“You don’t make Top Gun without Tom Cruise,” producer Jerry Bruckheimer told ET after he shared a photo of him and the actor in New Orleans, discussing “a little Top Gun 2.” But Bruckheimer, who has since launched the Bad Boys and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises, is the first to admit the cards were stacked against their ace pilot.
“You know, movies about aviation had failed over and over again,” the producer says, also pointing to TV where the CBS series, Call to Glory, failed to find an audience. “There was a TV series prior to Top Gun coming out that didn’t last more than a season. So, everybody was nervous that people don’t want to watch airplanes or young pilots.”
However, Scott pushed forward, finding ways -- from the casting of hot, young stars to filming the aerial scenes (“He gave the Navy fits with the way he wanted those pilots to fly,” Bruckheimer reveals) -- to make his aviation story exciting and appealing to a mass audience.
In fact, Scott had a very specific image in mind when it came to casting his leading men. Inspired by fashion photographer Bruce Weber, the director used one of his books (Looking Good: A Guide for Men) for visual reference. “Bruce had all these handsome, young guys and he saw the masculinity and fun in these men,” Bruckheimer says. “Tony kind of cast a picture around what he saw in the book.”
Of course, it would also service the film’s most iconic scene: the shirtless volleyball match with Maverick and Goose (Edwards) playing against Iceman (Kilmer) and his co-pilot, Slider (Rick Rossovich). While Bruckheimer simply calls it “OK,” the scene has become film iconography thanks to its homoerotic subtext. Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan recently dubbed it "one of the gayest scenes ever committed to film" while TV personality Dave Holmes joked, “I am gay because of that volleyball scene in Top Gun,” during an episode of Funny or Die’s Gay of Thrones.
“I didn’t have a vision of what I was doing other than just doing soft porn,” Scott recalled in an interview featured in the film’s 30th anniversary Blu-ray/DVD and Digital HD release. “I knew I had to show off all the guys, but I didn’t have a point of view… so, I just shot the sh*t out of it. I got the guys to get all their gear off and their pants and sprayed them in baby oil.”