Val Kilmer and Matthew Modine Rejected Top Gun For The Same Reason – Screen Rant


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Val Kilmer didn't like Top Gun's politics, much like Full Metal Jacket's Matthew Modine. Unlike Modine, he wasn't able to get out of doing the movie.

Val Kilmer and Matthew Modine both turned down roles in Top Gun thanks to the movie’s politics, but Kilmer was later forced to star in the Tom Cruise vehicle thanks to contractual obligations. Although Top Gun made a star of Risky Business leading man Tom Cruise, the actor was surprisingly not the first to be sought out for the project. In fact, hard as it may be to believe, John Travolta, Sean Penn, and Tom Hanks all turned down the role of reckless test pilot Maverick before Cruise signed on and made the part his own.

Most of the stars who rejected the role simply had no idea how successful Top Gun would turn out to be (much like Ally Sheedy, who lived to regret deciding against the part of Maverick’s love interest). However, Matthew Modine turned down Top Gun not because he didn’t see the movie succeeding, but because he knew it would be a hit and did not want to co-sign a positive depiction of the US military. As a pacifist, Modine felt that Top Gun’s politics went against his own—and he was not the only star to believe that.

It has been known for decades that Val Kilmer (aka Iceman, Maverick’s foe and eventual fire-forged friend) wanted to turn down his supporting role in Top Gun, but the reasoning behind his rejection of the part was not clear until now. The recent documentary Val takes a look at the life and career of Kilmer and unearthed the reason behind his rejection of Top Gun in the process. Like Modine, star of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Kilmer initially called Top Gun’s script "silly" and dismissed the movie’s politics as “war-mongering.” According to the AVClub, Kilmer was pressured into taking on the role of Iceman as he was under contract with the studio and had no choice, with the actor having no idea how the part would eventually affect his career.

Val Kilmer as Iceman and Tom Cruise Maverick in Top Gun

It is striking to see the similarities between the two actor’s decisions, and while Kilmer could be pushed into taking the role via contractual obligations, it is nonetheless surprising to see how much the huge hit did not appeal to the young actor. However, given how similar a potential Top Gun director’s take on the original script was, this could be evidence that the movie’s earlier drafts were more jingoistic about their pro-military stance than the finished film. John Carpenter turned down Top Gun as he found the climactic dogfight between American and Russian forces farcical, saying it would prompt WWIII if it occurred in reality.

However, in the completed movie, the nationality of the enemy combatants in Top Gun’s finale is never stated, meaning the creators may have taken Carpenter’s criticism on board. They may also have been concerned that the rejections of Kilmer and Modine would be reflected at the box office. Thus, the story of Top Gun more broadly was retooled into a triumphant narrative of an accomplished pilot learning humility and teamwork, with the specifics of his military service being pushed into the background. The finished movie even went as far as inventing pilot rankings and trophies to give Top Gun's story a sports movie tone, rather than one that reminded viewers of the real-life military.

More: Top Gun 2 Theory: Maverick’s New Love Interest Wants Him To Quit

  • Top Gun: Maverick/Top Gun 2 (2021)Release date: Nov 19, 2021

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Cathal Gunning
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Cathal Gunning has been writing about movies and TV online since 2020. His obsessions include The Simpsons, Stephen King, the Scream series, and the horror genre in general. He has spent more time thinking about Stranger Things than the writers of Stranger Things, and he has never seen a Star War.

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