Oscar winner and onetime Yalie, Jennifer Connelly co-stars with afterburners, sky duels, and Tom Cruise in the year’s raddest reboot, Top Gun: Maverick. The actress talks flying a vintage fighter plane,
- Age: 51
- Hometown: Brooklyn
- Social media: ”I’m not on it. I prefer to be where I am.”
- Post-pandemic dream: “Big group dinners with friends.”
- Post-pandemic destination: “Any where.”
You star in one of the most anticipated sequels ever, Top Gun: Maverick, which hits theaters on Nov. 19. What was it like to be part of a blockbuster film franchise?
High octane. I experienced things I never had before—motorcycles and sailboats. And I flew in a vintage World War II fighter plane with Tom Cruise that he piloted. Tom asked if I’d ever done any aerobatic flying. I said, “No…am I going to?” He said we’re just going to do some easy rolls and ignited the engine. Flames burst out, which evidently is normal, but I certainly wasn’t expecting that.
After the original Top Gun came out in 1986, the Navy claimed enlistment went up 500 percent. Did flying with Cruise peak an interest in naval aviation for you?
No. In fact, when I made this film, I had only recently talked myself out of a massive fear of flying. Full-on sweating, crying during turbulence—it was torture. I decided my fear was unsustainable because I have to travel for my job. I worked on getting over that stress just in time to make Top Gun: Maverick. My family thought the timing was pretty funny.
You’d never met Tom Cruise before on this film. What was it like working with an actor whose official bio describes him as “a global cultural icon”?
I’ve never come across anyone with that degree of enthusiasm for every single shot. Tom puts everything he has into everything that he does. For instance, we have a sequence on a boat. Tom looked at it and said, “This just isn’t cool enough. How can we make it more exciting for audiences?” We did the shot again with a faster boat in stronger wind. Now you see it and—it’s intense. We’re soaring across the sea.
Seems like you went to your personal “danger zone.”
So many things about Top Gun feel so emblematic of a time, and the song “Danger Zone” is one of them. I would say I stood on the edge of the danger zone. I walked the perimeter.
Tell us about your character, Penny Benjamin, who wasn’t in the original film. Did you get a nickname like Ice Man or Goose?
Penny’s an independent, optimistic, glass-half-full kind of woman. She’s someone who’s known Maverick for a while. They have a history together. But no nickname. Only pilots get nicknames, and she works in a bar.
“I STOOD ON THE EDGE OF THE DANGER ZONE. I WALKED THE PERIMETER.”
We’ve been trapped inside for a year. Here’s to hoping we can see Top Gun: Maverick in an actual movie theater.
I had the good fortune of seeing a screening in a theater with my family. No one else was there, so I missed that crowd experience. But there was a huge IMAX screen, not just our television. My 9-year-old daughter, Agnes, was bouncing in her seat the entire time. We were all saying afterward, “Wow, we missed the theater experience so much.”
Go-to concession stand purchase?
Honestly, I’m not a huge movie snacker. I don’t know how to make this a more interesting answer. I’m a compulsive confessor. And I’m bad at bullshitting. So, no…I’m not a big popcorn eater.
You and your husband, Paul Bettany, who stars in WandaVision, seem to be hitting the 2021 zeitgeist sweet spot.
We feel privileged to do the jobs we do and loved the time spent working on those projects. If audiences enjoy them, that’s gilding the lily.