Top Gun: Maverick - Take My Breath Away (Again)
In May 1983, "California" magazine published an article "Top Guns", written by Ehud Yonay. Within it Yonay told of the dare-devil pilots of F-14 Tomcat planes at Air Station Miramar, nicknamed as "Fightertown USA". The tag-line?
At Mach 2 and 40,000 feet over California, it’s always high noon..
Yonay’s writing is as crisp and energetic as a world-class film script as we follow pilot Alex ‘Yogi’ Hnarakis through the Navy Fighter Weapons School training programme...
They're at just about the right spot, over international waters some 30 miles off Ensenada, when a voice crackles over the radio to warn of two bogeys 20 miles south.
"Fight's on," says Yogi, who is the pilot, or 'stick' and sits up front.
"Roger," says Possum, the radar intercept officer, or "back-seater." He's already bent over his radarscope, punching buttons and looking for the tiny blips of the bogeys - hotshot instructors from Top Gun, the Navy Fighter Weapons School, flying their deadly little F-5s.
With that, Yogi stops jinking, peels off to the right, and pushes the throttle all the way into afterburner. As twin white-hot flames shoot out from the plane's exhaust nozzles, the magnificent silver machine explodes forward, slamming into their backs like a truckload of bricks and hurling them through the sound barrier. Yogi has rehearsed this kill in his mind a dozen times. He'll cut the first bogey off at the pass with a head-on missile shot, and then, breaking and rolling to avoid getting hit, he'll rein the plane in and pull it around like Ivanhoe at the end of the first joust and come racing back across the skies for the other. Great fighter pilots are always ahead of their planes, and, as his adrenaline surges up, Yogi's eyes bore into the empty blue space before him, looking for the bogeys. Nothing can stop him now.
That's when it happens. Suddenly a soft voice is saying "Atoll" in the earphones, and by the time Possum spots the little F-5 behind them it's too late. They've been racing fat and dumb and happy like a dodo bird, and the F-5 painted in desert camouflage, no less, which stands out against the blue like a billboard - just rolled in out of nowhere, got on their tail, and simulated slipping a heat-seeking missile up their exhaust pipe. Atolls are the air-to-air missiles that Russian-built MiG-21s carry, but in this exercise the word means, "Up yours guys, you're dead and going home with your tail between your afterburners."
It should be a scene from one of the most iconic films of the 1980's. In fact, it almost certainly is.
Numerous screenwriters turned down the project. Kelly McGillis wasn’t the first choice for co-star. Tom Cruise wasn’t even the first choice to play Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell. The Navy wanted script approval and demanded significant changes, including that the love story include a civilian contractor, as the US military banned fraternization between personnel. Every hour of flight cost the producer’s $20,000. They even had to pay $63,000 for the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise to change course.
It shouldn’t have worked, but golly, it did.
Premiering in New York City on May 12, 1986, Top Gun would open at 1028 U.S. movie theatres a few days later. The Navy even had recruitment booths in a number of theatre foyers. At the end of its theatrical run, it had taken $357M at the box office. It didn’t stop there, becoming (at that date) the best-selling video-cassette of all-time, with 1.9M ordered before its release – and – who can forget Kenny Loggin’s ‘Danger Zone’ and Berlin’s chart-topping ‘Take My Breathe Away’?
Now, after thirty-six years (including two years of Covid related delay), it is time to zip up our flight suits, climb in to our cockpits and fire up the after-burners. It is time for Top Gun: Maverick!
There is a meme doing the rounds of movie stars with their stunt doubles. Tom Cruise’s double? Tom Cruise!
The ultimate action star designed a training programme for the cast, with months of in-flight tuition. They even had to learn how to run the in-cockpit IMAX-certified cameras themselves. Over eight-hundred hours of footage was taken for the two hour film.
The result received a five minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and has film-critics drooling…
And for the rest of us, there isn’t long to wait, with Top Gun: Maverick hitting the big screen on 27th May 2022.
It is hard to think of an actor with a greater commitment to his craft. Not just in-front of the film camera, but as the driving force behind his movies and the ultimate professional with his fans - a tour-de-force film star. Tom Cruise has many films left in him, but this one might just be his greatest triumph.
We cannot wait to see it!
You can find the Top Gun posters we have available here.
Adam and the Art of the Movies team.