Alexa, play “Take My Breath Away.” While the nostalgia is overwhelming for Top Gun fans in the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, not everything is the same for the title character 30 years after the original film.
In the second film, Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell returns to train younger Top Gun graduates — including his late best friend Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller) — for a special mission. Played by Anthony Edwards in 1986, Goose and wife Carole Bradshaw (Meg Ryan) appear in flashbacks in the 2022 movie.
Ryan wasn’t the only actor who wasn’t asked back for Top Gun: Maverick, however. Kelly McGillis — Maverick’s love interest, Charlie, in Top Gun — isn’t part of the second movie. Instead, the pilot reconnects with Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), who is referenced — but not seen — as the admiral’s daughter with a past with Maverick in the original film.
“[Goose] told me all about the time you went ballistic with Penny Benjamin,” Carole said to Goose, Maverick and Charlie in the 1986 movie.
While McGillis implied to Entertainment Tonight in 2019 (when production on Top Gun: Maverick was underway) that aging is why she wasn’t asked back, director Joseph Kosinski told Insider that McGillis and Ryan aren’t part of the sequel because of how their characters would impact the new stories.
“Those weren’t stories that we were throwing around. I didn’t want every story line to always be looking backwards. It was important to introduce some new characters,” Kosinski said in May 2022. “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.”
Connelly, for her part, gushed about the “exceptional” Cruise in an interview with Variety ahead of Top Gun: Maverick’s May 27, 2022 release.
“Spending time with him, you understand how someone has been such a movie star for so many years. It was clear to me what the franchise means to him, so I felt beholden to him, [producer] Jerry Bruckheimer and the audiences who love the film so much,” Connelly said. “We focused on the intimacy of how they fit into each other’s lives. I think those characters have a really tender relationship, the way she understands him. They share a moment in bed chatting, and it tells as much about their relationship as the scene that is the preamble to that. Clearly, they have some unresolved business between them, and she navigates that with humor and playfulness. I feel like she’s someone who is positive and is moving toward happiness.”
Scroll through for more from McGillis on how she feels about being excluded from Top Gun: Maverick: