The Actors Chewdio was established in 1984 by founding members (and legendary thespians) Francois Van Varenberg, Charles Buchinsky, Michael Gardenzio, Kurt Vogel, and Thomas Mapother. Since its inception, The Actors Chewdio has been a shining beacon of quality within the acting community; producing exemplary performers at a level of talent and professionalism that all others aspire to reach. The organization is lead today by Chairman Hans Lundgren and it is with his gratuitous blessing that we bring you this procession of literary specimens aimed at enlightening lesser folk to the entire cinematic history of the craft’s innumerable transcendent masters…one film at a time!
The Film: Top Gun (1986)
Director: Tony Scott
Writers: Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.
Thespians: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Val Kilmer, Michael Ironside, Rick Rossovich, James Tolkan, Meg Ryan, John Stockwell, Whip Hubley, Barry Tubb, David Patterson, Adrian Pasdar, Tim Robbins, Clarence Gilyward Jr., Duke Stroud, Linda Rae Jurgens, etc.
Running Time: 110 minutes
Theatrical Performance: $179,800,601
Fresh off working for younger brother Ridley, Tom moves on to work for the eldest Scott: Tony. And it was a match made in heaven. Top Gun is one of the most iconic films of the 1980s, from its MTV aesthetic to its quotable dialogue to its chart-topping soundtrack. If Risky Business was American’s wake up call to pay attention to Tom Cruise, Top Gun was his home run. Let’s be honest here. Tom has an immense air of cockiness about him. For some, it is merely an extension of his natural charisma as an actor. For others, it is a massive turn-off and a big part of why they cannot stand the man. No matter which side of that spectrum you fall on, I think will agree that Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is the quintessential Tom Cruise role.
Maverick is a cocksure hotshot Navy pilot whose best (and sometimes worst) quality is his desire to be the absolute best he can be at his profession. He gives 110% every time out; sometimes to a fault. Does that sound familiar to you? Whether intentional or not, Maverick is one of Cruise’s most autobiographical roles. Maverick is intensely loyal to his best friend (and co-pilot) Goose (Anthony Edwards), as well as his fellow teammates (Kilmer, Rossovich, Pasdar, Hubley, Tubb, etc.), but his “maverick” nature and reckless attitude are constantly at war with said loyalty. His desire to outmatch and outfly all those around him only serves to scare and alienate his comrades, as opposed to earning their trust and respect. Aside from Goose, Maverick’s instructors (Skerritt, Ironside, McGillis, Tolkan) are the only ones able to overlook his faults and see the greatness within. Charlie (Kelly McGillis) in particular, with whom Maverick begins a torrid love affair.
We all know where the plot is headed once the film gets underway. Maverick will be struck down by a traumatizing event (in this case, Goose’s accidental death) that will see him wash out of his professional, only to find the strength within and bounce back to become the pilot everyone knows he can be. It’s a massive cliche, but one that Top Gun helped drive home and perfect. In the case of a film and plot like this, everything is in the execution and Cruise (along with director Scott) is more than up to the challenge of making it sing. Tom sells every line and emotion of his character, who is a lost soul in search of the approval of a ghostly figure (his long-dead father, also a pilot) that will never come.
Maverick is a broken man held together by the glue of his friendship with Goose. Goose is the only person he is close to at the start of the tale and once he is taken away from him, Maverick is forced to find support from those nearby who he has kept at arms length. Their trust is hard to obtain, given his actions throughout, but he earns once he finally steps up and accepts his responsibilities. Real life has seen fit that we will never be given a further adventure with Pete “Maverick” Mitchell on film, but we never really needed one. At the close of the film, he is where he belongs: an instructor for the flying generations of douchey know-it-alls (I’m lookin’ at you, Iceman!), sheepish experts, and cocky pains in the ass.
What Sayeth Humanity?: It’s a classic and, when adjusted for inflation, still the biggest hit of Cruise’s career at a whopping total of almost $400 million. Yowzah! So where’s the sequel? One has almost happened twice: once in the late 80s (torpedoed by Cruise’s high-asking price) and the second attempt would have likely filmed this year had Tony Scott not ended his own life. Cruise is now poised to do a science fiction fighter pilot project (currently titled Yukikaze), so between that and Days of Thunder (1990), we’ve really already been given a Top Gun 2.
What Sayeth Daniel?: It’s a classic and a highly influential one at that. Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer knew exactly what they were doing in the ’80s and their rise to power came as no shock. They embraced the MTV generation and most of the time had their fingers on the pulse of what was wanted. Top Gun was among the initial batch and it (along with Tony Scott) left its mark. Along with producer Joel Silver, Simpson/Bruckheimer changed the face of the action movie in the latter half of the 1980s and their legacy still carries weight in the genre to this day. As for Tom? Well, Tom rightfully hit the big leagues with this film and never looked back. Don’t take my word for it though, find out for yourself!
On a side note, it was fun to see a mini-Losin’ It reunion here with Cruise, Stockwell, and Rossovich.
Next: The Color of Money (1986)
INSIDE THE ACTORS CHEWDIO with Tom Cruise