From an army ad to the movie with which Tom Cruise touched the sky: this is how ‘Top Gun’ was born

You are reading this report -originally published in the June issue of CINEMANIA- on the web. However, sometimes reading print media is not good, it is that it can make you a millionaire. Or a movie star. In 1983, there were no online posts, nor clickbait. A young and ambitious producer named Jerry Bruckheimer read a report titledTop Guns” in the magazine California Magazine. He was about the elite pilots of the US Army, and their day to day at the base in San Diego.

Bruckheimer was dazzled: “I thought that was The war of the galaxies on planet earth”, he repeated later. Shooting it was crazy because, obviously, in a pre-digital era, the film could only be made with real fighters, and that implied the support of the Yankee State Department. But hey, an organization that needs constant publicity to add recruits and sell killing machines couldn’t be disgusted by the proposal either. No one was going to film something that bizarre anyway, right?

His suspicions seemed to be confirmed at first: there were no directors or screenwriters willing to enroll in that aerial fantasy. They had to hire two pipiolos as Jack Cash Y Jim Epps, who had not yet managed to see their scripts on a screen. Looking at lines of dialogue like “His ego writes checks his pocket can’t pay” or “I’ll have a beer to put out the flames,” which are among the worst ever, you can see why.

With the first version on the table, Paramount gave them long. But chance is always an element to consider in a battle. Michael Eisner Y Jeff Katzenbergthe people in charge of the study, defected to Disney in 1984.

Tom Cruise with Tony Scott, director of 'Top Gun'
Tom Cruise with Jerry Burckheimer, producer of ‘Top Gun’
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Ned Tanen, the new command in place, did not start watching the clouds pass, but the accounts of Bruckheimer and his partner, don simpson: flashdance Y Super Detective in Hollywood, his two previous films, had been two blockbusters. The couple was blessed by the public. 15 million budget and do what they want.

Fighters and monomaniacs

Basically, they repeated the formula that was successful in the early 1980s: life as a contest in which the rebel wins the jackpot, whether it was admission to a dance academy or flashdance or a boxing match like in the saga Rocky. The military advisers couldn’t believe it: a competition between pilots? They would all end up crashing! But that’s how fiction wanted it and that’s how Epps and Cash wrote it. They also repeated the method in the search for a director. Thanks to flashdance and his experience with adrien lyne, Bruckheimer and Simpson had discovered the great breeding ground of British advertising. Hollywood despised them for commercials, but they were the ones who had understood that the cinema was no longer the same after the arrival of the mtv.

Also, they were desperate to film and be legitimized by the industry. You just had to choose the right one. Tony Scott, Ridley’s little brother, hadn’t filmed in four years after the smack of El Ansia. He made a living shooting commercials, like the one for cars: a duel at dawn between a Saab 200 Turbo and a fighter, with cool music. In 2002, Scott acknowledged: “I think it was the only thing they found that showed a fighter. So they hired me”. Scott had the artistic ambition to make a apocalypse now but the producers took him down a peg and he soon understood that: “They wanted rock stars flying silver planes over blue skies.”

Producer, script, studio, director… the fifth element was missing, the wayward pilot nicknamed Maverick. Bruckheimer and Simpson then looked at an actor whose career seemed to have gone into a tailspin. At 23 years old, Tom Cruise was in the worst moment of his life: fiasco with Legendof Ridley Scottseparation from your partner Rebecca deMornay and death of his father. Cruise always wanted to be a pilot, despite the fact that because of his height (1.70… or so he says), he would never make the cut. Perhaps to cure his depression, the actor got involved in an obsessive way that has haunted him for the rest of his career, to the point of working without stunt doubles.

Image from 'Top Gun'
Image from ‘Top Gun’
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He wasn’t the only monomaniac. Scott wanted hyperrealism in the clouds. That happened through a measure that he had more to do with engineering than with cinema: install up to four cameras that did not alter the weight of planes that cost 36 million dollars. The director’s perfectionism led him to pay out of his own pocket $25,000 to the navy to change the course of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, just for the whim of shooting the opening scene against the light. Scott bordered on insanity to the point where he was fired three times during filming: for shooting that opening in slow motion, for sexualizing Kelly McGillis more than necessary and for covering the actors’ faces with their visors during flights.

to take our breath away

The aerial world was the only realistic thing about a film that was pure fantasy, and that’s how everyone understood it. Also Scott himself. They say that he showed up at the producers’ office with a stack of fashion photographs of Bruce Weberthe man who, with his models of shaved breasts, naked torsos smeared with half of the oil produced in the province of Jaén, had reinvented the male body, recovering Hellenistic canons.

Of course, it was not enough to be sculpted in marble, it had to be exhibited: in shower scenes and locker rooms, in beach volleyball matches… For the 35th anniversary, Cruise sought a justification for the tournament in question: “We had to show that these men were competitive in all aspects of their lives”. Well okay, Tom.

The sunglasses, the jacket, the motorcycle...everything in the film was destined to become iconic
The sunglasses, the jacket, the motorcycle…everything in the film was destined to become iconic
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In addition to the bodies, there were their accessories: the protagonists wore their Ray Ban and his leather jackets and patched bombers even in bed; the bosses smoked some cigars that not even Fidel Castro in their command post, they slept with their subordinates or revealed state secrets while walking in the garden of their house; Cruise acted as a cowboy in the cockpit of his F-14 or on the back of his Kawasaki GPZ900R in which, of course, he never wore a helmet that messed up his hair. And well, he also committed the stupidity of meeting his crush after playing sports under a blazing sun and without going through the shower…

The nonsense was such that even Tony Scott relegated to just a few nanoseconds of footage two future stars of the caliber of meg ryan Y Tim Robbins. But nothing mattered. The first showing with the public already showed that this film was going to fly at the speed of sound. There was only one problem: even the least experienced realized that the film gave off an unconventional homoeroticism for 1986. As stated Quentin Tarantino in his hilarious monologue in Sleep with me (Rory Kelly, 1994): “[Top Gun] is the story of a man fighting against his own homosexuality”.

It had to be balanced with a female character who could “take the breath away” of Maverick before his buddy Iceman did, so a couple of intimate scenes of Cruise with McGillis were introduced. In them, the kitsch of the dialogues was camouflaged under the musician of Giorgio Moroderwhich he repeated after flashdance. His power ballad Take My Breath Awayperformed by the group Berlin, blew up radio formulas and won the Oscar for best original song. It was the only one he got. That year she swept platoon, an anti-war view. But top gun, the other side of the coin, the marina advertorial, took the bills. A lot of tickets.

It was the most viewed film of the year, grossing $357 million and breaking the VHS pre-sales record. Army applications are up 500% and Ray-Ban sales are up 40%. Tom Cruise’s career had taken off and no one knew when he would have to return to the mortal world to refuel. top gun established a film (and body) canon whose trail has been followed by other lovers of uniforms and testosterone such as Michael Bay either peter berg. And all because one fine day, a man decided to read a report in a paper magazine.

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