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Top Gun 2 Is Heading to the Runway

Reinflate your beach volleyballs, don your aviators, and apply some Coppertone to your shaven chests, lads, for the sequel to Top Gun is nigh! Vulture has learned that Paramount Pictures has made offers to both producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott to follow up their action classic, and has a missile lock on Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) to update the script, one in which Tom Cruise’s Maverick would play a smaller role.

Maverick would be confused and slightly depressed by the state of Top Gun these days, anyway. Last June, at a junket for Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Bruckheimer let slip that he had been “recently approached again to start talking about [a sequel]” but noted that “the aviation community has completely changed since we made the movie a long time ago.” Since 1986, the TOPGUN syllabus has been changed so the focus is far less on the spectacular and dramatic air-to-air dogfights that defined Top Gun and far more about teaching U.S. pilots to drop very large bombs on very small ground targets.

But we’re told by a source close to the project that McQuarrie — who is friendly with Cruise — has found a way to incorporate Maverick, and what’s more, we hear that Cruise has agreed to take a smaller role in the film, provided it’s not too “obvious” a part, i.e. Lieutenant Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell as grizzled Top Gun flight instructor.

McQuarrie is in big demand these days, having impressed Twentieth Century Fox with a hot script for the Wolverine sequel. And to be sure, Paramount would no doubt like to see Top Gun become a franchise, too: The original film grossed $353 million worldwide, or roughly $699 million in today’s dollars.

But why the move to make a sequel now, all of a sudden? We’re told that a big part of the reason is the influence of David Ellison, the 27-year-old son of Oracle Corp. founder — and world’s sixth-richest man — Larry Ellison. Despite being only 3 years old when Top Gun first strafed theaters, Ellison clearly became a big fan of the film on VHS, and went on to become both an aerobatic pilot and instrument-rated commercial pilot before attending USC's film school and then launching his own production company, Skydance. His first production was the 2006 World War I drama Flyboys, in which he also starred. It bombed, but Ellison didn’t lose his taste for the movie business: Just this August, Ellison the Younger left his Skydance offices (located at Santa Monica Municipal Airport, where Ellison still keeps several small aircraft), swung by JPMorganChase, and raised $350 million to co-finance much of Paramount’s slate of films — the first of which will be … wait for it … Mission: Impossible 4, starring Tom Cruise.

Meanwhile, the Top Gun move also highlights an interesting development in the Bruckheimer orbit. The super-producer has long been tethered to Disney, though that notoriously frugal studio has been forcing him to reduce his gross participation on movies. (Though to be fair, outside of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Bruckheimer’s track record at Disney has not been stellar as of late, either.) This potential collaboration with his old home, Paramount, could be an interesting trial balloon to see if The Bruck can get a better deal outside Disney. Or it could simply be an effort to gain leverage and sweeten his deal at Disney. This is Hollywood, after all.

We’ll keep you updated as we hear more. In the meantime, kick the tires and light the fires!

Photo: Paramount Pictures