When most people think of Top Gun, the first person that likely comes to mind is Tom Cruise, who played lead character Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. You can’t forget he was surrounded by some talented actors, though, including Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Meg Ryan and of course, Val Kilmer. And playing Cruise’s love interest, Charlie Blackwood was Kelly McGillis, who was more than able to stand toe to toe with the leading man. The two had great chemistry, so it might be hard to believe she nearly missed out on the role. According to one of the execs behind the 1986 movie, there were specific studio complaints about McGillis, who ultimately didn’t appear in the 2022 sequel.
Why Was Paramount Hesitant To Cast Kelly McGillis In Top Gun?
By the time Tony Scott’s aviation epic went into pre-production in 1985, Kelly McGillis had a few major acting credits under her belt, with her co-lead status in Harrison Ford’s Witness being the biggest. With that gig alone in mind, one would think the producers would see the promise there. Yet there was one detail keeping the actress from receiving serious consideration – her height. Former Paramount Film Group executive David Paul Kirkpatrick confirmed it was an issue and recalled that after a chemistry reading, he claimed McGillis looked like she could be her co-star’s mom:
Some may forget that the Risky Business actor is indeed one of the shorter actors in Hollywood. Though his height is probably the furthest detail from one’s mind when you’re watching him fly fighter jets on the big screen. Personally, I don’t see any issue with there being such a stark difference between the primary romantic leads. All of it does, after all, come down to the chemistry between the actors, and that’s exactly what David Paul Kirkpatrick asserted above. It’s for that reason that she’d eventually land the role of Charlie, but her first day on set was still a bit hectic, as Kirkpatrick also wrote for Medium:
In the end, everything seemed to work out, as the two actors were dynamite in front of the camera, and the movie went on to be a box office hit. The on-screen camaraderie between the two was palpable, so why wasn’t the House on Carroll Street star in the eventual follow-up?
Why Wasn’t Kelly McGillis Asked To Return For Top Gun: Maverick?
By the events of the second movie, the titular character and Charlie are no longer together, and the latter is not mentioned in the film. Director Joseph Kosinski and co. opted to cast Jennifer Connelly was cast in Maverick as the new love interest – the previously unseen Penny Benjamin. In 2019, Kelly McGill herself confirmed she hadn’t been asked to reprise her role. While defending McGillis against “age and fat shaming,” David Paul Kirkpatrick discussed the actress’ reaction to Connelly’s casting:
Joseph Kosinski addressed the omissions of Charlie, Meg Ryan’s Carole Bradshaw and other OG characters. The filmmaker revealed on our own ReelBlend podcast that he didn’t want to hit home the fact that the movie focuses on a new chapter in Maverick’s life. It’s a fair argument, though some probably missed seeing Kelly McGillis. At the very least, as Kosinski mentioned, her shadow loomed over the sequel and, as a fan, I remain glad she scored the part in the first place, despite her height.