THE LONG ROAD TO

TOP GUN: MAVERICK

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For 36 years, Top Gun fans have waited for Maverick to make another appearance. Now the wait is finally over. The world is ready for Tom Cruise to once again take our breath away in this long awaited sequel, Top Gun: Maverick.

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The Origin Story

Before we dive into where Maverick is today, let’s go back to 1986 and re-discover why and how this silver screen fighter pilot became the cultural phenomenon that lives on today.

Inspired by a California Magazine article titled “Top Guns”, the screenplay was written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott), was hired to direct, and the film was produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, in association with Paramount Pictures. Scott had previously been hired to direct the 1983 vampire film The Hunger, starring David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. 

Despite its elaborate photography and sumptuous production design, however, The Hunger failed to find an audience, left critics unimpressed, and performed poorly at the box office. Though The Hunger would later become a cult favorite, it was Top Gun that would come to define Tony Scott’s career.

The original Top Gun stars Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis with Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Meg Ryan, & Tom Skerritt in supporting roles. Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a young naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. Top Gun was released on May 16, 1986. Upon its release, critics praised the action sequences, the effects, the aerial stunts, and Cruise and McGillis’s performances, though reviews were mixed overall. Despite the initially lukewarm response from critics, the film was a huge hit with fans and a massive commercial success. By the fourth week after its release, the number of theaters showing it increased by a whopping 45 percent. When all was said and done, Top Gun’s initial theatrical release grossed US $356 million on a budget of $15 million.

Beyond the box office, Top Gun went on to break records in the then still-developing home video market. It was the first new-release blockbuster on video cassette to be priced as low as $26.95 and, backed by a massive $8

million marketing campaign, including a Top Gun-themed Diet Pepsi commercial, the advance demand was such that the film became the best-selling videocassette in the industry’s history on pre-orders alone, with over 1.9 million units ordered before its VHS release on March 10, 1987. It eventually sold a record of 2.9 million units.

Top Gun’s popularity persisted through the years and earned an IMAX 3D re-release in 2013.

Take my Soundtrack away!

Top Gun’s soundtrack has since become one of the most popular movie soundtracks to date, with the album reaching 9× Platinum certification. The standout hit was “Take My Breath Away”, performed by Berlin, which won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.

Music featured prominently in several other iconic moments from the movie, for example, the scene in the sports bar where Maverick and Goose play “Great Balls of Fire” at the piano, and Carol (Meg Ryan) says her famous line, “Goose, you big stud! Take me to bed now or lose me forever!” There’s also the scene where Maverick serenades Kelly McGillis with the Righteous Brothers’ hit song, “You’ve lost that loving feeling.” Kenny Loggins also contributed two songs on the soundtrack, “Playing with the Boys”, and “Danger Zone”.

Culturally Inspired

Top Gun’s massive popularity made ripples beyond the silver screen as well. Style trends triggered by the movie sent sales of bomber jackets & Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses up 40% as men scrambled to look as cool as Maverick. There was also an array of spoofs and other references to the film, such as 1991’s Hot Shots!, starring Charlie Sheen. The 2004 comedy Team America: World Police, by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, also made many references to Top Gun.

I feel the need, the need for a sequel

Top Gun Maverick

In 2010, reports began to surface of a Top Gun sequel in the works, and it was quickly confirmed that Paramount was indeed developing a sequel with Scott and Bruckheimer. However, Scott’s tragic suicide in 2012 threw a spanner in the works, causing the project to stall out.

In 2013, Bruckheimer said, “For 30 years we’ve been trying to make a sequel and we’re not going to stop. We still want to do it with Tom and Paramount are still interested in making it. What Tom tells me is that no matter where he goes in the world, people refer to him as Maverick. It’s something he is excited about so as long as he keeps his enthusiasm hopefully we’ll get it made.”

In June of 2014, Justin Marks confirmed that he was in negotiations to write the screenplay and later said that the film was a dream project for him, calling the original an “iconic film in my memory”, due in part to it being one of the first films he remembers seeing in a movie theater.

Tom Cruise, while on promotional tour for The Mummy, confirmed he would star and start filming in 2018. Cruise further stated, “Aviators are back, the need for speed. We’re going to have big, fast machines. It’s going to be a competition film, like the first one…but a progression for Maverick.” Top Gun Composer Harold Faltermeyer was brought back to preserve the energy and magic from the first film. It was soon announced that Joseph Kosinski, who directed Cruise in 2013’s Oblivion, was set to direct the sequel. A trailer was released at San Diego Comic-Con on July 18, 2019.

Like most movies, Top Gun: Maverick’s release date was pushed back several times due to the global Covid-19 crisis. But now, after 36 long years, fans can finally rejoice on May 27th, when Maverick drops in theaters. Maverick could have been our wingman anytime, but now he actually is.

June 2022

Motion Picture Magazine