The need for speed is back. After twenty four years and a lot of rumors, Top Gun 2 is apparently one step closer to a reality. The latest news is that the head honchos at Paramount have made an offer to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott and star Tom Cruise to make a sequel to what is arguably the film that made their careers and defined a generation. An offer has also been made to The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie to pen the film which would have Cruises character Maverick in a smaller role.
Now lets rewind back twenty four years. Don Simpson and his producing partner Bruckheimer hot off their success with Fame were looking for a new project and Bruckheimer read an article in 1983 in California Magazine called “Top Guns”. His immediate thoughts were that this could be Star Wars on earth and set about purchasing the article. Simpson and Bruckheimer then hired newbie director Tony Scott to helm the film because he had actually worked with and filmed a jet for a commercial for the Saab car company. The three were all agreed on the one most crucial detail of them all: This film could not be done without the full co-operation of the U.S. Navy.
At the time relations between the Hollywood community and the U.S. Navy were not good. The Navy were very hesitant at getting involved in Top Gun as their last film collaboration on An Officer and A Gentlemen did not go very well to say the least. It was Bruckheimer and Simpson who personally met with Naval officers and officials that persuaded them to make it happen and they did. They set real life Top Gun Flight Instructor Pete Pettigrew to work with Jim Cash and Jack Epps on the screenplay and act as technical adviser on the production. That’s where the film started to become the hit it was.
Pettigrew made significant changes to the screenplay. The opening was changed to a Night “trap” which is known to be a pilot’s worst nightmare, but I doubt any pilot would admit that. Maverick’s love interest was changed from a fellow pilot to a civilian because relations between male and female officers are not allowed. The Top Gun trophy was invented for the film. The film took on its more real aspects under this trio’s writing. The decision to cast Cruise, a relative unknown at the time, was viewed by many skeptics as a risk, but the Producer and Director fought for it and won.
In fact most of the casting done at the time included a lot of up and comers. Val Kilmer and Tim Robbins are two that have made their careers a success, but there was the casting of a pivotal but small role in the film that stood out more than the others. That was the young Meg Ryan as Goose’s wife. In her limited screen time she showed why she deserved to make it to the big time.
Top Gun was released in theaters on May 16th , 1986 and took in a worldwide box office of $353,816,701. It was generally viewed among moviegoers as a film where you couldn’t help but like it. The quote “I feel the need….The need for speed” quickly became a hit. It was backed a hit soundtrack as well which included an academy award for best song with Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” and provided another hit for Kenny Loggins of Footloose fame with “Danger Zone”, but the most impressive thing that it did was still to come.
When Top Gun was released in theaters the Navy and Air Force reported they had received a significant boost in its recruitment numbers so much so that the Navy set up recruitment booths in some theaters to capitalize on it’s success. Something that had never happened before. I think Top Gun was one of best films that came out of the 80’s. It was pure Americana. It made stars of its lead actors and redefined the action/war films.
If a sequel is to happen I would love to see Cruise’s character in a more mentor role to whoever they cast as the new lead. Top Gun 2 if handled right could be another great hit for cinema, but to me one thing they have to keep is the authenticity. No CGI. A film like this has to feel real and they should do everything in their power to keep it that way. Maybe Top Gun 2 could help the Navy and Air Force’s recruitment again especially in this date and time when they are needed. Only one thing is certain if this happens, the Summer of 2012 or 2013 will be one hell of a ride.