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Producer David Ellison Reveals Keys to Success for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

The latest installment of the franchise earned the highest honor at the National Board of Review Annual Awards Gala.

Stars from Janelle Monae (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery) to Robert Downey Jr. (Sr.) and Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once) gathered last week in New York City for the annual National Board of Review Gala. And while there were awards aplenty, spanning a diverse selection of honorees, one film in particular stood above the rest.

Top Gun: Maverick earned the title of Best Film at National Board of Review. Per ScreenRant, it ended 2022 with $1.48 billion in worldwide box office numbers, beating out Avatar: The Way of Water. Last year, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza won the award and later received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Claudio Miranda also nabbed an award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Top Gun: Maverick.

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Top Gun: Maverick was the first film we wanted to make and we originally started working with Paramount [Pictures] back in 2010,” producer David Ellison told Boardroom at the NBR Awards at Cipriana’s 42nd Street. “The first film made me want to become a pilot when I was 13 years old, so to be able to work with the amazing team on this movie and to see the way it’s been received has been the definition of a dream come true.”

He referred to the movies’ two awards of the evening as “an honor and a privilege.” When asked about the makings of all that is Top Gun: Maverick, Ellison noted that the film and its positive reception could not have been possible without one actor in particular.

Jerry Bruckheimer, David Ellison, Joe Kosinski, Danny Ramirez and Claudio Miranda at The National Board of Review Annual Awards Gala (Photo by Nina Westervelt/Variety via Getty Images)

“We’ve made eight movies together and [Tom Cruise’s] mantra on the film was, ‘We have to hit a bullet with a bullet,'” Ellison said. “He encouraged everybody to aim high and really wanted to deliver to the fans. We really could not be more proud of the picture and the way it’s been received.”

As of December, Collider says Top Gun: Maverick is the ninth-biggest IMAX hit ever, grossing $110.3 million globally. The film is also the fifth-biggest domestic box office hit of all-time, behind Avatar ($785 million), Spider-Man: No Way Home ($814 million), Avengers: Endgame ($858 million) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($936 million). Globally, the film ranks 11th, behind Furious 7 ($1.514 billion).

While fans meet most sequels, trilogies, and sagas with backlash due to the original’s positive impact, there was something about Top Gun that made the producers, directors, and actors want to move forward.

“It’s always the script of the story and I think with Maverick, it was really interesting to be able to examine where Maverick is in his life, 35 years after the original movie, the way the Navy has adjusted, the way the Navy has progressed,” Ellison said. “We really thought that we found a story that was worth telling and that was the driving force behind the movie.”

Credit: ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Col
Copyright: ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

In true award show season fashion, Ellison had his opinions as to who else should earn award nominations, but he had to shout out one movie in particular.

“I couldn’t be a bigger fan of James Cameron and I’ve seen The Way of Water three times,” he said. “I think it’s just absolutely brilliant. He knows how to do heartfelt event spectacles as well as any filmmaker in the world.”

Oscar nominations are coming on Jan. 24, and Golden Globes take place Jan. 10.

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