'Top Gun: Maverick' Director Explains Why Meg Ryan and Kelly McGillis Aren't in the Sequel

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Top Gun: Maverick is a high-flying sequel that fans and newcomers alike can enjoy for its powerful performances and incredible aviation set pieces. However, fans of the original might be slightly disappointed to find out that the new film -- which catches back up with Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell and features a special return from Val Kilmer as now-Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky -- doesn't feature any appearances from the female stars of the 1986 original: Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan.

Ryan's character, Carole, the wife of Maverick's late wingman and best friend Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (played by Anthony Edwards) and mother to Miles Teller's Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, is referenced in the sequel and seen in flashback scenes. However, there isn't even a mention of McGillis' Charlie Blackwood, a Top Gun instructor and Maverick's love interested in the original.

"Those weren't stories that we were throwing around," Maverick director Joseph Kosinski told Insider of the actresses' absences. "I didn't want every storyline to always be looking backwards. It was important to introduce some new characters."

Instead, Maverick introduces a new-ish love interest for it's titular high-flying hero: Penny Benjamin, played by Jennifer Connelly, a single mother and bar owner who is mentioned in passing in Top Gun as the "admiral's daughter," whom Maverick once had a fling with. It's implied that the pair have been on-again, off-again through the years, presumably in between the times when Maverick was romancing Charlie.

ET exclusively spoke with McGillis back in 2019 ahead of Maverick's originally-planned 2020 release, where she noted that she hadn't ever been contacted about appearing in the sequel.

"I mean, I'm old and I'm fat and I look age-appropriate for what my age is," she said with a laugh. "And that is not what that whole scene was about."

McGillis, who has been out of the spotlight for years, explained to ET why she originally left Hollywood following a run of successful films in the 1980s, citing a mission to get sober, spend more time with her two daughters and "figure out who the hell" she was.

"It was very challenging for me to have any kind of sense of self or self-identity or real self-worth other than what I did for a living," she admitted. "And it just -- it didn't become a priority; what became the priority initially was raising my girls and being the best sober parent I could be."

"I think just my priorities in life changed," she continued. "It wasn't like a major decision that I made to leave, it was just that other things became more important. I love acting, I love what I do, I love doing theater, but I don't know. To me, my relationships to other people became far more important than my relationship to fame."

See more on the original film in the video below. Top Gun: Maverick is in theaters May 24.

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