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Maverick’ stunt guy shares behind-the-scene secrets

He’s got a need for speed!

Kevin LaRosa II, 36, is the aerial coordinator and camera pilot who trained all the actors and captured all the action-packed shots for “Top Gun: Maverick,” which premieres Friday.

LaRosa was born in 1986 — the year the first movie premiered — and comes from a long line of aviation experts. He’s a third-generation pilot and second-generation aerial coordinator and stunt pilot.

“My father is a well-known stunt pilot. And growing up in a house where your dad does something cool like that, you’re just hooked,” he told The Post.

“But I do love telling people there was one thing that almost derailed me. And that’s the first ‘Top Gun’ movie, believe it or not. I almost changed courses because I wanted to be an F-14 Navy pilot.”

Ultimately, LaRosa followed in his father’s footsteps and now, he’s fulfilled his “Top Gun” dreams while working with Tom Cruise on the highly anticipated sequel.

“I can tell you right now, that man can fly an airplane,” LaRosa said of Cruise, who reprises his role as Navy fighter Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, once a young hotshot pilot turned trainer who is grappling with his past. “Tom is already an incredible aviator,” he said, adding that the 59-year-old actor (who is confirmed shirtless in the movie) is “an accomplished pilot” and motivation “to go work out.”

The original “Top Gun” became a classic after it was released, celebrated for its lust-worthy cast, amazing aerial stunts and portrayals of everlasting bonds. The first film, directed by Tony Scott, inspired a spike of US Navy registrations, which increased 500% the next year and catapulted Cruise to box office fame.

Kevin LaRosa, 36, is a third generation pilot and second generation aerial coordinator and stunt pilot.
Long-time pilot LaRosa shared what it’s really like working with Tom Cruise and how he trained the actors for “Top Gun: Maverick.”
Jordan Orsak
The 36-year-old revealed that Cruise is “an accomplished pilot” and his motivation “to go work out.”
Jordan Orsak
Kevin LaRosa behind the scenes with Tom Cruise and the cast of "Top Gun: Maverick"
LaRosa worked closely with the cast to turn them into actual aviators for the movie. No stunt doubles or CGI effects were used for the flying sequences in this film.
Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

Cruise is known for doing most of his own stunts. For this film he does them all zipping through the clouds and pulling up to eight Gs — a measure of gravitational force experienced through acceleration — which is comparable to 600 pounds pressing against your body. “So just to put it in perspective, it’s a level of power that most people never get to experience,” LaRosa said.

The “Top Gun” star owns his own P-51 Mustang (a World War II fighter jet) which LaRosa said the actor flies “like it’s an extension of himself.” Cruise came onto the set with a love for and understanding of aviation, LaRosa said, and really wanted to inspire that passion in his new co-stars, including Miles Teller, Monica Barbaro and Glen Powell.

‘I can tell you right now, that man can fly an airplane. Tom [Cruise] is already an incredible aviator.’

Aerial coordinator and “Top Gun: Maverick” camera pilot LaRosa

“I remember in the beginning of the movie, he gave us an incredible speech,” LaRosa said. “We felt the pressure. But that pressure, I feel like, was our motivation.”

The actors in the new film went through extensive and intense training both on the ground and in the air with LaRosa, his father (also named Kevin) and US Navy pilots to get them comfortable in the cockpit. The newbies began training in a 172 aircraft to learn spatial awareness, what the gauges do and how to take off and land before jumping into fighter jets.

Miles Teller in Top Gun
All the actors went through extensive training and performed all their own stunts. Miles Teller is seen here flying.
Paramount Pictures
Monica Barbaro in Top Gun
Actors, including Monica Barbaro seen here, had to prepare their bodies mentally and physically to fly in a fighter jet pulling up to eight Gs of force — the equivalent of 600 pounds.
Paramount Pictures
Glen Powell in Top Gun
Glen Powell, seen here, and the other actors would shoot scenes back-to-back, turning them into their own crew to perfect their look and the shot on their own without ever leaving the cockpit.
Paramount Pictures

“That’s why they looked so good on camera because they’re not up there for the first time,” LaRosa said. “They’re not afraid of it. They get in those things and they’re focused on what they need to do to make the scenes great.”

By the end of training, Cruise and LaRosa weren’t the only ones flipping through the clouds.

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick
Cruise is back reprising his role as Maverick 36 years after the original film.
Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures
Kevin LaRosa
LaRosa is a third-generation pilot and second generation aerial coordinator and stunt pilot.

“There’s nobody else that’s doing it for them, that is 100% the cast in those aircraft doing everything,” LaRosa confirmed, adding that the film doesn’t use stunt doubles or CGI effects.

Not only did the actors have to become pilots for the film, but they also had to be their own personal lighting crews, hair stylists, makeup artists and directors, pulling out mirrors in their cockpits to make sure they were camera-ready after each G-force blast.

And it wasn’t always pretty.

LaRosa said that some of the actors got air-sick, but remained professional, even if it meant filming a scene with a bag full of vomit on their lap. Powell, he added, did some of his best work with his sick bag discreetly sloshing around.

“There’s no pulling over on the side of the road and waiting it out,” he said. “You get right back into it.”

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