Jon Hamm On Finding His Need For Speed In ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

In Top Gun: Maverick (which is incredible), Jon Hamm is in full-on asshole mode. And he’s obviously enjoying every single second of it. Hamm plays Cyclone, a no-nonsense admiral who runs Top Gun these days. Unlike Tom Skeritt’s Viper from the first film, Cyclone is no fan of Maverick. And, if it were up to him, Maverick would not be back at Top Gun training a crack team of pilots that will be carrying out The Most Dangerous Mission Possible. Hamm was 15 when the original Top Gun came out, which was a prime viewing age back in his hometown of St. Louis. So, no, Jon Hamm can’t believe he’s in a Top Gun movie. To the point when he first heard about it, his answer – without seeing a script or even knowing what he’d be paid, was, “Yes.”

It’s also interesting that Hamm is staring in a sequel to Top Gun 36 years after the original, but, next will play the title character in Confess, Fletch, the first Fletch movie in 31 years and is another long-rumored sequel (more a reboot in this case) people just kind of assumed would never happen.

Back in 2019 when Hamm was still filming Top Gun: Maverick, by chance, we were at the same bar watching a St. Louis Blues playoff hockey game. (“By chance,” in that it was the St. Louis sports bar in New York City. RIP, Foley’s.) The Blues were the victim of a bad call to end the game and Hamm, in full Cyclone mode, was furious. The announcers say, “I think the Blues are the victim of a bad call,” and Hamm yells, in the only way Hamm can do, “You think!?!?” But then he took a moment, turned, and looked at the table I was at. And in the most calm, but confident way, he said, “Guys, we’ll get them in game four.” And he did a little clap, like meeting’s adjourned, and walked off into the night. I swear I have never felt more confident in anything that the Blues would win game four. I saw, first hand, the magic of Jon Hamm. The Blues would win their first Stanley Cup that year. And as it turned out, on the day we spoke, the Blues had won a big playoff game the night before…

I’m very happy with the Blues game last night.

You and me both, buddy.

Around the time you were filming Top Gun: Maverick, we both just happened to be at Foley’s watching game three of the Blues-Sharks series and the Blues lost on a bad call. We were all very mad, then you looked at our table and gave an encouraging speech.

[Laughs] Well, I think they felt that way too. They definitely had some, they had some baggage. They had some bulletin board material, for sure. That was a hell of a run.

You were in Cyclone mode. I feel that there was Cyclone coming out that night to give us a pep talk.

A pep talk? Well, that was definitely around the time. That’s for sure.

Do you get any say in what your call sign would be?

No. That was assigned to me that was written into the script, which I was very pleased with. I thought that’s a very cool name. So I was very happy that I was able to be adorned with a cool moniker, for sure.

Cyclone doesn’t actually fly. Tom Skerritt in the first one gets to fly. Did you want to fly?

Yeah, it would’ve been nice. It would’ve been nice, but I keep telling people it’s about 90 percent/10 percent. There’s about 90 percent relief, the fact that I didn’t have to go through all of that and get bounced around, and about 10 percent of FOMO or jealousy.

When the first Top Gun comes out, you’re 15. That’s the perfect Top Gun age.

Yeah. I’m dialed in.

What was your experience with the first one? I assume seeing it at something like the Des Peres Cinema?

Yeah, probably we went to see it at a Wehrenberg Theater somewhere in the ’80s. And I just remember the experience of going to see it was coming out of it was like, “I have to see that movie again. I want to see that movie again.” And those were the days when going to see a movie wasn’t repeat viewing. It wasn’t just clicking a button and starting it over again. It was you had to go outside and stand in line and get another ticket, if you could, and wait. And so it was definitely a movie that we were all dialed into for sure. And by we, I mean just me and all of my friends at that age.

If they told you then they’re going to make a sequel to this, the bad news is it’s going not come out for 36 years, but the good news is you’re going to be in it, how do you react to that?

No, look, the interesting thing about waiting this long for a sequel is that obviously the movie, the events of this film, don’t take place the day after the first one ends. Time has passed. The movie is able to, and I think this is why it’s hitting people so emotionally, the movie’s able to really explore doing this over the course of a lifetime and a career. What happens to people? Words like responsibility and loyalty and friendship and loss and grief and all of those things, what do they mean? They mean something different when you’re 25 than they do when you’re 55. And I think that’s what the movie’s really exploring. I mean, yes, of course, it’s got all the planes going fast and dipping and diving and spinning and all of that stuff, which is exciting. But there’s a real emotional core to the movie. And it’s about Maverick. It’s about his journey, his life. What’s he doing with his life? And he has to kind of reexamine it. And what does it mean to keep writing checks that your body can’t cash if you don’t have anybody else in your life? And I think that’s where the emotion of the film really comes from.

I’m not just saying this, this is one of the best movie theater experiences I’ve had, maybe ever. I know you’ve seen some of the reactions, but this is no joke. This thing really is phenomenal.

I think there are a couple of reasons for that. I think there are a lot of people who grew up on the first one. There are a lot of people who came to the first one on home video or, or direct cable, what have you. But the first one definitely has a very special place. And it holds up, and it’s an example of ’80s moviemaking that we continually look to. And I think you see other films that are inspired by that. I think you could point to Michael Bay’s career and say that he owes a lot to Tony Scott. And I think that there’s a lot of that DNA in a lot of the films that we’ve loved over the years. So I think that it’s fertile ground for people to like the film. And then the fact that it actually is a good film that people can really sit back and enjoy. And it’s not a movie to be watched on a streamer, or a tiny screen. It’s a movie to be watched big and loud and only in theaters. And it’s very exciting.

You mentioned Tony Scott. And obviously, the original Top Gun has such a specific tone to it because of him. How do you find a similar tone for this?

That’s on purpose. They really wanted to hit those tonal notes because I think that’s what makes Top Gun Top Gun, too. It’s kind of a deep dive into cool and looking cool, and feeling cool, and cool music, and cool backdrops. And everything is beautiful and backlit and magic hour and all of the things that make movies so cool and so special and so impressive. And I think the filmmakers definitely leaned into that. And, of course, that’s homage to Tony, who’s unfortunately no longer with us. But when you have a lot of the same folks that were there for the first time around, it’s just, “Oh yeah, remember this? Let’s do that one. Let’s do that.”

jon hamm top gun

How do you first find out about this? I mean, obviously, this has been rumored to be made for forever, but when do you actually hear the words, “This is happening”?

I got a call. I remember I was in my car and the phone rang. And I picked it up, hands-free of course. They said, “They’re looking at you for this Top Gun sequel.” And I was like, “What? Hell yes.” They said, “We haven’t seen a script.” I said, “Tell them yes.”

“I’m in.”

Yeah! “Well, we don’t know what we’re getting paid.” “I don’t care. Tell them, yes. We’ll work all that shit out later.” And I had a meeting with Chris McQuarrie and everybody, and a phone call with Jerry Bruckheimer, and everybody seemed very excited. So I was very happy to be brought on board and made part of the team. And it was kind of a dream come true to be working on that, from the costume fittings, to all the way up through doing the press. There was a pretty legitimate smile on my face.

I keep trying to think what it would be like to just to look around and go, “I’m in a Top Gun movie.” I can’t fathom that.

Yeah, there are some pretty impressive and humbling moments being on the set with things. We’re on an active USS Teddy Roosevelt. We’re on this active nuclear aircraft carrier with real jets on it. You know?


I just wanted to make sure I didn’t step on anything or break anything or push the wrong button or start an armed conflict.

Instead of volleyball, there’s a shirtless touch football game. Did you feel left out?

No. I was very happy to keep my shirt and my shoes on, in that particular moment. There’s something uniquely me about being on a beach, watching the sunset in loafers and socks.

A lot of competition out there for who’s most buff.


So your Fletch movie, Confess, Fletch, is done?

We finished principal photography in Rome, in September, August, of last year. I can’t really say much more about it, but we’re very much looking forward to people getting a chance to see that, too, on some platform somewhere.

Between a third Fletch and a second Top Gun, these are two movies that people have tried to get made for over 30 years. It’s the Jon Hamm magic getting this stuff made.

Well, I hope so. I was a big fan of those books growing up. And I remember having seen the first film, which I think was in ’85, and thinking, Oh man, this was so funny and so good. And Chevy is so good. And then realizing there’s 10 more books. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I get to go read more stories about this. The books are quite different. There’s some shared DNA, but the tone of the books is very different from the tone of Chevy’s films.

Right. Those movies are Chevy Chase vehicles basically.

Exactly. And God bless. He knocks it out of the park, especially with that. But we decided to kind of go a different way in making them because we knew that we had all this source material. Greg Mottola who directed the film and co-wrote it, he’s a great guy. I’ve worked with him on several occasions and I hope to again. But yeah, we really wanted to kind of have our own version of fun with it. And I think we did. We made a very funny, fun Fletch movie. So, hopefully, people will dig it.

See, it would be great if there was a new Fletch movie every couple of years.

You and me both, man.

I cannot believe it’s been 12 years since you hosted SNL. I realize you’ve made appearances, but that’s a long time.

Yeah. It’s been a minute. Hopefully, I’ll get asked to do it again. It’s one of those funny things. It’s like, if you’re part of the cultural moment, then that happens. And sometimes you become less of the moment or something. It’s a very weird calculation that I’m very glad I don’t have to do, but the calculation exists in the mind of Mr. Michaels. And I’ve always been a friend of the show. So I’m looking forward to it. I was actually meant to have a little cameo on my friend Paul Rudd’s five timers nomination…

Oh yeah, when Omicron hit.

It was a COVID casualty. So it goes.

Anyway, I still can’t believe Top Gun: Maverick exists. In 2010 a colleague tweeted, “If Top Gun 2 happens, I’ll eat a shoe.” People are trying to hold him to that.

There you go. Like a lot of tweets … it hasn’t aged well.

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ opens May 24th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.