DJ Haza talks Top Gun in more “Frustrated Ramblings Of An Aspiring Filmmaker”…
Stinger: “Don’t screw around with me Maverick. You’re a hell of an instinctive pilot. Maybe too good. I’d like to bust your butt but I can’t. I got another problem here. I gotta send somebody from this squadron to Miramar. I gotta do something here, I still can’t believe it. I gotta give you your dream shot! I’m gonna send you up against the best. You two characters are going to Top Gun.”
And so it began. Maverick and Goose got their shot at Top Gun – the U.S. Navy aviation training school where the best fighter pilots in the Navy get to become the best of the best. What a film. What a soundtrack. Top Gun = Top Film. FACT. However, the film ran grossly over budget, over time and it’s director Tony Scott was fired officially three times. A lot of top talent did not want to be associated with the film. So how, at 26, has it aged so well when many other films shot in the most stylistically horrifying decade of the last century now look like absolute shite?
Top Gun got a play on TV the other night and despite the fact that there were several other top films on at that time and my impending bed time looming I could not stop myself from watching. It’s a classic. I defy anyone not to like it. And if you haven’t seen it you don’t deserve eyes, let alone a television! In a year that also saw Crocodile Dundee, Aliens and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off light up the big screen Top Gun has stood head and shoulders above the rest. And I think I know why.
When I was a kid I saw Top Gun for the first time and I remember being glued to the TV. I had it on VHS and used to watch it over and over and over. I’d wake up in the morning and press play, watch it until I was dragged down for breakfast by my Mam and then head off to school. When I got home I would press play again at where ever I had left off that morning and I’d watch it all the way through. Then rewind and play it again. I used to use the keyboard and joystick from my Commodore to pretend I was a fighter pilot. I was Maverick. I wanted to be a fighter pilot up until I was 16 and had to choose my A Levels. When I found out I needed to study maths and physics to become a pilot a changed my mind and decided I wanted to be a lawyer instead. I should add that I’m not a lawyer either.
It’s that simple. We all love Top Gun because it’s almost perfect. Maverick is the perfect man. Has the perfect life. And lives in a utopia where losing your best friend and only living family member is okay because you’ve met a bird who’s fit, clever and is mad for you. No need to grieve, just shoot the shit out of some opposition planes and de-stress. Maverick doesn’t worry about paying his electric bill or his mobile phone supplier shafting him for a picture message bolt-on that he never knew existed but they are certain he asked for. Maverick drives the fastest production motorbike in world at the time – the Kawasaki GPZ900R Ninja. And he rides it with no helmet. He has the ultimate collection in boy’s toys – a fighter plane and motorbike. He plays beach volleyball with the boys. He looks good in his Navy gear. He has aviators and a bomber jacket. And all the while flashing his cheeky grin and being a smart arse without getting a kicking or having the piss ripped out of him by his mates in the pub. I’m sure that if you offered any bloke in the country a fighter jet, motorbike, hot bird, aviators, bomber jacket, six pack, cheeky grin and the ability to blow people up they would happily sacrifice the life of their best mate. And women want a man like that. They want a guy to take the chance of embarrassing himself in front of everyone by singing to her that she’s lost that loving feeling. They love that he is a little damaged, but doesn’t get pissed up or fight because of it. They love a bit of a fixer-upper. And they want a man with loads of toys, charm and who looks good in a white Naval aviator outfit. He’s perfect. It’s perfect.
However, the film almost never made it to our screens and we would have been deprived of the lust to shoot down Johnny-Foreigner in our fighter jet whilst listening to Kenny Loggins’ driving rock anthem ‘Danger Zone’. The amount of problems that the film encountered as it threatened to spiral out of control is beyond belief.
According to IMDB’s facts about Top Gun, Steven Soderberg and John Carpenter turned down the chance to direct it. Patrick Swayze, Nicolas Cage, John Cusak, Emilio Estevez, Matthew Broderick, Sean Penn, Micheal J. Fox and Tom Hanks all turned down the chance to play Maverick. Tatum O’Neal, Michelle Pfieffer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Holly Hunter, Geena Davies, Jodie Foster, Ally Sheedy, Daryl Hannah, Diane Lane, Sarah Jessica Parker and Linda Hamilton all turned down the role of Charlie. Val Kilmer didn’t want to be in the film, but was forced by contractual obligations. Bryan Adams refused to allow his song ‘Only The Strong Survive’ to be on the soundtrack as he felt the film glorified war. What a bunch of idiots!
It seemed that no one wanted to be associated with the film. And so Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis got the lead roles, which posed it’s own problem. She’s 5’10’’ and he’s 5’7’’, so they had to get lifts for Tom so he didn’t look like a midget. Then there was Tony Scott’s role as director and being officially fired three times. The film ran over budget and up to an estimated $15,000,000 as well passing several deadlines. At one point Scott wanted an external shot on the aircraft carrier the U.S. Enterprise as the sun was going down on the wrong side of the boat. He asked the Commander to turn it around and was informed that it cost $25,000 to turn the ship around. Scott wrote him a cheque there and then. There are also many rumours of run ins with the film’s producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.
However, the real low point of the production came when the renowned aerobatic pilot Art Scholl was killed during filming. Scholl was attempting to create a flat spin so the onboard camera could capture it for the film. However, the aircraft failed to recover from the spin and Scholl radioed, “I have a problem…. I have a real problem’. Reports are that he crashed into the Pacific Ocean on September 16th 1985 and neither Scholl or the aircraft were recovered. The film was dedicated to his memory.
Despite what seemed like an over ambitious disaster of a movie that no one in their right mind would be associated with it was a huge, huge success. Top Gun was the top grossing film of 1986 beating Crocodile Dundee, Platoon, The Karate Kid Part II, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Back To School, Aliens, The Golden Child, Ruthless People and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Not many of those films have aged well either and rarely get played on terrestrial television. Have you seen Crocodile Dundee lately? It’s pants and looks like shite.
Top Gun is not only still played, but has become iconic. The film has grossed an estimated $353,816,701 worldwide. The film ranked at number 455 in Empire’s 2008 list of the 500 greatest films of all time. Yahoo! Movies recently ranked Top Gun #19 on their list of greatest action films of all-time. Top Gun was voted #3 Must See Movie of all time by listeners of Capital FM. The film’s tagline, “I feel the need – the need for speed!” was voted as number 94 out of 100 in a list of the best movie quotes by the American Film Institute. It was nominated for four Academy Awards in 1987 including Best Effects and Sound Effects Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Original Song for ‘Take My Breath Away’. And it won Best Original Song.
Riding on the back of the success of Top Gun, the U.S. Navy set up recruitment booths at major cinemas in an attempt to catch some of the guys pumped with adrenaline and testosterone leaving the cinema. They recorded their highest applications rate for some years as a result of the film. As I said – boys want to be fighter pilots. I wonder how many of those recruited from outside of the cinema got to the reality of war and shit their pants wishing they hadn’t gone to see the film at all? I think I would have done just that had my dream of being a fighter pilot become reality. Top Gun was a hit at the box office and the U.S. Navy also benefitted. Even the sales of Bomber jackets increased after the film’s release and Ray Ban aviator sales shot up by 40%. I still wear aviators now! I still watch the film. I am actually blasting out the soundtrack as I type these very words.
The film has also given us some movie gold. The scene in the bar with Goose and Maverick playing the piano and singing along to ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ is a classic. The friendship between Maverick and Goose is touching, but not too soppy. Just how us blokes like it. I sometimes refer to my mate Mark as Goose, because he’s my wingman. And I’m obviously Maverick, because I’m cool as poo. I like to think. Quotes like, ‘Son, you’re ego’s writing cheques you’re body can’t cash!’ are classic. My personal favourite quote is when Stinger tells Maverick, ‘And if you screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong!’. You know you like that one!
Top Gun ticks so many boxes for cinematic entertainment. Top Gun is the ultimate escapism to a world where men are men and life is good, despite even the death of loved ones. The love of a good woman can help you overcome anything. The soundtrack is a classic and I still have it on my IPhone. Maverick made aviators cool and the world owes him a favour for that. Men want to be Maverick and women want to be with Maverick. He’s cool as poo. And so is the film. It is indeed ‘up there with the best of the best’.
D.J. Haza – call sign ‘The Taffia’