Playing Goose’s son Rooster 35 years after the original film meant a lot of things for Miles Teller to perfect – brushing up his piano skills, getting Anthony Edwards’ mustache down, and going toe-to-toe with Hollywood icon Tom Cruise. There’s a lot unsaid between Maverick and Rooster in the sequel to the 1986 film, Top Gun: Maverick, which finally lands in theaters this week. Not only are they both still dealing with the grief of losing a dad and a wingman – but there’s been a lot of animosity festering since we saw them last.
We glimpse this in the trailer as Rooster tells Mav, “My dad believed in you, I’m not going to make the same mistake” – and it permeates through the movie with brutal stand-offs between the characters. So what’s it like sharing these moments with Cruise? “It’s great,” Teller tells Total Film at the recent junket. “It’s Tom Cruise, man. So he’s just so good at what he does. And in the scenes where kind of the stakes were a little higher and the emotions were running high and he’s a great partner to have. I just think he’s just really top-notch.”
For Mav, seeing Rooster again brings out ghosts of the past that he’s buried. And from the first moment he sees the young pilot in the bar, you can tell it’s the ghost of Goose he’s seeing. The mustache, the hair, the piano playing – it’s all uncanny, and very painful for our protagonist. Speaking about bringing the essence of that character into this sequel, Teller explained he wanted to get the “vibe” of the iconic character right.
“Well, for me, I think when I would think about Goose, it was more of like, a certain feeling, you know, Goose’s he’s a vibe,” he shares. “In the original, you know, he and Tom are peers, Goose is his wingman and in this one Rooster flies alone, he’s a single-seater. So I think that speaks to him a little bit.”
Then there were the physical aspects. “I grew the mustache, and we did the hair. It was really good casting I think because I do look like I could be Anthony and Meg [Ryan’s] son in the film.” Director Joseph Kosinski clearly thought so as he previously revealed to Total Film during our April cover interview that he brought a photo of Teller along to his first Top Gun meeting.
When he first heard this, Teller admits he was flattered, as they’ve worked together three times now (he first starred in Kosinski’s Only The Brave and will next appear in Spiderhead on Netflix). “I mean, yeah, he’s obsessed with me,” Teller jokes. “Joe told me that. I’d worked with Joe on a film a couple of years ago. Now I’ve worked with him on, you know, three different films. And he’s always got my back. I think he’s somebody that I really respect and admire and I think we work well with each other. And I would not be in this film if it wasn’t for him.” Although, he admits: “I think I need to give him an updated wallet photo every year now so he can just continue to bring it to people.”
Part of their collaborative approach on set also meant that when they were developing the character, Teller was also able to bring his own ideas to the role – in particular the call sign. The name ‘Rooster’ was Teller’s idea as he figured “it was in the bird family” and he liked how it sounded. But they did go through lots of rejected pitches too. “I think at one point there was like Boomer,” he recalls. “They went through thousands of call signs before landing on it.”
For Teller, one of the most poignant parts of filming the sequel was to be in San Diego, and the importance it felt in the context of both Top Gun and the Navy. “It’s a city that I’ve been a frequent visitor to and a lot of my best friends are actually in the Navy,” he explains. “So it was a location that I felt very fondly about and so being able to shoot down there… It’s really a character in the first film and I think we also bring and revive that.”
Top Gun: Maverick is exclusively in UK cinemas on May 25 and US theaters on May 27, in 4DX and IMAX. Check out our guide to 2022 movie release dates to see what else is coming out this year.