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Why Meg Ryan and Kelly McGillis Aren’t in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise in “Top Gun.” Paramount


Why Meg Ryan and Kelly McGillis Aren’t in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’


Top Gun: Maverick will pay several tributes to the first film. The nostalgia is palpable, from the return of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer to Penny, played by Jennifer Connelly, making an appearance on film. There are obvious exclusions from the movie even though there are Easter eggs in the sequel. Meg Ryan and Kelly McGillis, the film’s original female protagonists, aren’t referenced or seen in the sequel. Maverick’s director responded to criticism from several original cast members by outlining the reasons why the actresses and other original cast members weren’t brought back for the sequel.

The sequel makes references to and includes flashbacks of Ryan’s Carole character, who was the late wife of Anthony Edwards’ Nick “Goose” Bradshaw and mother of Miles Teller’s Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw. The original Maverick’s love interest and Top Gun instructor Charlie Blackwood played by McGillis isn’t even mentioned.

Director of “Top Gun: Maverick” Joseph Kosinski acknowledged to Insider that it was never even contemplated to bring back the two main female characters when the sequel was being created.

He said, “I didn’t want every storyline to always be looking backwards. It was important to introduce some new characters.”

Ryan was thus passed over for the sequel, along with Kelly McGillis, and only makes a fleeting appearance in some old movie footage.

Kosinski provided further details on his choice in an interview with CinemaBlend.  “[Charlie and Carole were] not in the story that I worked on. Clearly, their spirits hang over the film in certain ways. There is a glimpse, as you guys know, of both of them in the film. But it was important that we wanted to make sure we were telling a new chapter of Maverick’s life. We didn’t want to be looking back the whole time.”

“So, we’ve got his relationship with Penny Benjamin (which) is the focus of this story. Which, you know, for the diehard fans is a fun one because she was only mentioned briefly in (Top Gun). Just that one line (of dialogue) was a great starting point for this whole new character.”

In “Top Gun: Maverick,” which is set 30 years after the events of the first film, fresh hotshot pilots are introduced for Maverick to train for a significant mission. Teller, Glen Powell from “Set It Up,” Jay Ellis from “Insecure,” and Monica Barbaro are among the new cast members (“The Good Cop”).

Penny Benjamin, portrayed by Jennifer Connelly, a single mother and bar owner who is referenced in passing in Top Gun as the “admiral’s daughter” and with whom Maverick had had a fling, serves as the eponymous high-flying hero’s new-ish love interest in Maverick. It is hinted that the two have had on-again, off-again relationships throughout the years, most likely in between Maverick and Charlie’s on-again, off-again relationships.

“Penny Benjamin, a character we have heard mentioned but never seen before, that was an amazing opportunity to bring Jennifer Connelly’s character into this film,” Kosinski said.

Prior to Maverick’s first scheduled 2020 release, ET talked exclusively with McGillis in 2019, and she said that she had never been approached about taking part in the sequel.

Meg Ryan in “Top Gun.” Paramount

She laughed and added, “I mean, I’m old and I’m fat and I look age-appropriate for what my age is. And that is not what that whole scene was about.”

McGillis, who has been out of the public eye for years, told ET that she left Hollywood after a string of financially successful movies in the 1980s in order to “find out who the heck” she was, get sober, and spend more time with her two kids.

She acknowledged that, “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. 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.”

Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly in “Top Gun: Maverick.” Paramount Pictures

“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.”

Through the 1980s, 64-year-old McGillis was a prominent star. She appeared in “Top Gun,” where she portrays a trainer who develops feelings for Maverick, as well as the films “Witness,” from 1985, starring Harrison Ford, and “The Accused,” from 1988, with Jodie Foster.


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