Top Gun is 35 years old this year and the film about Naval aviators is just as popular today as it was back then. One need only point out that after 35 years Top Gun is finally getting a sequel in Top Gun: Maverick. The first movie made Tom Cruise the global superstar that he is today, but it turns out that initially the actor had to be convinced to be in the movie. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer says that Cruise was hesitant to commit to the project, at least until he got his first taste of flying.
Jerry Bruckheimer recently told Variety that Cruise did not jump at the chance to star in Top Gun. However, Bruckheimer also says Cruise was the only actor they actually spoke to for the role. They really wanted Cruise to play the part, and so they arranged for him to get some time in the air in a jet to give him a taste of the experience. As it turns out, the flight could have gone horribly wrong, as the pilots took issue with Cruise. But perhaps unsurprisingly, Tom Cruise loved the thrill and signed up after the flight was over. According to Bruckheimer...
It wasn’t easy. We wanted Tom after we saw Risky Business and he kind of hemmed and hawed. So we arranged for him to fly with the Blue Angels at the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California. He drove up there on his motorcycle and he had just finished a movie with Ridley Scott, Legend, and his hair was long and in a ponytail. And they took one look at him and thought, we’re going to give this hippie a ride. They took him up on an F-14 and flipped him and did all kinds of stunts to turn him around and make sure he never got back in a cockpit. But it was just the opposite. He landed and he walked over to a phone booth and called me up and said, ‘Jerry. I’m making the movie. I love it.’ He became an amazing aviator himself. He can fly just about any plane they can make.
One can just imagine the Navy pilots taking issue with Tom Cruise's long hair, and deciding to have a little fun with him. Of course as we know now, Tom Cruise is something of a thrill seeker, and so the flips and rolls that were meant to make Cruise lose his lunch only got him more excited. It's possible this specific experience was the beginning of the Tom Cruise we know today, an actor who does virtually all his own stunts.
Luckily for everybody involved, Tom Cruise did agree to do Top Gun and the rest is history. The movie was a massive hit. It's certainly possible the movie would have been just as big with another star in the cockpit, but we'll never know. Tom Cruise went from the drama of Risky Business and the fantasy of Legend to action movies, and while he's certainly done a variety of movies in his career, he'll forever be seen as an action star, something that started with Top Gun.
And now, after 35 years, we're getting a sequel in Top Gun: Maverick. It's been a long time but one can imagine Tom Cruise still had a great time in the air.