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How Jennifer Connelly's Character Fit Into The World Of Top Gun: Maverick - Exclusive

Believe it or not, flying isn't the only complex, well-calibrated, speed-based physical activity that takes place in "Top Gun: Maverick."

A major subplot in the film involves Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) rekindling his on-again, off-again relationship with Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), owner of the TOPGUN pilots' favorite local watering hole, The Hard Deck. If you don't recall Penny from the original "Top Gun" released in 1986, that's because the character was mentioned — as an "admiral's daughter" that Maverick got into some romantic hijinks with — but was never seen.

Despite Maverick initiating a love affair with flight instructor Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) in the original movie, that's been long put on ice. It's hinted in "Top Gun: Maverick" that Pete and Penny have had a lengthier and more turbulent history behind them when he walks back into her bar early in the film, much to her chagrin.

Even though she's the daughter of an admiral and has been around the Navy's pilots and flight school her entire life, Penny doesn't necessarily know the first thing about flying. Instead, she displays her expertise elsewhere, as director Joseph Kosinski explained. "We like the idea that she brings Maverick into her world for a scene," he said. "And shows him what she can do."

Penny has a skill set that even Maverick doesn't have

Penny Benjamin may not be able to fly a plane, but she knows how to sail a boat. We're not talking about just revving up a motorboat, either; Penny has mastered the complicated, precise ability to work the sails and build up considerable velocity all from the power of the wind. That's something that even Maverick can't master, as he struggles to follow Penny's directions when the two of them go out sailing.

"Penny Benjamin is a character that we introduced in this film," said Joseph Kosinski about the origins of the sequence. "Obviously she was mentioned in the first film, but now we get to finally meet her ... I love that scene. The idea of that kind of came from one of the Naval advisors that I talked to early on."

In keeping with the mandate of verisimilitude that permeated every aspect of "Top Gun: Maverick" — up to and including sending the cast members up in actual F/A-18 fighter jets – Jennifer Connelly took it upon herself to learn how to sail.

"I took sailing lessons, which was really fun and sometimes terrifying, because I live in New York City," said Connelly in an exclusive interview with Xoop. "So I was taking lessons in New York Harbor, which is really insane. There are so many ferries and police boats and, believe it or not, kayakers and jet skiers in New York Harbor. Who knew? There's a lot of traffic. So that was pretty funny."

Connelly added that had she been asked to go through flight training, she would have done that as well: "I wasn't sorry that I wasn't one of the pilots, but I would have done it."

"Top Gun: Maverick" is out in theaters now.