The news of Tom Cruise setting a “strategic partnership” with Warner Bros. has certain “Top Gun” fans barrel-rolling out of control. Don’t panic, put on your oxygen mask before you attempt to help others — and definitely don’t jump without a chute, because a third “Top Gun” has been in development for a while now, a source told IndieWire.

“Top Gun: Maverick” screenwriter Ehren Kruger is working on the next film in the franchise, according to Puck News. The threequel-creating installment will reunite Cruise with his “Maverick” co-stars Miles Teller and Glen Powell. Producers Jerry Bruckheimer and David Ellison will be back, and “Top Gun: Maverick” director Joseph Kosinski is also set to return — either as director (again), or at least to produce.

Paramount Pictures declined comment on this story; a spokesperson for “Top Gun” co-producer Skydance did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.

As IndieWire previously reported, Cruise’s new Warner Bros. deal is non-exclusive; “Top Gun” and his “Mission: Impossible” franchise set at Paramount Pictures were never in peril. (Cruise doesn’t technically have a deal with Paramount, it’s been more of a relationship-based pact.) Misreports or misinterpretations of the WB news created a bit of a panic.

Under the new partnership, Cruise and his production company get an office on the Warner Bros. Discovery lot in Burbank. From those confines, Cruise, 61 will (eventually) develop, produce, and star in “original and franchise theatrical films,” according to the Warner Bros. Discovery press release announcing the plans. (Here, THR has some good details about how the vague agreement came about.)

Whenever he gets the time, that is — it certainly will not be this year, and likely not next. Cruise does not currently have any films in development at Warner Bros. They have a fairly rich history, however: there, Cruise made “Rock of Ages,” “The Last Samurai,” “Magnolia,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” “Interview with the Vampire,” “Risky Business,” “The Outsiders,” and most recently “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014). It’s been a decade since they’ve worked together.

Ellison’s Skydance owns a piece of the “Top Gun” franchise. Soon, it may own — or at least control — the whole thing…and the rest of Paramount.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Skydance bid for National Amusements, Inc. (NAI) — Shari Redstone’s company that controls nearly 80 percent of Paramount Global’s voting shares — would be in the form of an all-cash offer. They’d want “at least” a majority stake in NAI, and would then seek to merge Skydance with Paramount Global. Ellison is backed by other investors, including his billionaire father Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle.

Cruise is currently shooting the eighth installment of “Mission: Impossible.” Like every other film and TV series, “M:I 8” faced significant production stoppages in 2023 while the WGA, SAG-AFTRA, and the AMPTP worked out the writers and actors strikes. This one was slated for 2024, but Paramount pushed it to 2025; the date was not the only change.

The upcoming film was originally titled “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part Two,” but after an underwhelming (at best) box-office performance from the well-reviewed “Part One,” Paramount clawed back every word beyond the dash. Right now we’re all just referring to it as “Mission: Impossible 8.”

“Top Gun: Maverick,” on the other hand, was a smash hit, earning nearly $1.5 billion at the global box office. In a way, “Maverick” may have saved movie theaters from extinction. Released one week before the “Barbenheimer” craze, “M:I 7” made just $567 million worldwide. It certainly didn’t help that, try as Cruise might, “Mission: Impossible” lost all of its IMAX screens to Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.” That, and other factors, are said to have created some friction between Cruise and Paramount.

Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell in Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One from Paramount Pictures and Skydance.
Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell in “Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning — Part One”Paramount Pictures and Skydance

Like “Mission: Impossible 8’s” fate, “Top Gun: Maverick” did not come out when originally intended. The May 27, 2022 release was delayed by a surge in positive cases amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Cruise also fought off plans for a streaming release and a 45-day theatrical window — boy did he end up being right.

Christopher McQuarrie, who directed the past three “Mission: Impossible” movies, returns for the eighth film, as do actors Ving Rhames, Henry Czerny, Simon Pegg, Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, Hayley Atwell, Shea Whigham, and Pom Klementieff; Janet McTeer and Hannah Waddingham are the newcomers.

Leave a comment