In the 1986 hit film Top Gun, Tom Cruise played the quintessential Tom Cruise role in the character of “Maverick”: cocky, confident, but with a streak of vulnerability, inspiring lines of dialogue like “You’re not going to be happy unless you’re going Mach 2 with your hair on fire” and the iconic songs “Danger Zone” and “Take My Breath Away.”
So what does Maverick look and sound like 33 years down the tarmac? Audiences will find out in the long-awaited sequel Top Gun: Maverick, once again co-starring Cruise and Val Kilmer, who played his rival, the pilot “Iceman.”
Variety reported: “This latest project will be set in a world of drone technology and fifth-generation fighters, and will explore the end of the era of dogfighting.”
Miles Teller has been cast as Cruise’s new co-pilot, reportedly playing a character who is the son of Anthony Andrews and presumably Meg Ryan from the first film. Jennifer Connelly, who won an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, has also joined the cast, according to Variety, saying, “The part is believed to be that that of a single mother who runs a bar near the air base.”
Oblivion‘s Joe Koskinski is directing the film. Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the first Top Gun with the late Don Simpson, returns to produce the sequel. Tony Scott directed the original film; he died in 2012.
The original Top Gun earned more than $300 million and is considered the quintessential ’80s movie, the highest grossing film of 1986. Audiences loved it, but not all the critics did. Roger Ebert wrote: “Movies like Top Gun are hard to review because the good parts are so good and the bad parts are so relentless. The dogfights are absolutely the best…But look out for the scenes where the people talk to one another.”
In the original, Cruise’s character, U.S. Naval aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, attends the Top Gun school at the Naval Air Station in Miramar, California. Between shirtless beach volleyball games and courting astrophysicist Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis, Maverick pulls reckless maneuvers in a fight with Kilmer’s “Iceman” to prove who is the best pilot of the class.
In one flight, Maverick and “Goose,” played by Anthony Edwards, are forced to eject, and Goose is killed. Maverick is cleared of blame but considers resigning. During the class’s graduation party, a real crisis breaks out, and Maverick proves himself a leader at last.
The tension between Cruise and Kilmer is one of the best parts of the movie. Reportedly the dislike was not faked. The two avoided each other during filming. In later interviews, Kilmer said those rumors were overblown. He said he got along fine with Cruise, but the latter rarely socialized because he was “always working.”
When the sequel was confirmed, Kilmer posted a selfie on Instagram, wearing a T-shirt bearing the face of his character, saying, “#TOPGUN2 was announced today. I’m ready Tom–still got my top gun plaque! Still got the moves! Still got it!”
In 2015, a film executive joked “There may be a volleyball scene again!”
The film was inspired by an article in California magazine about the Navy’s “Top Gun” school. Its success led to a flood of applications to the U.S. Navy. Now, however, the real Top Gun school reportedly imposes a five dollar fine on anyone on the staff who quotes from the movie.
In 2016, GQ magazine said that Top Gun was “more fist bump than film” and continues with: “Whatever way you cut it, Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell is a dreadful, dreadful person: arrogant, careless and a bit sex-pesty (following apparently not interested Kelly McGillis into the ladies’ room is officially not OK). Cruise does his dentally enhanced best, but it’s hard to warm to the sort of man who repeatedly risks the life of his best friend, Goose, and wears sunglasses indoors.”
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com.