No movie has flown higher than “Top Gun: Maverick” this year, with the summer blockbuster still running in theaters as the top-grossing film of 2022 and the most financially successful vehicle of Tom Cruise’s career. Now the movie is flying home, with an Aug. 23 digital release, just ahead of football season.
It’s fitting, according to one of Cruise’s co-stars, because of an underrated reason for “Top Gun: Maverick’s” success: sports.
Greg Tarzan Davis, who plays Lt. Javy “Coyote” Machado, one of the F-18 pilots at the TOPGUN program under Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) in the film, is a former running back from Edna Karr High School, which produced NFL talent like Patrick Surtain Sr. and Robert Royal. He’s good friends with wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, his former LSU classmates.
He recently joined CBS Sports for an exclusive interview. Here’s Davis on everything from his own NFL dreams, his pivot to Hollywood, Tom Cruise becoming his mentor and where “Top Gun: Maverick” is set to launch his career:
Note: The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CBSSports.com: Should we be calling you Tarzan, or Greg?
Davis: Yes, yes, yes, (Tarzan). My mama calls me Greg.
CBSSports.com: Is it true that the name comes from the long hair you once had?
Davis: It came from me being — other people would say ‘bad,’ I say ‘wild,’ I like to redefine terms — and that’s where it came from, as well as me having long hair. And it stuck with me, especially as I was going into this industry, where I’m like, ‘I need to stand out, and Greg is pretty boring.’ So Tarzan it is!
CBSSports.com: Did the long hair come off specifically for “Top Gun: Maverick”?
Davis: No, it came off before. I had been growing my locks for 14, 15 years. … (Eventually, I) had trouble sleeping because of it. The moment I cut my hair, three months later, I end up booking “Top Gun,” and I was like, that’s the best decision I could’ve made.
CBSSports.com: One of the most impressive things about “Maverick,” besides the emotional depth, is how real everything feels — the flights, the missions. Is it fair to equate your training for the movie to that of a professional athlete?
Davis: Oh yeah. A lot of us who were a part of the cast were former athletes who played in high school. … We were able to pull on that competitive nature, that competitive spirit and the training aspects … And Tom (Cruise) is also an athlete and a competitor himself. So he was able to create this program for us to be able to withstand the Gs and get into the cockpit. And we all started with baby steps. So it was like — you know, my favorite sport is football — so it was almost like, it started out with the offseason, then we all came for OTAs, and then we had the preseason, and then the actual regular season, and now we’re celebrating the Super Bowl, the championship, right now.