Today in History: Top Gun was released

Tom Cruise on the set of 1986's Top Gun. Image: Live105.

Despite not receiving much critical acclaim, the film was a huge hit with movie-goers all over, with sales on Ray-Ban sunglasses and bomber jackets, as well as United States Navy recruitment numbers all increasing after the movie’s release.

The main inspiration for the film was an article entitled Top Guns, which was written by Ehud Yonay, and published in the May 1983 issue of California magazine. It featured aerial photography by then Lieutenant Commander Charles Heater Heatley.

After much deliberation and hassle getting the production of the movie to go ahead, the movie finally got the green light, with producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer turning down a couple of drafts of the script and plot before they settled on the hit we know and love.

Filming of the movie did not come without its complications, however.

Renowned aerobatic pilot, Art Scholl, was hired to do in-flight camera work for the film. The original script called for a flat spin, which Scholl was to perform and capture on a camera mounted on the aircraft. The aircraft was observed spinning through its recovery altitude, at which time Scholl radioed, “I have a problem … I have a real problem.”

He was unable to recover from the spin and crashed his Pitts Special biplane into the Pacific Ocean off the Southern California coast near Carlsbad on 16 September, 1985.

Neither Scholl’s body nor his aircraft were ever recovered, leaving the official cause of the accident unknown.

Top Gun was dedicated to Scholl’s memory.

After the movie was eventually released on 16 May, 1986, it took only eight weeks to become the highest-earning aviation movie of all time (a title it held for a further 15 years), surpassing 1980’s Airplane!.

The movie would go on to earn $176 781 728 ($404 123 675,40 today) at the US box office and a total of $356 830 601 ($815 716 056,19 today) worldwide.

The movie’s soundtrack and effects are widely considered some of the best of all time. It would win 10 of the 17 awards it was nominated for at various award ceremonies around the world, including one Oscar and one Golden Globe award.

The Oscar and the Golden Globe were both awarded for Best Original Song, with the winner on both occasions being Giorgio Moroder (music) and Tom Whitlock (lyrics) for Take My Breath Away.

A sequel entitled Top Gun: Maverick has been confirmed and is scheduled for release on 19 July, 2019, with Tom Cruise reprising his role as United States Naval Aviator Lieutenant Pete Maverick Mitchell.

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at northsider@caxton.co.za  (remember to include your contact details) or phone us on 011 955 1130.

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  AUTHOR
Blake Linder
Journalist

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