “to train.”

The original Top Gun became a classic upon its release, celebrated for its lusty cast, amazing aerial stunts and depictions of eternal bonding. The first film to be directed by Tony Scott sparked a surge in US Navy filings that surged 500% over the next year, taking Cruise to the box office.

Kevin LaRosa, 36, is a third-generation pilot and a second-generation flight coordinator and stunt pilot.
Longtime pilot LaRosa opened up about what it’s really like to work with Tom Cruise and how he coached the cast on Top Gun: Maverick.
Jordan Orsak
The 36-year-old revealed that Cruise is “an accomplished pilot” and his motivation is “to train.”
Jordan Orsak
Kevin LaRosa backstage with Tom Cruise and the cast of "Top Gun: Maverick"
LaRosa worked closely with the cast to make them actual aviators for the film. No stunt doubles or CGI effects were used for the flight sequences in this film.
Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

Cruise is known for doing most of his own stunts. For this film he has them all whizzing through the clouds, pulling up to eight G’s – a measure of the gravity experienced through acceleration – which is comparable to 600 pounds pressing against your body. “So just to put it in perspective, it’s a level of power that most people will never experience,” LaRosa said.

The “Top Gun” star owns his own P-51 Mustang (a World War II fighter jet), which the actor flies “as an extension of himself,” according to LaRosa. Cruise came to the set with a love and understanding of aviation, LaRosa said, and was keen to instill that passion in his new co-stars, including Miles Teller, Monica Barbaro and Glen Powell.

“I can tell you right now that this man can fly an airplane. Tom [Cruise] is already an incredible flyer.’

Air Coordinator and Top Gun: Maverick Camera Pilot LaRosa

“I remember he gave us an amazing speech at the beginning of the movie,” LaRosa said. “We felt the pressure. But that pressure, I think, was our motivation.”

The actors in the new film underwent extensive and intensive training both on the ground and in the air with LaRosa, his father (also known as Kevin) and US Navy pilots to make them comfortable in the cockpit. The freshmen began training in a 172 aircraft to learn spatial awareness, what the gauges do and how to take off and land before jumping into fighter jets.

Miles Teller in Top Gun
All actors went through extensive training and all performed their own stunts. Miles Teller flies here.
Paramount Pictures
Monica Barbaro in Top Gun.
Actors, including Monica Barbaro, who is pictured here, had to mentally and physically prepare their bodies to fly in a fighter jet, which has a force of up to eight Gs – the equivalent of 600 pounds.
Paramount Pictures
Glen Powell in Top Gun
Glen Powell, seen here, and the other actors shot scenes back-to-back, making them their own crew to perfect their look and shot themselves, without ever leaving the cockpit.
Paramount Pictures

“That’s why they looked so good on camera, because it’s not their first time up there,” LaRosa said. “They’re not afraid of that. They get into those things and focus on what they need to do to make the scenes great.”

At the end of practice, Cruise and LaRosa weren’t the only ones flying through the clouds.

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick.
Cruise reprises his role as Maverick 36 years after the original film.
Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures
Kevin LaRosa
LaRosa is a third generation pilot and a second generation flight coordinator and stunt pilot.

“There’s no one doing it for them, it’s 100% the actors on those planes doing it all,” LaRosa confirmed, adding that the film doesn’t use stunt doubles or CGI effects.

Not only did the actors have to become pilots for the film, but they also had to be their own personal lighting crews, hairstylists, makeup artists and directors, pulling out mirrors in their cockpits to ensure they were camera-ready after each G-Force explosion.

And it wasn’t always nice.

LaRosa said some of the actors got airsick but remained professional, even if it meant filming a scene with a bag full of vomit on their laps. Powell, he added, did his best work when his medical bag was sloshing around discreetly.

“There’s no stopping at the curb and waiting,” he said. “You’re right back in the game.”

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