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30 things you (probably) didn't know about Top Gun

As the classic film turns 30, here are 30 facts on the cast, budget and script

30 things you (probably) didn't know about Top Gun
Danielle de Wolfe
31 August 2016

30. Three-zero. Top Gun turns thirty years old on 4 September. We'll give you a second to process that.

One of the definitive movies of the '80s, Tony Scott's combat epic encompasses belting rock ballads, softly lit sex scenes, an enormous amount of sunsets and really bad outfits. We adore it - and are thrilled to hear that ODEON is of a similar mind. To celebrate Top Gun's big birthday, the cinema chain is offering two-for-one tickets at 88 of its sites across the UK. Head here for more details.

But how much do you know about Top Gun? We bet you a ride in our jet engine that you don't know all of these facts about your favourite eighties obsession.

Caveat: We don't actually have a jet engine.


The elevator love scene between Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise was only added after test audiences demanded more obvious romance, the filthy perverts.


Toto and REO Speedwagon were offered the chance to record Danger Zone before the honour went to Kenny Loggins.


Among those who were considered for the role of Maverick were Sean Penn, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Matthew Broderick, Michael J. Fox and Tom Hanks.


Bryan Adams was asked to allow the use of his song Only The Strong Survive on the film’s soundtrack but he refused as he felt the film glorified war.


The film is dedicated to Art Scholl, a stunt pilot who was killed during production when his plane went into a tailspin and crashed into the Pacific Ocean.


Director Tony Scott was fired three times during production, once for making Kelly McGillis look beautiful in a way that the studio considered “whorish”.


The film is based on an article that appeared in California magazine in 1983. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer read the piece and pitched it to his producing partner, Don Simpson, as “Star Wars on Earth”.


Anthony Edwards, who plays goose, was reportedly the only one of the actors not to vomit when flying in the fighter jets.


Every hour of F-14 flight cost Paramount $10,000.


Top Gun was the highest grossing film of 1986 with $177 million in the US. The second and third spots were taken by Crocodile Dundee and Platoon.


A script for a sequel was written, which would follow Maverick as an instructor at the Top Gun academy with a female pilot reminiscent of his younger self coming under his charge. It was abandoned due to being too expensive.


Goose’s actual name is Nick Bradshaw. It’s never mentioned in the film.


One of the notes the producers received from the studio, Paramount, was “Too much flying”.


At 5'10", Kelly McGillis was three inches taller than Tom Cruise.


John Carpenter and David Cronenberg were both in the running to direct before Tony Scott was signed.


There is no Top Gun trophy in real life. The United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program (catchy, eh?) doesn't hold a competition - you either pass, or you fail. 


Much has been made of Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise apparently not getting along on set. Kilmer has since said that this wasn't personal, but was done to ensure their onscreen rivalry would flourish. "It was fun to not like him," he told Larry King in 2013.


Matthew Modine turned down the lead role as he objected to the film's Cold War politics


Tony Scott and his crew spent some days onboard USS Enterprise to shoot aircraft as they landed and took off from the aircraft carrier while on an operational cruise. Scott wanted to shoot various aircraft backlit by the sun, but the ship had to change course. Scott apparently asked the captain to turn the ship back around, but was told it would cost $25,000 to alter their route. Scott apparently wrote the cheque there and then, allowing for the required shots to be captured for five more minutes. 

(Image: Wikipedia)


Initial reviews for Top Gun were mixed. Esteemed reviewer Robert Ebert gave the film 2.5 out of four stars, stating "Movies like Top Gun are hard to review because the good parts are so good and the bad parts are so relentless...  look out for the scenes where the people talk to one another."


Top Gun actually won an Academy Award, with Take My Breath Away picking up Best Music, Original Song. 

Danger Zone was robbed. 


Tom Cruise claims he came up with the notion of 'International Premieres' to coincide with press tours for promoting Top Gun.

He told Jimmy Kimmel in 2014 that it was his idea, stating "I like premieres. When I saw the old photos of the Grauman's Chinese [Theatre] and those wonderful premieres. I came up with the idea of, ‘Let's have premieres in different countries, and then kind of do it that way.’"


The film is littered with military inaccuracies and mistakes - 79 of which can be found listed in detail by military fan site We Are The Mighty. 


The Top Gun soundtrack is one of the most successful ever made, going nine times platinum. It was number one on the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart for five nonconsecutive weeks in the summer and fall of 1986.


While Paramount had to hand over a lot of cash to film various military vehicles and locations, the US Government was apparently keen to help subsidise the costs. The Washington Post reported in 2011 that, "The Pentagon worked hand-in-hand with the filmmakers [of Top Gun] reportedly charging Paramount Pictures just $1.8 million for the use of its warplanes and aircraft carriers. But that taxpayer-subsidized discount came at a price—the filmmakers were required to submit their script to Pentagon brass for meticulous line edits aimed at casting the military in the most positive light."


The US Navy took used the film's launch as a recruitment drive, setting up recruitment booths outside cinemas showing the film across the US. 


Judas Priest asked to allow their song Reckless on the Top Gun soundtrack, but declined, thinking the film would be a flop.


After appearing together in Top Gun, actors Anthony Edwards, Michael Ironside, and Rick Rossovich all went on to appear in ER


In order to help establish a sense of comradery, the cast were encouraged to socialise and head out on long nights together during the San Diego-area shoot. Kilmer mentions in the DVD commentary that, "I remember it being one giant weekend, as far as making the thing."


Tom Cruise was apparently paid $2,000,000 for the role, making it his biggest pay day until 1988's Cocktail, which saw him paid a cool $3,000,000.