Maverick ‘sheds shirts, logic for dogfight football scene

Glen Powell sheds his shirt for the dogfight football game in "Top Gun: Maverick."

SAN DIEGO – During a thoughtful moment, “Top Gun: Maverick” star Glen Powell reflects on the action film’s sweaty and sandy diversion, the already-famous dogfight football scene.

“I played football growing up in Texas,” Powell says. “And I don’t get the rules of dogfight football. They make absolutely no sense.”

He is correct: The first rule of the film’s dogfight football is that it makes zero sense. It’s not so much a game employed by Tom Cruise’s flight instructor Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, but a baby-oiled excuse to show the skin-baring, beautiful physical specimens who make up the “Top Gun: Maverick” cast. Not a criticism, a thank you.

The muscle show is a direct call-out to the legendary beach volleyball game from the original movie, featuring a buff Cruise, Val Kilmer and Rick Rossovich vying for the Top Guns in best flex (Anthony Edwards wore a shirt).

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Glen Powell sheds his shirt for the dogfight football game in "Top Gun: Maverick."

The shirtless dogfight football scene is a callback to the original ‘Top Gun’

Director Joseph Kosinski knew he had to bring some sort of sweat-filled nod to the sequel.

“When anyone and everyone found out I was making this movie, they told me, ‘You know you’ve got to have a volleyball scene. It’s not a’ Top Gun ‘movie without it,'” Kosinski says. “But it can’t just be a random montage. It has to push the story forward.”

Kosinski credits screenwriter Ehren Kruger with coming up with Maverick’s onscreen team-building exercise. There are actual rules: two balls in play, offense and defense at the same time, lots of running and touchdowns. “To me, that was a brilliant solution,” says Kosinski.

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Glen Powell and Monica Barbaro get their game on in "Top Gun: Maverick."

Rossovich, who believes he won the original body contest, told USA TODAY how hard the original “Top Gun” stars competed (“We were all trying to get an edge”). But late “Top Gun” director Tony Scott surprised them all with the filming date, dumping a truckload of sand and telling the actors to play.

Kosinski allowed his actors to zero in on the big day.

“Everyone had their calendar circled, with ‘This is dogfight football day. Break out the coconut oil and the spray tan, let’s do this!’ “says Kosinski. “And I knew I just had to shoot the hell out of it.”

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