Top Gun: Maverick: Kelly McGillis, the Original Star, Was Never Asked to Return

Top Gun
Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection
When Top Gun: Maverick finally opens in theaters later this month, fans of the 1986 classic will get to witness the long-awaited returns of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer).

But fans won’t see Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood, the Top Gun instructor played by Kelly McGillis. Maverick and Charlie’s romance (and the chemistry that sizzled between Cruise and McGillis) was one of the backbones of the original “Top Gun,” but McGills wasn’t asked to star in the sequel because her character was never even considered to return. “Top Gun: Maverick” director Joseph Kosinski confirmed the omission  ahead of the sequel’s release.

Top Gun: Maverick is set 30 years after the original and finds Maverick forced to train a new generation of hot shot pilots.

The new recruits are played by the likes of Miles Teller, Glenn Powell, Monica Barbaro and Jay Ellis. Teller stars as Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, a pilot trainee who is the son of Maverick’s late best friend Nick “Goose” Bradshaw.

Kosinski said not even Meg Ryan, who played Goose’s wife in the original film, was considered to return despite the Bradshaw family being a key plot point.

“Those weren’t stories that we were throwing around,” Kosinski said about bringing back the original female stars. “I didn’t want every storyline to always be looking backwards. It was important to introduce some new characters.”

Kosinski preferred to limit the connective tissue between the original “Top Gun” and its sequel to Goose’s son and the relationship between Maverick and Iceman. Cruise recently told ET that he “rallied hard” for Kilmer to return for the sequel.

Instead of McGillis, Top Gun: Maverick features Jennifer Connelly as the romantic lead. The Oscar winner plays Penny Benjamin, who was mentioned in the original “Top Gun” as being “the Admiral’s daughter” whom Maverick once had a fling with. Penny is a single mother in “Top Gun: Maverick” who owns a bar.

“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.

McGillis said in 2019 that she was not asked to star in the “Top Gun” sequel: “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 is about. To me, I’d much rather feel absolutely in my skin and who I am at my age as opposed to placing a value on all that other stuff.”

Top Gun: Maverick opens in theaters May 27 from Paramount Pictures.