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Ever since the first trailer dropped, it was clear the long-awaited sequel to 1986’s high-flying classic Top Gun would tug at the heart strings with nostalgic imagery emulating the first film. From the blood-pumping aerial combat maneuvers to shirtless volleyball games, Top Gun: Maverick follows in the footsteps of the Tony Scott-directed original, which took home a worldwide gross of $356 million according to Box Office Mojo.
The original film featured a cast of popular actors whose careers would mostly blossom in the years after release, but Top Gun will always be remembered as the film that turned Tom Cruise from teenage heartthrob to true leading man, one death-defying scene at a time.
In celebration of the sequel, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at what the cast of Top Gun has been up to since sticking the landing more than three decades ago.
Tom Cruise’s fame was on the rise by the time he was cast as Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Between The Outsiders and Risky Business (for which he received a best actor Golden Globe nomination), Cruise was fast becoming a star when he took to the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat and flew toe-to-toe against Russian MiGs. He couldn’t stop being a leading man if he’d tried in the years after, starring in Rain Man opposite Dustin Hoffman, Stanley Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut and even taking the role of a bad guy in Michael Mann’s Collateral. He has been thrice-nominated for acting Oscars, for leading roles in Born on the Fourth of July and Jerry Maguire, and his supporting role in Magnolia. Cruise reprises his main role as the rebellious stick jockey in Top Gun: Maverick and remains active as Ethan Hunt, the spy at the center of the Mission: Impossible films.
Playing an Amish woman opposite Harrison Ford in Witness got Kelly McGillis noticed by Top Gun producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who cast McGillis as the no-nonsense instructor turned love interest Charlie Blackwood. After the tremendous commercial success of Top Gun, McGillis starred in a few films including The Accused in 1988, but mostly stuck to theater roles even after being established as a major star in the late 1980s. She has since been in a number of small independent films, worked sporadically on TV and continued to perform theater.
Top Gun raised the specter of many of its stars, and Val Kilmer is no exception. After finding success leading the cast of the teenage sci-fi comedy Real Genius, Kilmer was cast as the cool-headed, methodical antagonist Iceman. Playing the constant tormentor of Maverick, Iceman eventually thaws to the rebellious nature of the movie’s hero in a touching scene of wingmanship toward the end of the film. Kilmer went on to star in a myriad of films, including Willow, The Doors (as frontman Jim Morrison), True Romance, Tombstone, Heat and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. After being sidelined by health problems in recent years, Kilmer had a small role in the latest Kevin Smith flick Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. He reprises his role as Iceman for a cameo in Top Gun: Maverick.
Anthony Edwards had a regular career in TV and small film roles in the early 1980s, but his first starring role as Gilbert in the raucous college comedy Revenge of the Nerds cemented him as a legitimate leading actor. Top Gun was big-time success with Edwards playing Goose, radar intercept officer and constant companion to Maverick whose story takes a tragic turn halfway through the film. Edwards took on many TV movie roles in the late ’80s and early ’90s before landing on the hospital drama ER as Mark Greene, a role for which he was Emmy-nominated four times as an outstanding lead actor in a drama series. His success in TV has continued with recurring roles in Billions, Law & Order and Netflix’s Inventing Anna. In Top Gun: Maverick, Miles Teller plays Goose’s son, a rookie pilot under the instruction of his father’s former wingman.
Practically mid-career when cast as the sage instructor pilot Viper, Tom Skerritt had been acting in film since 1962’s War Hunt. He spent much of the 1960s in various television roles, regularly appearing as a soldier or cowboy in Combat!, The Virginian and Gunsmoke. He played a soldier again alongside Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould in Robert Altman’s 1970 satire MASH. He may be most well-known for playing Capt. Dallas, chief of the ill-fated spaceship Nostromo in Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror Alien. After Top Gun, Skerritt appeared in numerous other films and TV shows, notably Steel Magnolias and Cheers, and he won an Emmy for his performance as Sheriff Brock in Picket Fences. He has remained active, starring opposite Mira Sorvino in the 2021 drama film East of the Mountains.
Canadian-born Michael Ironside began acting in movies in the late 1970s, but picked up attention after playing scheming psychic Darryl Revok in David Cronenberg’s 1981 sci-fi horror Scanners. He played other intimidating characters in various low-budget movies until he was cast in Top Gun as Viper’s No. 2 instructor, Jester. The change of genre didn’t affect his career too much, as he continued to fill sci-fi roles in films like Highlander II: The Quickening, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. He’s also had a prolific television career, with parts in series like Tales From the Crypt; Walker, Texas Ranger; ER; and Desperate Housewives. More recently, he appeared on Hulu’s The Dropout.
Though he was barely graduated from UCLA with a degree in Drama, Tim Robbins already had a recurring role on the TV series St. Elsewhere in 1982. Other bit parts followed before he was eventually cast in Top Gun as Merlin, Maverick’s backseater toward the climax of the film. Robbins wouldn’t truly break out until 1988’s Bull Durham, which would be followed by a string of successful 1990s mainstream films including Jacob’s Ladder, The Player and The Shawshank Redemption, where Robbins played the reserved but genius prisoner Andy Dufresne. Robbins earned an Oscar for 2004’s Mystic River, and his acting career has never really slowed down; he played Reginald “Pop” Merrill in Hulu’s Stephen King-adapted anthology series Castle Rock and a felonious DuPont lawyer in the 2019 film Dark Waters.
Other than Rich and Famous in 1981 and Amityville 3-D two years later, Meg Ryan had only appeared in a handful of TV series when she was cast as Goose’s wife, Carole. Top Gun was only the beginning, of course; her career achieved liftoff shortly thereafter when she starred in hit after hit, from When Harry Met Sally… to Sleepless in Seattle, Courage Under Fire, You’ve Got Mail and Kate & Leopold. Ryan has since moved behind the camera, making her directorial debut with the 2015 film Ithaca.
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