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Senior RAN MH-60R pilot makes claim to fame in Top Gun

written by Hannah Dowling | June 22, 2022

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Schroder. (Picture: Leading Seaman Ernesto Sanchez)

Keen-eyed Top Gun: Maverick viewers may catch a glimpse of a bearded senior Royal Australian Navy MH-60R pilot in the background of the movie’s bar scenes, Defence has revealed.

RAN Lieutenant Commander Matthew Schroder was on US Navy Exchange when he received a call from the film’s casting agent, looking for foreign aviators to fill in as extras in the highly-anticipated movie.

He spent 12 hours a day over a period of eight days among a sea of US Navy pilots, filming at a purpose-built set at US Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego. The set was built to resemble an on-base pilots’ hangout bar known as I-Bar.

“We’d be in the background drinking fake beer, then moved around by production guys who’d say ‘Walk over here, create some action, have some fake conversations but don’t make a noise’,” LCDR Schroder said.

“It was very repetitive; you did your thing for 10 takes, then they’d do the same scene again with the same dialogue, but with the cameras and lights moved to get the other side of a conversation.

“The dialogue between the actors during filming sounded very wooden because you’re used to watching a movie with music and background noise. We thought it was going to sound terrible.”

According to Defence, LCDR Schroder caused a stir with hair and makeup due to his beard — an accessory not permitted in the US Navy — however the director’s final say meant the beard was allowed to remain.

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“After a couple of days the beard had been seen too much, so I was worried I would be taken out to avoid becoming a reoccurring distraction,” LCDR Schroder said.

According to LCDR Schroder, everyone had stickers placed over their phone cameras before Tom Cruise arrived to set, however he made sure to get himself close to Cruise during the final bar scene.

“[In the scene] Tom Cruise keeps bumping past me and the camera is following him into the bar and I’ve got the White Ensign on my shoulder,” he said.

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“[But] after the sixth take they said ‘Sorry, this is Top Gun, we’re going to need an American flag’.”

However, LCDR Schroder was unfortunately under strict orders not to strike up a conversation with the stars of the film, though did make friends with the Australian stunt double for Miles Teller, known as Rooster in the film.

LCDR Schroder said filming was an emotional “rollercoaster”, given that he had grown up watching the original movie and was hopeful to appear in the sequel. However, while he enjoyed the movie after its eventual release, but couldn’t spot himself in the final cute.

“I knew it was going to be tenuous about whether I’d make it in,” he said.

“There were lots of scenes that were shot that didn’t make it. If there are people with flying suits in the background of the bar, I’m in there somewhere.”

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