'Top Gun: Maverick': Behind the Scenes of the Long-Awaited Sequel With Tom Cruise (Exclusive)

Tom Cruise shares how his experience on the first 'Top Gun' inspired him to train his young co-stars in the sequel.

If you're starting to feel the need for speed, that's because Top Gun: Maverick is almost here! The long-awaited sequel hits theaters on May 27, and only ET has an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Tom Cruise's return to the skies as Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell.

"My whole life, I've wanted to make movies or fly airplanes or go to space," Cruise says in a new featurette for the upcoming film. "I wanted to jump off buildings, go ride fast motorcycles... My life has just been filled with stories -- telling stories, creating characters."

For Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise returns to his beloved character from the 1986 original. Maverick's spent his time in the intervening years as a test pilot, refusing the Navy's attempts to promote him up the chain of command so he can stay in the air as much as possible. But when a team of top recruits need to be trained up for a near-impossible mission, it's Maverick who gets the call.

"It's a film about competition," Cruise explains. "It's about teamwork. It's a journey about a character, Maverick... he's someone who challenges authority and can't help himself." 

Behind the scenes, however, Cruise was the authority on the film's high-flying scenes, explaining that he put his younger co-stars through their paces so they would know what to expect from a real-life fighter pilot's perspective -- as well as how to film themselves in the cockpit with Maverick's state-of-the-art camera setup.

"I was able from that to create a whole program and a format for the actors, to train them to be able to get into an F-15 and to operate the cameras," he recalls. "They were very, very dedicated."

"I get in the F-14, and we're doing three flights in one day and there is nothing you can do -- you're going to puke. First flight, I had that plastic right there," Cruise adds with a laugh. "So that's why right away I said, 'I'm going to teach you everything there is to know about what you’re going to go through in that aircraft, and by the time you sit in that F-18, it's not going to be a surprise to you like I had to go through.'"

Cruise's personal "all-encompassing aviation training" took his co-stars through a gauntlet of aviation experience, from a single-engine airplane, to an L-39, to the F-18 Super Hornet. 

"I'm very proud of what we all accomplished," the actor raved of Maverick's cast of newcomers -- which includes Miles TellerGlen Powell, Jay Ellis, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Danny Ramirez and more -- and their intense flight training. "Each one of them are extraordinary."

"Everybody thought it would be impossible for actors to really be in the jets," marvels Teller, who plays Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, the son of Maverick's late wingman and best friend, Goose.

"That's the gift that Tom gave us, that by the time we got up there, we could handle it," agrees Powell, who plays Lt. Hangman.

Clearly, Cruise's leadership was a motivating factor for the entire cast and crew -- and the actor was clear in his devotion to making the Top Gun sequel that fans have been waiting for for over 30 years. Haven't seen the OG film? ET has you covered on how to watch the original Top Gun ahead of the highly anticipated sequel.

"I wanted it to be great for worldwide audiences. I wanted to be great for those people that have asked me to make it all these years," he shares. "I wanted to be great for everyone involved and wanted to be great for [producer] Jerry Bruckheimer, for allowing me to be at the table as a young artist."

"I have the best job in the world," Cruise adds. "I worry about how am I going to entertain all these wonderful people, and that's what I want to do. It's going to be their experience, and it was made with a lot of love, a lot of care, with them in mind."

Top Gun: Maverick is in theaters May 27. See more on the film in the video below!