TOP GUN: MAVERICK Star Danny Ramirez Talks Earning His Call Sign, Tom Cruise, F-18s, & More (Exclusive)
We were able to sit down with Top Gun: Maverick actor Danny Ramirez to talk about his experience making the Joseph Kosinski-directed action blockbuster, working with Tom Cruise, and a whole lot more!
Following the world premiere of Top Gun: Maverick at CinemaCon last month, we were granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down with actor Danny Ramirez (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier; No Exit) and speak to him about his life-changing experience making the long-awaited action sequel and working with the one-and-only Tom Crusie.
In the film, Ramirez plays Lieutenant Mickey Garcia, a.k.a. "Fanboy," one of the new TOPGUN pilots. He tells me about the origin of his call sign, the intense training regime that was designed for them, learning about how to be a weapon systems operator, getting up in the air in F-18s, and a whole lot more!
Check out the full interview below!
ROHAN: We don't get an explanation behind your call sign in the movie... did you and Joseph Kosinski talk about how your character earned the name Fanboy?
DANNY: Joe and I started talking about that really early on as to like, there's mentions of maybe he's a fan of Star Trek fanboy - but, in the Navy, callsigns were given as like a little jab. So, we created this little backstory that they might have found a boy band’s CD in his locker or in his backpack and since then, he was just called Fanboy and so, what boyband it was, who’s to say, I think what Joe and I came up with was that he was going to give a gift of a CD to one of his nieces or nephews and the boys found it and then, they just dubbed him a Fanboy. Probably NSYNC, Backstreet Boys or BTS.
ROHAN: Because of the pandemic, you were forced to basically keep quite about this movie for three years. What was that experience like?
DANNY: It was interesting, it was really interesting, because we knew that our experience wasn't going to be validated I think by, honestly, by anything, we had such a unique magical experience with training with Joe, Tom, Jerry, literally everyone, so we felt really good about that being something that we lived through, but then, in regards to sharing it as the masterpiece of a film as it is, that's where I think I learned so much patience during that time.
For that, and for Falcon and Winter Soldier, they were both things that I had to kind of sit on for a minute, but they felt like moments that I learned this skill of patience that otherwise I never would have learned. So, it feels good to know that it was also really good. I think it's tough to sit on something potentially that isn't going to be as great, so I'm glad I never got to experience that, but it feels good now, hearing everyone's excitement as to how phenomenal the movie has been.
ROHAN: This film has such a great cast... did the intense training regime - along with the extended delay - help bond you guys as a unit?
DANNY: I think it's really tough. We feel really lucky because I think that's my family now. We've all been really close since, during, and so the training, we sometimes laugh about trauma bonding in this specific particular experience, because of how, for our bodies, it was this really intense sensation that it never could have imagined it was going to go through, but Tom set up a really thorough training regimen, which was we started off with a Cessna 1 to an Extra 300, which is a small little stunt, it feels like a go-kart with wings, but it's really agile and able to pull a lot of G's, and from there, we went on to the L-39, which is a different jet, to finally being able to take a seat in the F-18.
After that, we're just in the F-18 with an Extra 300 flight every now and then, but the training process was so specific, to being able to sustain high G’s and to not throw up on a ride and waste your two hours of filming. So, it just was so well thought out that we able to succeed up there. Tom had gone up there prior and seeing how tough it was and so, whenever we were taking one flight, he’d take two and just make sure that we were at the top of our game and he was at the top of his and seeing your leader kind of go through that, kind of pushes you to do the same and seeing the whole unit do that created a bond that to this day feels unbreakable and I mean, we look across the room sometimes and we're like, “Oh, we're going to be here for the rest of, like I'm going to see you be really old and you can see me be really old and we're going to be here for each other's weddings and birthdays and so it feels really special.
ROHAN: Can you tell me more about your casting process and what was your experience like being mentored by Tom Cruise? I have to imagine that's an unreal experience being able to ask him anything you want?
DANNY: That's Uncle Cruise right there! He, from Day One, he's already been through everything that we're going to go through in the most extreme capacity. So, I think his empathy with that, he's been he's been leading from the very first day, with us in mind, in our experience in mind, and what he hopes for us to accomplish in mind. He told us very early on that we didn't get the roles just because they thought we were great for Fanboy or Phoenix or Rooster or Hangman, but rather, because they thought that we were the next wave of movie stars and so much of this experience was him passing down the responsibility of what it is to be a storyteller, to push the medium forward to not just do something for the sake of doing it, but to try to attempt to make great films because great films are really hard to come by.
I think we see it in all his work, we see everything he gives to the industry and I think it's really exciting when you have someone like him really root for you and to give you all the tools to succeed. So, it was beyond just being a great co star and being one of the world's greatest actors, it's seeing someone that really cares about the craft and about story, so much so that he's sharing his entire bank of knowledge with us, for us to continue telling great stories outside of Top Gun: Maverick, but for the rest of our lives.
ROHAN: Acting and being able to fly a jet are two different skill sets, so how long did it take for you to get comfortable up in the air and be able to perform while doing the impossible?
DANNY: I think it was, the process again was just so well thought out that by the time we got up to the F-18, I mean, my first F-18 ride, I remember the sky, Ox from TOPGUN was flying me, and it was just a ride along. So, we were going to go through one of their training session and after they finish the training session, Ox started trying to pull pretty intense maneuvers and he's straining, I'm straining and he checks in, and he's like, “Hey Danny, how you doing back there?,” and I was like, “Oh, great, man, how are you?,” and at that point, there was this big sigh and he's like, “ugh,” and we landed and he told everyone he was like, “Oh, I thought I was going to make him pass out and that he was going to be puking and just like having an awful time back there,” and when he heard how upbeat my voice was, he's like, “Damn, these guys are trained really well.”
So, by the time that we started filming our scenes with lines, like basically having to compose the shot with the right light, the sun at the right place, the jet, the follow jet in the right part of the frame. Once we started having to juggle all these balls, I think the acting was just one of the things that came naturally. We had prepared for the moment and at that point, it was shooting like the world's most expensive self-tape in the sky with just the pilot.
ROHAN: How real were some of your reactions... was there ever a moment where you felt like a big mistake joining the film or were you ready to go from Day One?
DANNY: No, I thought I made a huge mistake early on because I was afraid of flying, but by the time we were up there, there's some scenes that I'm like, “Oh, how do we make this the most dynamic?,” and with Fanboy being a weapon system operator, I have a lot of freedom with where I put my body and where I was putting my eyeline or where I would be looking and in particular scenes, to make it most dynamic, I was like, “Alright, so we're just chillin, my mask will be off and it would be a mad scramble, because Matt is coming for us, for me to try to put my mask back on and try to orient myself.
So, stuff like that was really fun to play with once we got really comfortable and that again, that all goes back to the training. Tom really wanted us to be up there with not just doing enough, but being able to have the freedom to then make choices like that and make choices in regards to performance, instead of just trying to squeeze out the line. It was to be able to craft and endow your character with life.
ROHAN: Have you seen the movie with an audience yet? (**This interview was conducted before the San Diego premiere on May 4**)
DANNY: No, I haven't, I get to see it with everyone - I've only seen it with like twelve people - but yeah, tomorrow, my family's going to be here for the premiere and then for the Mexico premiere, I got a lot more family going. So, I'm not only going to be able to see it with a packed crowd, but with a bunch of people that I love. So, I'm excited for that.
Plus, check out our exclusive video interviews with director Joseph Kosinski and actor Glen Powell (Hangman) 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 is now play in theaters worldwide!
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.