He made it clear to auditioning actors that the "Top Gun" sequel would really fly – requiring a G-force filled, vomit-inducing three-month flight training course before shooting stomach-turning sequences in F-18 fighter jets.
"I scared people by being upfront with what this movie would require," Kosinski says. "Some were like, 'This isn't for me. I don't even like to fly commercial.'"
The new "Top Gun: Maverick" pilot class is more diverse than the predominantly white, male crew of the 1986 original. Along with the showcase pilot roles of Miles Teller's Rooster and Glen Powell's Hangman, Tom Cruise's Pete "Maverick" Mitchell trains two Black pilots and the two films' first Latin American and female pilots.
"The first 'Top Gun' reflected what the Navy was like in 1986," Kosinski says. "We wanted 'Maverick' to reflect what it's like today."
Here's the new crew for "Top Gun: Maverick" (in theaters Friday):
'Top Gun: Maverick' premiere: Tom Cruise arrives by helicopter
Monica Barbaro rises as Phoenix
The one-time "Chicago P.D." actor was gunning to step into the cockpit.
"When (Kosinski) told me we'd be flying in actual F-18s, I got goosebumps," says Monica Barbaro, 31. "I wanted this so bad."
When she landed the part of Natasha "Phoenix" Trace, Barbaro wasn't daunted by the barrier-breaking role.
"Of course, part of this role is about being a woman," Barbaro says. "But she also represents a pilot who is just very capable."
Barbaro proved a natural in the cockpit, never getting airsick during the jet sequences.
"I was lucky; I never lost control," she says. When the first "Maverick" trailer arrived, she posted on Instagram about her friends' shock at seeing her jet sequences.
"My phone was blowing up," Barbaro says. "People were calling me like, 'Wait, I didn't realize you were in the jets.' And I was like, 'Yeah, dude.'"
You're going to love Lewis Pullman's shy 'Bob'
"Top Gun" has featured the brashest and cockiest flyboys. Then there's Lewis Pullman's glasses-wearing weapon systems officer Robert Floyd, whose call sign is simply "Bob."
It's a far cry from the actor's current role as a bull-riding cowboy in Amazon's Western series "Outer Range." But the Bob love started long before the film's release.
"There was a guy with a sign saying 'I Love Bob' outside my first TV interview," Pullman says. "He said to me, 'I keep thinking, what would Bob do?' "
"I was a shy kid growing up," says Pullman, 29, the son of actor Bill Pullman. "Audiences can see that soft-spoken people can become pilots. And they can be absolute road dogs in the sky."
Bob shows skills, with his curious call sign remaining an enigma.
"I like that it doesn't have an explanation," Pullman says. "There's great mystery behind Bob."
Greg Davis went Tarzan for Coyote
Greg "Tarzan" Davis earned his real nickname from his New Orleans childhood.
"I was a wild child with long hair and they would call me 'Tarzan.' And it stuck," says Davis, 28, who switched from teaching elementary school to acting six years ago.
"Maverick" is one of the first movies Davis landed. With only one Black pilot in the original film, the casting message of "Maverick" is clear. "I don't want to say we're breaking barriers, but this is something we're not used to seeing," Davis says.
"Maverick" has been delayed so long by the COVID-19 pandemic that Davis has since appeared as Dr. Jordan Wright on "Grey's Anatomy," and is sticking with Cruise to star in the next "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning" (expected July 2023).
"Four of my six years of acting have been with Tom Cruise," Davis says. "I cannot complain about life."
Jay Ellis was almost too tall for Payback
Jay Ellis has no problem with jets. His family moved around for 15 years as his father served in the Air Force as a mechanic.
"I feel like I was born to do this," says Ellis, 40.
The 6-foot-4 actor had a problem fitting into jets, however, as Reuben "Payback" Fitch.
"My head banged against the canopy a couple times. They had to lower my seat," he says.
The other major problem for the "Insecure" star was learning how to relieve himself while wearing a bulky flight suit during his first F-18 flight. Ellis found out the hard way that pilots don't land for pit stops. He implemented his vomit bag.
"Every flight from there on, I peed and I got it down to a science," Ellis says. "It just became a thing."
Danny Ramirez turned Fanboy for flying
Danny Ramirez, a Chicago-born actor of Colombian and Mexican descent, insists he misunderstood the flying requirement for his part as Mickey "Fanboy" Garcia.
"I signed the rider that said I wasn't afraid of flying. But I thought it referred to commercial flights. I thought all the flying was going to be CGI," says Ramirez, 29. "I was like, 'What have I got myself into?' "
That changed after many flight hours for Ramirez, who played Air Force Lt. Joaquin Torres in TV's "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."
"I didn't love it before this, but I love flying now," says Ramirez, who conveys extreme cockpit confidence onscreen. "I was having so much fun. I can be cocky in the air."
He blames his role as a head-swiveling weapon systems officer for his bouts with air sickness.
"It's like texting in the back seat of a car, but you're moving at 500 knots," Ramirez says. "So I tossed my cookies quite a bit."
Glen Powell kills it as Hangman
"Scream Queens" star Glen Powell, 33, dealt with his bouts of F-18 air sickness, but loved pushing the envelope with real Navy pilots.
"We're literally flying with the best aviators in the world," says Powell, who recalls one low-flying canyon maneuver. "We get on the ground, and I high five my pilot saying, 'That was awesome.' And he's like, 'Yeah, I've never done that before!' I was like 'What?'"
But Powell never looked back as he created Lt. Jake 'Hangman' Seresin directly with Cruise, a cocky character similar to Val Kilmer's original "Top Gun" Iceman, but with Southern charm.
"I can't top what Val did in the first one. I tried to make Hangman stand on his own," says Powell, who didn't have dig too deep for the character. "That just comes with growing up in Texas."
Miles Teller is Goose reborn as pilot son Rooster
Pitching the "Top Gun" sequel to Cruise after three decades seemed like a long shot to the film's director. But Kosinski Photoshopped a mustache onto his "Only the Brave" star Miles Teller and placed it next to Maverick's beloved, deceased "Top Gun" wingman, Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards). Teller was a fit.
"I said, 'I just worked with this kid. He's an incredible actor,' " says Kosinski. An emotional story around Goose's son, pilot Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, was born. Cruise greenlit the project.
Teller, 35, brought his own mustache. "That was all me, I showed up with it at the camera test," Teller says. "Tom was like, 'This is perfect; you look so much like him.'"
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Top Gun: Maverick' pilots: Meet Goose's son Rooster, Hangman, more