TOP GUN: MAVERICK Director Joe Kosinski On Pairing '80s Icons Tom Cruise & Jennifer Connelly (Exclusive)

Finding an actress to pair opposite Tom Cruise is no easy task, but director Joseph Kosinski knew he had the perfect pick when he sought out fellow '80s icon Jennifer Connelly for Top Gun: Maverick.

While Tom Cruise and the jaw-dropping aerial action sequences are undoubtedly the main selling points of Top Gun: Maverick, the film's strong emotional core is what will likely give you that loving feeling by the time the credits roll. 

At the center of Maverick's journey is his romantic relationship with Penny Benjamin, played by fellow '80s icon Jennifer Connelly, and for fans of the original Top Gun, that name should sound somewhat familiar as it's one of the sequel's more fun nods to the original. 

Early in the first Top Gun, Stinger (James Tolkan) disciplined Maverick for "a history of high-speed passes over five air control towers and one admiral's daughter!," with Goose (Anthony Edwards) remembering her name, "Penny Benjamin." Later, Carole (Meg Ryan) also joined in on the fun and teased Maverick, "He told me all about the time you went ballistic with Penny Benjamin."

It's an Easter Egg fans should appreciate, but Kosinski knew he had his work cut out for him when he had to find an actress that could suitably play Penny. However, as it turns out, the job was a little easier than expected as he'd already worked with Jennifer Connelly on his previous film, Only the Brave.

Based on that experience, Kosinski had a strong hunch that she and Cruise would make an on-screen pairing for the ages. 

"Jennifer, she has this incredible emotional intelligence that she always brings to her characters and I needed someone that was a great actor that could go play in scenes with Tom, " the director explains. "But also provide what Penny Benjamin provides to Maverick in his journey on this story, and yeah, like you said, they both have worked for almost 40 years, but somehow have never crossed paths, never been in the same film.

So, I just felt like they would have been a tremendous couple on screen and, like you said, to put two actors of that caliber together, it just turned out better than I could have ever hoped."

Check out our exclusive interview with Kosinski below:

In our review, we said, "Top Gun: Maverick is the must-see cinematic experience of the year! Packed with jaw-dropping aerial sequences, thrilling edge-of-your-seat moments, genuine heart, epic romance, huge stakes, and one of the absolute best performances of Tom Cruise's legendary career, this is the theatrical experience you've been waiting for."

Tom Cruise headlines the feature as Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, with original co-star Val Kilmer returning as Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky. The iconic pair are joined by an all-star supporting cast consisting of Jennifer Connelly as Penny Benjamin, Miles Teller as Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, Jon Hamm as Vice Admiral Cyclone, Glen Powell as Hangman, Lewis Pullman as Bob, Ed Harris as Rear Admiral, Monica Barbaro as Phoenix, Charles Parnell as Rear Admiral Warlock, Danny Ramirez as Fanboy, Manny Jacinto as Fritz, Bashir Salahuddin as Coleman, Jay Ellis as Payback, Jake Picking in an undisclosed role, Raymond Lee in an undisclosed role, Lyliana Wray as Amelia Benjamin, Jean Louisa Kelly as Carole Bradshaw, Greg Davis as Coyote, and Bob Stephenson in an undisclosed role.

Top Gun: Maverick jets into theaters on May 27!

After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of TOPGUN graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose.”

Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.

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