Top Gun: Maverick’s Danny Ramirez Recalls Lessons from Tom Cruise

Top Gun: Maverick’s Danny Ramirez Recalls Lessons from Tom Cruise

CBRDanny Ramirez breaks down learning to love flying and some vital lessons from Tom Cruise while playing Fanboy in Top Gun: Maverick.
Top Gun: Maverick largely focuses on the titular Maverick, Pete Mitchell, played by Tom Cruise, being brought back to the flight school to prepare a new team for a dangerous mission. This team consists of hotshot young pilots played by some of the most exciting young actors working in Hollywood today. This includes Danny Ramirez, who plays the pilot Fanboy in the film and ended up getting the chance to play the character at ridiculous speeds — literally, as some of the film’s aerial stunts actually pushed Ramirez and his co-stars to their physical limits.

Ahead of Top Gun: Maverick premiering in theaters nationwide on May 27, CBR sat down for an exclusive interview with Danny Ramirez about his part of Fanboy in the film. Ramirez addressed what surprised him the most about working with Tom Cruise and had the chance to tease a desire to fly again — which, given his character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, could be a real possibility.

CBR: Top Gun isn’t the first time you’ve appeared in a big franchise — you also show up as Joaquín Torres in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. What’s it like to step into franchises like these as a performer?

Danny Ramirez: Well, there’s definitely pressure… but more than anything, it’s the sort of thing that I’ve always dreamed of since starting in this industry. It felt like, especially after finishing Top Gun: Maverick — all this preparation, all this blood, sweat, and tears of trying to get better at this craft… it was a perfect opportunity, the meeting of skill and luck.

It’s the same for both worlds [of Top Gun and the MCU]. It’s so easy to step into them because the people involved are so committed and selfless and want you to win. So when you step into that type of team dynamic, it honestly makes the job so easy because the toughest part doing a job is trying to get the energy to do it. In these projects, the energy is there in droves.

It is pretty hilarious that you ended up playing a pilot with the call-sign Fanboy while you were also getting to become a part of a superhero universe.
It was funny — while sitting on both these projects, they kind of just got the timing right. It felt like a fun little inside joke to have gotten Fanboy and then to get Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Even as I see myself now on screen, seeing myself with a young shaved head, it feels like a time capsule.

Not to get too distracted by the Marvel connection, but considering the kind of role Torres gets to eventually play in the original Marvel Comics, is there any chance your Top Gun experience might come in handy?
I’m just excited that, based on the connective tissue of these projects… I was afraid of flying ahead of Top Gun training to where I’m at now. I love all things skies and experiencing real Gs, real intensities, and this process is going to be something that I hope to be able to bring into other projects in my life. Which ones, I cannot say anything about at all, other than I love Gs. I love flying.

One of the most exciting elements of the film, especially from a behind-the-scenes perspective, is that you all filmed a lot of your scenes actually in these airplanes, actually hitting some impressive speeds. What’s it like to try to stay focused and in a scene while also going over 8Gs?
I want to get all the credit, so much credit, to the Top Gun team and the training process that they put us through. It was so well-thought-out, as methodically. Each moment justified the next step… We got a lot more G tolerance because it’s something that’s able to sustain more Gs, and even sometimes in an F18, the 39th, and the Big Daddy. Each step unlocked the next, and I think that’s how we were able to do that — going up and having to do the camera work, the lighting, making sure that the sun’s in the right place, the composition as to where the other jet is in the frame. All of that would have been impossible, let alone trying to form a complete sentence, remembering your lines.

I think all of that I’d attribute to how great our training was. There was even a point that I first thought, like, “Oh, well, once we’re up there, it’s going to be so easy because we’re going to be able to react to real things,” which definitely helps. Then Tom [Cruise] was like, “Okay, well, you guys adapted to these Gs so well, 2.5 — let’s peak at eight G’s.” We then had to try to act on to make it look even more intense. Our bodies had adapted so well that we had ice water in our veins. We’re just doing these missions as… efficient as we could. We had to turn the heat up a little bit.

What was it like working with someone who’s got the cultural influence of Tom Cruise? What surprised you the most about that experience?
I think beyond how great of a leader he is and the respect he commands, I think he’s one of the most genuine people that has that much leadership and acting experience. He’s a master at what he does. So I initially thought he’s going to be probably harder to approach, and it was going to be a little more difficult… I figured I’ll just observe. I’ll be a fly on the wall. He is so open about all his knowledge and about how he wants us all to win and about the entire experience of his career, 40-plus years of being at the top of this entire industry. He was letting us all know all the ins and outs of even random minutia… that he knew, based on where we all are in our careers, that these would be meaningful lessons.

Those happened every single day, and it was nonstop. So I think we all walked away from that ten-month experience as… I don’t even know if there’s a film school with that much information that we took in. It felt like a masterclass every single day. He just opened up his entire bank of knowledge to us, and I think everyone followed suit. I would stay extra days that I wasn’t working and just shadow Claudio Miranda, and just see how [Tom] was composing a shot or what he was thinking. You can see that openness from the top-down leadership in this movie, and it was one of the most refreshing things. I mean, it goes back to the first week. Tom kind of sat us all down and was like, “This is why we picked you. We didn’t pick you guys because we think you’re going to be great… We picked you because we think that beyond this project, you guys are going to be the next wave of movie stars and people that are going to push this medium forward.”

Since then, he passed on this responsibility. The way I’ve taken it is that there are a lot of movies being made right across the board, a ton of amazing stories being told, but also a lot of not-so-great amazing stories. Him passing down all these lessons and the importance of respecting the ones that came before you, but also knowing if you’re going to do something, make sure that it’s worth doing… I think with Top Gun: Maverick, we all knew. Sequels are a tough thing to pull off. Everyone loved the first one for a very specific reason. For this one, all of that responsibility that [Tom] brought up was something that we all stepped onto set with, and I think that’s why I personally think that it’s one of the best movies ever made.

Top Gun: Maverick will release in early fan screenings on May 24 and open worldwide in theaters on May 27.