Top Gun: Maverick, to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about going to see this movie. After all, the original, a classic for the past 30+ years, how could it possibly live up to the cult status of the OG? Tom Cruise was transported into international fame from this film back in 1986, could Top Gun: Maverick deliver the same high regard?
I have to say this is one of the best films I have seen in years. The story, the acting, the nostalgia hit, the casting, touching scenes, tears, laughter – this film had it all. I was on the edge of my seat throughout. WOW!
As you can imagine, I am over the moon that one of the Top Gun: Maverick cast has joined me on The Mighty Dragon!
Jack Schumacher, stars as Lt. Neil ‘Omaha’ Vikander, one of Maverick’s right-hand men and an integral part of the Top Gun crew.
We talk about Jack’s career, and how it felt like to be cast in Top Gun: Maverick plus BTS / fun moments from the movie (yes, including that scene on the beach!).
Jack describes Tom Cruise as “one of the last true movie stars“, we get to hear how working with Tom is a masterclass in acting and filmmaking.
The Mighty Dragon meets Jack Schumacher
Could you tell me how you got into acting?
Since I was a kid I was obsessed with movies and always dreamed of being in them, but I never pursued it. When I was 18 years old, during my freshman year of college and in the midst of a crisis about what I should pick as a career, I realized that none of the paths I was on led me anywhere I wanted to go. So I took a chance and signed up for an acting class at my school and, from that moment on, I knew it was the only road for me. I kept training at school and then later at Second City Chicago where I got more serious and took the next steps to make it my actual career.
You were in Top Gun: Maverick as Lt. Neil ‘Omaha’ Vikander. What was it like getting that part?
Just getting the part alone felt like something out of a movie! There were a few rounds of auditions, and then I was told that Tom was looking at my tape. I remember asking, “Tom…as in ‘Tom Cruise’ is watching my tape???” When I found out I got the role, my manager called me and said to meet him outside my apartment cause he had a form I needed to sign. But when I met him outside, he told me that there were no forms and that he wanted to let me know in person that I got the job. I think I stood speechless for probably a full minute just staring out into the distance. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
Did the cast need any specific training/research for their roles in this movie?
Production provided us with a big welcome packet full of aviation terms to familiarize ourselves with to get some of the basic lingo and knowledge down. Next, they immediately set us up with classroom sessions with an instructor, followed by actual flying lessons which were incredible. And perhaps the biggest part of the role research was simply getting to be around the real pilots, hearing their stories and experiences, and learning what motivates them.
What was it like working with Tom Cruise, what do you appreciate about his acting style?
Working with Tom was a dream come true! First of all, he is one of the most welcoming and generous people I’ve ever met, and when you’re first on a set – especially on something like Top Gun which can be incredibly intimidating – to have a leader like that really puts you at ease and in a creative space to work. Watching his process was truly a master class in acting and filmmaking. He is one of the last true movie stars and his process shows that. He knows what works and what doesn’t and when something in a scene wasn’t clicking right or something needed to be changed, he had the knowledge and expertise to make those adjustments and most importantly to execute them.
Top Gun is a classic movie – was there a lot of pressure / high expectations going into the set?
Oh man, yes! There was a ton of pressure. I especially felt a lot of nerves going in initially because this was my first film and I didn’t exactly know what to expect. But that’s a big part of why I feel so blessed and grateful to have been a part of such a spectacular and talented cast. Everyone in the cast and the crew understood how important this film was going to be, so everyone brought their A-game. Just being in the room with this level of talent and seeing all of their processes was an invaluable educational experience.
What do you like most about Omaha’s character?
The thing I like most about playing Omaha, and the thing that makes these characters so enjoyable to watch, is that swagger only a Top Gun pilot can have. These men and women are the best of the best and they know it. And they’re the best in a profession that can’t get any more high stakes. It is life or death, and this elevates the pressure and excitement for everything else in the characters’ lives.
Can you share any funny/memorable moments from the set?
Set felt like being at a summer camp with the cast. But probably my most memorable moment on set came during the beach football scene. Everyone had been getting so psyched for this shoot, going crazy in the gym and on our diets to look our best. So when we finally were out there filming, it was a bunch of jacked guys and girls all amped up and ready to go. It felt like we were actually going to play a real football game. But it was almost impossible to catch or hold on to the footballs because we were all covered in oil and the football just slipped right out of your hands. But hey, we still made it work and the scene is awesome.
What’s the most important element to you when preparing for a role?
The most important element for me when I’m preparing for a role is finding what the character wants or needs. Whether it be love, power, validation, honor – the conflict and struggle exist in the fight for what your character’s goal is. That’s the cornerstone when I begin building a character and everything takes shape around that.
Outside of Top Gun, what’s been your favorite role and why?
I recently finished working on a horror film which was my first experience in that genre, and that is my next favorite role. Without giving too much away, it was my first experience taking a character to such certain extreme circumstances and getting to play with those stakes and emotions. Plus lots of fake blood!
What else do you have coming up?
I have a couple of projects that will be out this fall. One is a thriller-horror film and also a new series on Hulu about the wild true story behind The Chippendales.
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