The film Top Gun is a 1986 action drama directed by Tony Scott and starring Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Kelly McGillis, Tom Skerritt, and many others. It grossed over $350 million domestically, was highly praised for its innovative aerial photography and stunts, and even won an Oscar for Best Song for Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.”
On Sunday, July 21, Reelz Channel is airing a new special called Top Gun: Behind Closed Doors, which promises to take “an inside look on the American classic that was almost never made. Not only did it face a mountain of challenges but suffered the tragic death of famed stunt pilot Art Scholl during production. Initially dismissed by a number of critics, Top Gun made its way into American culture and became one of the most profitable films in the history of Paramount Pictures.”
Here’s a peek into what the cast looked like then and now, plus what they’ve been up to since the blockbuster first soared into theaters nearly 35 years ago.
Tom Cruise, Maverick
Edwards played Maverick’s wisecracking RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) until his tragic death during a training exercise. This lovable actor would go on to star on ER for nearly 200 episodes. He has most recently been seen on the Kiefer Sutherland show Designated Survivor.
Val Kilmer, Iceman
This ’80s heartthrob had a string of what became cult classics alongside Top Gun in Top Secret, Real Genius, and Willow. He also received critical acclaim for his portrayal of the late Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s The Doors, for which Kilmer did much of the singing. His turn as Doc Holliday in Tombstone is a must-see, and he even took a turn as Batman — opposite Cruise’s then-wife Kidman, no less. Most recently, he’s been receiving praise for his one-man show about Mark Twain that Kilmer stars in, wrote and directed.
Kelly McGillis, Charlie
A year before Top Gun, McGillis earned much critical praise for her role of an Amish woman in Witness opposite Harrison Ford. She received similar praise for her turn as attorney Kathryn Murphy in The Accused. But in the 1990s and 2000s, McGillis has largely stayed out of the limelight, appearing here and there in guest-starring TV roles or doing voiceover work.
Tom Skerritt, Viper
This elder statesman of the group starred for four years on Picket Fences and later Brothers and Sisters. In 2020, he’ll appear opposite Mira Sorvino in the film East of the Mountains.
Michael Ironside, Jester
This baritone-voiced actor went on to do a lot of voiceover work but was also the second Top Gun star to appear on ER. He was a recurring character from 1995 to 2002 on the NBC medical drama. Most recently, Ironside played famed banker J.P. Morgan on the TNT crime drama The Alienist.
Rick Rossovich, Slider
The third actor to recur on ER, Rossovich played Carol Hathaway’s (Julianna Margulies) fiancee who never stood against George Clooney’s Doug Ross. Rossovich went on to star on the TV series Pacific Blue but has largely been out of the spotlight since then.
Meg Ryan, Carole
This darling of the Tom Hanks rom-com oeuvre actually became involved with her on-screen husband after Top Gun wrapped. That’s right, Ryan and Edwards were together for a while in 1985-1986. She told People in a 1986 interview that after he called her in September 1985, “It’s just been one big date ever since.”
Whip Hubley, Hollywood
With a call sign like “Hollywood,” this looked was definitely giving the other pilots a run for their money in the looks department. But after Top Gun, Hubley starred in a couple of short-lived TV series and movies.
Barry Tubb, Wolfman
This Texan was a champion bullrider before Top Gun and afterward went on to star on Lonesome Dove, Return to Lonesome Dove, Friday Night Lights and Revolution.
John Stockwell, Cougar
The pilot whose breakdown launches the entire plot of the movie, Stockwell went on to appear in small roles in TV movies and shows. He was most recently on the Showtime miniseries Escape from Dannemora.
Tim Robbins, Merlin
Definitely the biggest name from the movie to have the smallest role, Robbins became an A-list movie star, earning Oscar nominations for Dead Man Walking and Mystic River, the latter of which he won. He also received critical acclaim for his portrayal of inmate Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.
James Tolkan, Stinger
Fans of ’80s and ’90s movies hold a very special place in their heart for Tolkan because in addition to the fun turn as Stinger in Top Gun, he played Principal Strickland in the Back the Future trilogy, Det. Lubic in Masters of the Universe, Sal in Opportunity Knocks, Numbers in Dick Tracy, and Mr. Thorn in Problem Child 2. But Tolkan has been fairly quiet since appearing on A Nero Wolfe Mystery series in the early 2000s.
Clarence Gilyard Jr, Sundown
Gilyard Jr was the memorable recipient of Cruise’s line “I will fire when I am godd*mn good and ready,” but his biggest role of the 1980s is undoubtedly that of hacker Theo in the 1988 action blockbuster Die Hard. After those two smash hits, the actor would go on to star on Matlock and Walker, Texas Ranger for nearly 300 episodes total.
The upcoming sequel to Top Gun, titled Top Gun: Maverick, starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer, hits theaters December 23, 2020.