The Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School is where the best of the best train to refine their elite flying skills. When hotshot fighter pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) is sent to the school, his reckless attitude and cocky demeanor put him at odds with the other pilots, especially the cool and collected Iceman (Val Kilmer). Welcome to the Naval Fighter Weapons School, this is where the best of the absolute best train to become elite U.S. fighter pilots… and click their teeth very strangely.
Directed by Tony Scott, 1986’s Top Gun has become a modern classic. Did you know it was originally inspired by an article titled “Top Guns” published in California magazine three years prior? I’ve heard about books becoming movies but magazine articles?!? That might be a first. Without further ado, it’s time to take off.
Tom Cruise – LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
Maverick is a U.S. Naval Aviator on the come up. He is an incredible pilot with natural talent but he plays by his own rules, a real hotshot which is a little risky. Speaking of Risky, many of us were introduced to Tom as he serenaded his living room in tighty whiteys. Still in ‘83, Tom’s first big break was the movie Outsiders where he starred alongside Brat Pack legends, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez.
Where do you start with Tom Cruise? Did you know he’s never done any TV acting? Did you know despite being in about 100 classics, he’s never won an Oscar? Sorry, Tom, you’ll just have to settle for being one of the most successful movie stars of all time. He can champion a Franchise, or a dozen – highlighted by his Mission Impossible films – There are now six of them but I think the first is the best. Followed by the 3rd with Phillip Seymour Hoffman. But despite his movie success Cruise has become a topic of controversy.
In 2004, he made some interesting comments on psychiatry. He said it should be outlawed, which is an odd take. He’s also opened fire at actors for taking and promoting psychiatric drugs like anti-depressants. Brooke Shields was one of those targets and she responded by saying quote, “Cruise should stick to saving the world from aliens and let women who are experiencing postpartum depression decide what treatment options are best for them.”
He’s also the poster-boy for the Church of Scientology. Some of that comes with his star power. He claims that Scientology helped him overcome dyslexia. Who could forget him jumping like a schoolboy on Oprah’s couch? I mean take off your shoes, rookie. In 1990, he married Nicole Kidman, with whom he starred in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. But more recently he was married to Katie Holmes – who gets some of the blame for Oprah’s dirty couch – however, they got divorced too and these days he is rumored to be dating his Mission Impossible co-star Haley Atwell. Tom is now in his late 50s and I do look forward to seeing him portray the cocky yet seasoned Maverick in the upcoming sequel to Top Gun.
Kelly McGillis – Charlotte “Charlie” Backwood
Charlotte “Charlie” Backwood is a civilian contractor at the academy and the romantic interest of Maverick – but she did make sure to let Maverick know she quote “doesn’t date students.” Spoiler alert, that’s a lie. Her breakout role was in 1985 as an Amish mother in Witness with Harrison Ford. The following year she booked this film and really became a household name. She also co-starred with Jodie Foster in 1988’s The Accused. After working solidly until 2001, she took a break from acting for a number of years. In 2009, McGillis came out as a Lesbian. McGillis and also has worked full-time with drug addicts and alcoholics at Rehab Centers.
In 2016, she was left scratched and bruised after being assaulted by a woman who broke into her North Carolina home. The attack inspired her to apply for a concealed carry gun permit. This must have been a triggering experience for Kelly, who in 1982, was raped by two men in her New York apartment. Today she’s 63 years old and we last saw her in 2018 in the TV movie, Maternal Secrets.
Val Kilmer – LT Tom “Iceman” Kazansky
Maverick knew from the start that Iceman was going to be difficult to fly with… they both competed for the sacred plague-spot of Best Pilot. Reportedly, Val was forced to become Iceman due to contractual obligations. Luckily for us and him, because it became one of his most iconic roles. The tension between Maverick and Iceman isn’t just good acting, Cruise and Kilmer apparently kept their distance from each other while filming, and never socialized.
Growing up in LA, he went to high school with Kevin Spacey, then was the youngest person ever to be accepted into the Juilliard’s Drama Division. A program which Kelly McGillis also attended. Kilmer actually turned down a role in 1983’s Outsider due to a Broadway run of Slab Boys alongside Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn. His big break was in 1984 being top-billed in the spoof, Top Secret. But most, including myself, better remember his part in Real Genius the following year.
He is well known for his acting skills but has a reputation for being difficult to work with. In 1991, Kilmer portrayed the legendary Doors frontman, Jim Morrison, in the Oliver Stone epic and later was my second favorite Batman, looking at you Keaton – in the 1995 Batman Forever. An underrated movie in my humble opinion.
After consistently denying health issues since 2015, Kilmer revealed that he had been battling throat cancer. He underwent a tracheotomy in 2015 and has stated that his voice has been reduced to a rasp. All that being said, today he’s 61 years old with many films in production including reprising his Iceman and starring as Mark Twain again in a self-written and directed project. We can’t wait.
Anthony Edwards – Goose
Goose was Maverick’s radar intercept officer, He’s a bit more level-headed, making them the perfect complement to one another. Especially on the beach as sexy volleyball partners, what a scene! Anthony Edwards got his big break in 1982’s TV series It Takes Two, co-starring Patty Duke & Hellen Hunt. In 1984 he showed off his nerdy side a personal favorite of mine, Revenge of the Nerds!
Following Top Gun, he starred in Pet Sematary II before getting a career-changing role in one of TV’s most popular shows, ER. His character, Mark Greene was part of 180 episodes over 8 seasons with 4 Emmy nominations. In 2007, Edwards appeared as inspector Bill Armstrong in David Fincher’s Zodiac.
Today he is in his late 50s and we last saw him back on TV in 2019’s 3rd season of Designated Survivor. In his personal life, Edwards is actually a real-life licensed private pilot. Sounds like Goose was his perfect role.
Tom Skerritt – Commander Mike “Viper” Metcalf
Commander Mike Metcalf – aka Viper, is the boys’ instructor at TOPGUN who is a skilled pilot and compassionate teacher. He was an old friend of Maverick’s father and a Vietnam War vet. Tom Skerritt served a four-year tour of duty in the United States Air Force as a classifications specialist and began acting in 1962’s Korean War film, War Hunt. Most of Tom’s early acting was war-based, and his big break was in 1970’s MASH as Duke Forrest.
After Top Gun, Tom had some more film success, like 1989’s Steel Magnolias followed by 1992’s fly fishing epic alongside Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. He also has extensive TV success, he had a 6 episode arc in Cheers as Evan Drake, bet you didn’t know his name – and in the ‘90s as Sheriff Brock in the hit show Picket Fences.
Today he’s 87 years old and still fairly active. His next film in production is called East of the Mountains. Skerritt is also the founder of Heyou Media, a Seattle-based digital media company. We got to speak with Tom a little while back about HeyYou media and I gotta tell you, he’s such a kind and incredible man.
One of the most stylish and coolest Hollywood films ever. The sounds and sights are exhilarating, certainly delivering from producer Jerry Bruckheimer. It really took my breath away. Which is exactly what the soundtrack did, also winning an Academy Award for best original song for Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.” It’s no wonder there’s a sequel on the way starring Whiplash’s Miles Teller, and returning the classic pairing of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer.
It is so universally loved, that in 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” So tell us, are you a fan of this high flying action flick? What’s your favorite part of Top Gun? Are you excited for the sequel?