The movie Top Gun is memorable for so many reasons. Its soundtrack is unforgettable — from the title song, to the tune from the 1960s that was revived as a result of Tom Cruise singing it at a bar in the film. The movie also created numerous catch-phrases that became part of the American lexicon (does anyone else here “feel the need for speed?”). Top Gun also catapulted supporting actor Anthony Edwards from “nerd” roles into Hollywood stardom, before he was part of the cast of ER.
These small tidbits of movie facts are indeed important — but many more things were going on behind the scenes that people don’t realize! Read on to find out more about this amazing film, including why the love scene was filmed in the dark!
Every Actor Threw Up — Except Anthony Edwards
Filming the exciting and thrilling action sequences of Top Gun required actual flights of Navy airplanes zooming around the horizon — remember, there wasn’t any highly-produced CGI graphics technology available at the time of its filming! The pilots flying these incredible machines made sure the real-life actors understood what it was like to actually sit inside the cockpits of 114 Aardvarks and VF-213 Black Lions.
Allegedly, every actor who participated in these situations vomited as a result — every actor, that is, except for Anthony Edwards. Who could have guessed that, in real life, the guy playing Goose would be more composed than Maverick!
Top Gun Was Pitched as “Stars Wars on Earth”
Where did the idea for Top Gun come about? Producer Jerry Bruckheimer was reading a copy of California magazine in 1983. He was enthralled by an article entitled “Top Guns,” which followed the lives of TOPGUN fighter pilots based at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, California.
Bruckheimer wanted to pitch the film to his production partner, Don Simpson, and he did so using an analogy based off a series of popular films that had been made in the years prior to his reading the article. Those films involved Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca. That’s right — Bruckheimer pitched the idea of Top Gun as “Star Wars on Earth.”
The Navy’s Direct Influence On The Film
Scriptwriters and producers for Top Gun wanted the film to be as authentic as possible, so they enlisted the United States Navy to be involved in the creation of the film. In addition to providing pilots and other consultants for the movie, the Navy was granted significant influence in changing aspects of the film’s plot and other dialogue.
For instance, a fight scene that took place in the movie over international waters was originally slated to happen over Cuba, according to the original script. Some of the coarse language that was spoken by pilots in the film was also removed, and a scene involving a crash happening on an aircraft carrier was completely written out.
Even The Navy Thought “The Danger Zone” Music Video Was Awesome
Kenny Loggins reportedly improvised and made some small changes to “The Danger Zone.” We’re not sure if it improved the original version or not, but there were certainly others who felt the song and music video, as it ended up being, was brilliant.
The video came out in May 1986, the same month of the film’s release, to generate hype for the movie. Among the video’s biggest fans was the United States Navy, who felt that the imagery of planes and other service vehicles zooming around to the fast-paced song made their line of work look thrilling. Of the video, the Navy described it as “the most effective recruiting poster ever produced.”
Kelly McGillis Played Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood
Kelly McGillis took on the role of Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood. Charlie was a hardened civilian i5’nstructor of the Topgun Navy program in the film, and the love interest of Tom Cruise’s character Maverick.
If Charlie was a well-trained instructor, McGillis was equally talented in the realm of acting. The 5’10” actress had earned a Golden Globe nomination the year before for her role in the film Witness, which came out in 1985. She also received an exceptional education from the prestigious Julliard School. Undoubtedly, it played a big part in how she performed in this, and future films.
Meg Ryan Portrayed Goose’s Wife Carole
Meg Ryan has had many prestigious roles over the course of her career. In the 1980s, she starred in films such as When Harry Met Sally and Armed and Dangerous. Her career continued well beyond the 1980s as well, with roles in films including You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle.
Her role in Top Gun wasn’t as big, but her portrayal of Carole Bradshaw, the wife of Goose, was nonetheless nothing short of stellar. Nobody would ever dare say that her role was a minor one, especially given the emotional magnitude that she had to display for the advancement of the storyline.
Anthony Edwards Starred As ‘Goose,’ Maverick’s Best Bud
Every hero needs a sidekick, and for Maverick that came in the form of Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, his co-pilot in the film. The two were inseparable comrades, up until a pivotal and tragic point in the movie happens that was a tearjerking moment.
Goose was played by Anthony Edwards, who had starred in Revenge of the Nerds before landing his Top Gun role. He also had a cameo appearance in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But Top Gun was a different type of role — instead of having a comedic flare, his character was more dramatic. It’s probably why producers of the TV series ER thought that Edwards would be a good fit for the role of Dr. Mark Greene.
Tom Cruise Becomes A Hollywood Legend (And A Scientologist)
Although he had hits before its release, Top Gun cemented Tom Cruise as a Hollywood icon. After starring as the main character Maverick, the old idiom proved true: women desired him, and men wanted to be him. After the film came out, Cruise also met his first wife, Mimi Rogers, who is nine years his senior. She was also the person who introduced Cruise to Scientology.
The two married after the movie but split up three years later. Some speculate that their marriage didn’t end due to any controversial actions by either, but rather was “directed” by Scientology leaders to happen.
“Danger Zone” Was Offered To Other Groups (Before Loggins) To Sing
“Fly into…the Danger Zone!” The popular song from Top Gun, sung by Kenny Loggins, is nearly as iconic as the film itself. But it was almost completely different. Top Gun producer Jerry Bruckheimer knew that imagery of planes landing on aircraft carriers in the ocean would need a great song to be juxtaposed against, so he enlisted songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock to come up with the tune. They ended up writing what would become “The Danger Zone.”
Columbia Records, which was producing the soundtrack for the film, wanted someone with a bit more star power to actually sing the song. The gig wasn’t originally offered to Loggins — other groups, like Toto and REO Speedwagon, were reportedly offered the part first. Eventually, the song was given to Loggins to sing, and we’re thankful it went in that direction. Loggins also had successes with other movie soundtracks in the 1980s, including Caddyshack and Footloose.
Tom Cruise Admitted To Throwing Up
Tom Cruise admitted to vomiting on the set of Top Gun during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel during his late-night talk show. According to Cruise, he was teamed up to fly with a pilot with a very peculiar name. “The guy who flew me in the first flight, his name was Bozo,” the actor said. “The pilot’s name was Bozo! So, I’m strapping in, we’re getting in there, and you just see the helmet go on that says ‘Bozo.’ I’m like, ‘Bozo?'”
Cruise elaborated how daunting the flight was, including how it upset his stomach. “My head was on the ground!” he said “I was pressed on the floor holding my vomit. I’m trying to press the talk button; it was on the foot. I kept going, ‘Bozo! Bozo! Bozo!’ I was choking, and he just kept pulling up and up and up.” Later, Cruise confronted Bozo on the flight, complaining about his difficulties. The pilot’s response? “Well, I told you they don’t call me Bozo for nothing.”
$25,000 For Changing A Ship’s Course!
Some of the scenes in Top Gun are from real-life planes taking off on Navy aircraft carriers. Cinematographer Tony Scott brought his crew aboard the USS Enterprise (not that one!) in order to get these shots taken. But it didn’t come without some big costs…
Reportedly, Scott wanted some scenes filmed with the aircraft taking off and the sun in the background, so the ship changed its course in order to do so. After those shots were taken, Scott wanted the ship turned back around so that he could get more shots the other way — but was quickly informed that it would cost a whopping $25,000 just to change course again. Scott wrote a check right then-and-there, and the ship was turned around again. It only took him five minutes after the second course change to get the shots he needed.
Top Gun’s Inaccuracies Are Numerous
The United States Navy participated and consulted for the film in order to make it as authentic as possible. As we stated earlier, they even made some major script changes to the plot. But that doesn’t mean the film isn’t without its own set of problems.
Top Gun is notorious for having many inaccuracies within it, so much so that the website The Mighty has listed at least 79 problems in the script that don’t match reality. For example: the “Top Gun” program is actually one word, Topgun — and they definitely don’t give out a “Top Gun” award to the best pilot. Speaking of pilots, any that showed up to the program with a cowboy hat on would likely lose their position in the Topgun program on the spot. And Maverick cannot “hit the brakes” on his plane by pushing forward on the throttle, as seen in the film — that would actually increase power to the plane, resulting in the opposite of what he would want!
Film Is Dedicated To Art Scholl, Stunt Pilot
The movie Top Gun features a scene where a beloved character dies after his plane is hit by fire. The character is forced to eject from his plane, which results in his perishing. Unfortunately, the filming of the movie resulted in a real-life death of a pilot.
Art Scholl, a stunt pilot famous for films such as Blue Thunder and The Right Stuff, was in his plane when it suddenly went into a tailspin over the Pacific Ocean and crashed. Scholl, 53-years-old at the time, died as a result of the crash, which occurred near San Diego, California. The film Top Gun is dedicated to his memory.
The Cast Was Encouraged To Party-It-Up In San Diego
If the characters in Top Gun seem especially bonded to one another, there’s a big reason for that: the cast were actually encouraged to spend a lot of time together during principal photography in San Diego, going out to drink and party during the evenings, in order to achieve that “loving feeling” with one another on-screen. It clearly paid off.
Val Kilmer recalled the days making the film, calling it “one giant weekend” of partying on the movie’s DVD commentary. It’s not hard to imagine, as San Diego is home to hundreds of bars, restaurants, and clubs in which the cast could have hung out and enjoyed the spoils of their Hollywood successes. There’s also miles of beaches and shoreline to explore as well in San Diego, and it’s likely the cast enjoyed those spots as well.
Alleged Problems — And Firings — Of Director Tony Scott
There were many problems with director Tony Scott during the production of the film. He was reportedly fired from Top Gun three times during its filming, including once or allegedly making actress Kelly McGillis “look beautiful in a way that the studio considered whorish.” We’re happy that he was able to fulfill his vision of the film to its end.
Tony and his brother Ridley Scott have made many films over the course of their careers, before and since Top Gun. Sadly for Tony, that streak ended after he died by suicide in 2012, after he jumped from The Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles, California.
About That Love Scene…
The famous love scene between Tom Cruise’s and Kelly McGillis’s characters in the film almost didn’t happen. It was produced after the initial filming of Top Gun was completed, and only because fans demanded it. Test audiences of the original cut had a hard time believing that Maverick and Charlie were as close as the filmmakers had implied they were, so the decision was made to film a scene between the two characters and add it before the release.
Unfortunately, McGillis’s hair had already been dyed a darker color in preparation for another role she was set to take on. The decision was made to film the scene in the dark and to tint it blue so that her hair would be less noticeable. Fans with discerning eyes will note it’s not the only issue with the scene: Cruise’s hair is also longer than it is at any other point in the movie, again due to it taking place long after principal filming had ended.
The Shirtless Scenes Were Added Later, Too
As if adding a love scene to the film after it was completed wasn’t enough, the shirtless locker room and volleyball scenes involving the men of the “Topgun” program were also added in after principal photography was ended. It’s hard to imagine these scenes not being part of the original final cut, but that was apparently the case!
It’s not likely that these changes were made due to the Navy’s insistence, as some of the other scenes from the original script had been altered due to that military branch’s qualms. Rather, it’s far more likely that producers of the film felt this might draw in more female audiences to come see the movie.
Val Kilmer Changed Things, Too
Val Kilmer didn’t want to be Iceman, Maverick’s primary antagonist, in Top Gun — Ridley Scott reportedly had to talk him into the role. We’re glad the director was persistent, because Kilmer plays the perfect fodder to Tom Cruise’s character in the film, advancing the storyline in the best of ways.
There was a line — albeit, a short one — that Kilmer added to the film that wasn’t in the movie originally. As Maverick is bragging about how he flew a plane in an inverted manner, Iceman can be heard coughing his disagreements, in the manner of saying bull “poop” under his breath (with the quoted segment obviously being a different term for the word).
Meg and Anthony, On And Off The Screen
Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards played Carole and Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, respectively, and although they were a married couple in the fictional universe of Top Gun, they had a real romance off-screen too. Meg and Anthony had secretly started dating during filming, even moving in together. Rumors abounded that Edwards had even proposed to Ryan, but that she turned him down. The relationship ended in 1987.
Their chemistry together may have helped to craft their stories on-screen, as it’s apparent that Carole is very much in love with her husband Goose. His death scene, and her subsequent grieving, is very believable, and helps even to showcase Tom Cruise’s character Maverick’s emotions in dealing simultaneously with his own sense of loss, as well as realizing that Carole has lost her true love.
The Sequel Will Arrive In 2020
In 2020 we’ll see the return of Tom Cruise to the big screen with Top Gun: Maverick. The sequel takes place 34 years after the original movie. It will focus on Maverick who is a now-legendary commander pitting himself against a new flyboy in the academy.
Both Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer will be returning for the sequel by Kelly McGillis was said she was asked not to return. Why? She claims it’s because she’s “too old” for Hollywood producers. Female actresses have heard that one before.
Achieving The Top Gun “Look”
There’s definitely a certain “look” to Top Gun — a feel that elicits certain emotions, from an admiration of the body as well as a determination of the human spirit. Producing a look like that was a deliberate choice, one inspired by a famed photographer.
Bruce Weber is known for producing images that inspired much of the cinematography found in the film. Weber took many photos of male subjects. His first book of photos featured men in little (if any) military-style outfits, with several black and white pictures that allowed him to highlight some of the more nuanced details of the male form.
“Maverick” Was Written With Cruise In Mind
It’s hard to imagine any other person except Tom Cruise playing the role of Maverick in Top Gun. There’s a reason for that: the scriptwriters used Cruise’s performance from the film All the Right Moves as inspiration for developing the character of Maverick. Had anyone else played that role, it’s possible it wouldn’t have been a great fit.
Cruise did have some initial reluctance in taking on the role, but quickly decided it was right for him upon flying in the Blue Angels. Still, the producers were worried he might not take on the part, so they made some other considerations, including Nicholas Cage, Patrick Swayze, and John Travolta. Cruise decided to stay on, and has since taken on several other action roles, including Minority Report and the Mission: Impossible series of films. Famously, Cruise does all of his own stunts.
The Story Behind Goose’s Death
Everyone who has seen the film knows that Goose’s death was the turning point of the film. It’s from this moment that everything changes for Maverick — and from his grief that he realizes he must move on, and become a better person than he was before.
Goose’s death had originally been written to be the result of a mid-air collision, but the Navy didn’t like how that was depicted in the original script. Instead, a different scenario, in which Goose is ejected from his cockpit, things go wrong, and he hits the cockpit opening as he exits the plane, was written in. This moment was based on a true-life story, but in that instance the person involved didn’t die as a result. In Top Gun, however, Goose dies before he even hits the water.
What Happened To The Real TOPGUN School?
As we’ve already mentioned before, the movie Top Gun was based on an actual Navy Flight school based in San Diego, California. Established in the 1960s, the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, or TOPGUN, took place at the Miramar Naval Air Station — but fans of the movie won’t be able to find it there anymore.
That’s because in 1996 realignments in budgeting and other closures saw the TOPGUN course moved to Fallon, Nevada. It even got a name change: the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor. There, students are dissuaded from quoting lines from the movie — any pilot who does so can be fined $5!
Tom Cruise After Top Gun
Tom Cruise has continued to have success-after-success in films since his role in Top Gun. His personal life, however, has not been as successful. Cruise has been married three times in his life. First, he married Mimi Rogers; in the 1990s, he married Nicole Kidman; and in the 2000s, it was Katie Holmes. All three ended in divorce, and it’s rumored that Scientology played a role in all three of his biggest breakups.
While his personal life has staggered a bit, his professional life has been doing great. Cruise has done well in dramatic roles, like Jerry Maguire, and continues to produce great action movies, like the Mission: Impossible franchise he’s starred in. There’s no indication he’s set to slow down anytime soon, either.
Anthony Edwards These Days
Anthony Edwards has gone on to have a very successful career of his own on the “small screen.” With eight seasons of ER under his belt, Edwards has had an acclaimed career, receiving four Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe, a People’s Choice award, and six Screen Actors Guild awards. His love for the skies never left him, and in 2012 he got a certified private pilot license.
Edwards also found love, marrying Jeanine Lobell in 1994. Lobell founded the Stila cosmetics line in that same year, which she sold to Estee Lauder in 1999. The two have one son and three daughters together. Sadly, the couple split in 2015.
Kelly McGillis Reveals Her Traumatic Experiences
Kelly McGillis has had ups and downs in her personal life since Top Gun. She married twice and divorced twice. She revealed in 2009 that she was gay, and filed a civil union with partner Malanie Leis at that point, but that ended in an annulment as well.
McGillis has revealed some traumatic experiences in her life that she previously kept silent about. In 1982, for instance, she was attacked and raped in her apartment, as was her live-in girlfriend at the time. She said that the experience led to a lifelong battle with alcohol abuse, which she eventually sought treatment for. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the only instance of danger in her life — in 2016, she also had to fight off a mentally unstable woman who broke into her home.
Meg Ryan (Today)
Meg Ryan was already an accomplished actress before Top Gun, and went on to have a lot of success beyond her minor role in the film. She’s starred in movies like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail to name a couple of them.
In 1991 she and actor Dennis Quaid got married and had a son together, but the marriage did not last. Ryan later said that Quaid had difficulties remaining loyal to her. That didn’t stop Ryan from expanding her family. In 2006, she adopted a daughter and found love with rocker John Mellencamp, although their relationship too had its ups and downs.
Top Gun: The Roller Coaster
Many movies end up becoming amusement rides (Batman and Superman come to mind), and Top Gun was no different. King’s Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio, was owned by Paramount, the movie company that produced Top Gun. In 1993, they created a Top Gun-themed roller coaster, a suspended ride that was meant to look like an F-14 Tomcat.
Fans of the movie cannot travel there any longer to see the ride, however. In 2008, under new management, the ride’s name was changed to Flight Deck. Six years later, its look and theme was entirely redone, and given a new name: The Bat.
Tom Cruise, International Traveler
During an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2014, Tom Cruise revealed that the first film that he ever traveled internationally for in order to promote it worldwide was Top Gun. Cruise actually took the credit for the idea, telling Kimmel that he was the originator of that plan. Kimmel quipped that other actors probably have a beef with what he’d established for them — “All these other actors must want to kill you.”
His travels for the movie took him four months to complete, and saw him travel to several different countries like Italy, Japan, and France. He said he would spend a couple of weeks at each of the cities he was sent to promote the film at.
Maverick Is Taller Than Charlie…But Cruise Is Shorter Than McGillis?
Tom Cruise is the epitome of the tough guy in Top Gun, with a chiseled jaw, handsome good looks, and other strong features (one needs only to recall the volleyball scene to get what I’m saying). Still, there’s one feature in which Cruise had to have some help with: his height.
Kelly McGillis is tall, standing at 5’10”. Tom Cruise is only 5’7″. Watching the movie, however, you wouldn’t realize that Cruise is actually shorter than his co-star. That’s because, for much of the film, Cruise is wearing lifts. That way, he can appear to be the real Top Gun…at least, when it comes to his height.
Top Gun Sequel
In the 1980s, if a film was successful it generally was followed up with a sequel. Top Gun was a resounding blockbuster hit, but it never had a follow-up film. The question lingered for decades: would we ever get resolution on what happened to Maverick?
In 2019 it was announced that yes, a Top Gun sequel was being produced. Tom Cruise returns to reprise his role as Mav, as does Val Kilmer as Iceman. The cast will also include Jon Hamm and Jennifer Connelly. The sequel, which will come out in June 2020, will be directed by Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski.
A Second Movie Was Planned (Before The New Sequel Was Produced)
Even though a second movie is planned to be released in 2020, there were initially plans to produce a second Top Gun film back in the 1980s. A script was written out, which would have featured Cruise’s Maverick in a teaching role, producing more fighter jet pilots (including a female pilot) for the U.S. Navy’ Topgun program.
That plan never came to fruition, however, as Tom Cruise became too popular. It’s odd to think about, but Cruise’s newfound celebrity status would have meant a more expensive film than the previous one. The idea was tossed aside.
You Can Visit The Bar From The Movie
One of the more iconic scenes in Top Gun (that didn’t involve planes or volleyball) was when Maverick was trying to get the attention of Charlie. To do so, he and Goose played “That Lovin’ Feeling” on the jukebox, which culminated in the entire bar of Navy pilots serenading the lovely Kelly McGillis.
The base where the real-life TOPGUN program used to be has long-since been moved since the film’s initial theatrical run, but the bar where they sang that song still remains. Located in San Diego, the bar is called Kansas City BBQ. They even sell T-shirts to fans wanting some memories from their experience at the bar where Maverick sang his heart out.
Ray-Ban Sunglasses Were Saved By The Film
In 1937, a special kind of sunglasses specially designed for airplane pilots because they “banned” sunrays, were improved upon and patented for sale. Ray-Ban sunglasses were an instant hit, and became popular not just for aviators but among the general public as well.
By the 1970s and 1980s, however, sales of Ray-Ban sunglasses were at a low point. But things picked up — thanks in large part to the success of Top Gun. After Tom Cruise famously wore the glasses in the film, sales in the company went up by 40 percent. Who knows how high they’ll go when the sequel comes out!
Fighter Jets Cost A Lot Of Money
Producing a movie is a lot of work — and it takes a lot of ‘moolah’ to create a summer blockbuster, too. For Top Gun, it cost $15 million to produce, which in today’s dollars would be more than $32 million.
Most of those costs were from your typical movie expenses that come about when you have a movie featuring Hollywood stars and other special effects. But some costs went to Uncle Sam: every hour spent with an F-14 fighter jet, for example, cost Paramount $10,000. The costs seemed to be worth it, however, since the film earned more than 20 times what it cost to make.
Ally Sheedy’s Big Regret
“Who wants to see Tom Cruise flying around in an airplane?” That’s what actress Ally Sheedy asked herself in the 1980s, when she was first offered the role of Charlie in the film. It may sound absurd now, but the thought wasn’t that far off the mark: Cruise hadn’t been in a lot of action flicks before Top Gun, and was more known for dramatic roles like in Cocktail and Risky Business.
Sheedy admitted she made a grave error in turning down the role, and regrets it to this day. In fact, after Top Gun’s successes, Sheedy said she would never judge a role again based on her own opinion of the actors or storylines accompanying it.
Producers Wanted More Action On The Ground
It’s a standard complaint among directors and screenwriters that film producers and production companies sometimes throw their opinions around too much. For a film about jets flying across the big screen, it appears that Paramount had a few notes. Namely: there were too many scenes of jets flying across the big screen.
That may seem counterintuitive, but Paramount producers wanted to see more action on the ground. It turned out, test audiences (as noted above) wanted to see a bit more of that, too. Hey, sometimes the production company can be right. After all, it got us the love scene between Cruise and McGillis, as well as the iconic volleyball scene featuring the male Top Gun cast!
The Critics Didn’t Agree With Audiences
Top Gun earned hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket sale revenues, and has been a favorite of movie-goers who remember it and other films from the 1980s. Still, for those whose jobs it is to criticize films, the film wasn’t very noteworthy. Roger Ebert, for example, only gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, and did not write a particularly glowing review. “Movies like Top Gun are hard to review because the good parts are so good and the bad parts are so relentless,” Ebert said, adding that you should “look out for the scenes where the people talk to one another.” Ouch.
The Movie Wasn’t Made For A Navy Audience, The Director Said
During a break in filming on the set of Top Gun, a group of Navy officers came up to director Tony Scott to voice some constructive criticism of what they saw. Namely, they didn’t understand why Cruise, Edwards, and others had so many patches on their uniforms — real-life pilots didn’t have so many patches, they said.
Perhaps because it was too late to change things, or perhaps because he was having a bad day, Scott’s answer to the pilots wasn’t necessarily one that resolved the issue. “We’re not making this movie for Navy fighter pilots, we’re making it for Kansas wheat farmers who don’t know the difference,” he reportedly said.