Why Kelly McGillis Didn't Return For Top Gun: Maverick

by : Cameron Frew on :
Why Kelly McGillis Didn't Return For Top Gun: Maverick
Why Kelly McGillis Didn't Return For Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures)

She took Tom Cruise's breath away in 1986. However, Kelly McGillis hasn't returned for Top Gun: Maverick.

In Tony Scott's original blockbuster, McGillis played Charlie, a civilian Top Gun instructor and astrophysicist who falls in love with Cruise's Maverick while trying to find out more about his 'inverted' encounter with a MiG. In the end, she hadn't lost that loving feeling.

The movie ends with Maverick returning to Top Gun and reuniting with Charlie. It seemed like they were going to live happily ever after, but McGillis is almost nowhere to be seen (nor is she mentioned) in Top Gun: Maverick.



The long-awaited sequel sees Maverick, still a Captain after all these years, return to Top Gun once more to teach the crème de la crème of Navy pilots how to fly like they've never flown before.

Maverick also reunites with Penny (Jennifer Connelly), the 'admiral's daughter' mentioned off-hand by Meg Ryan's Carole (who also hasn't returned) in the first movie. Both Charlie and Carole are seen in a brief flashback, but that's it.

In an interview with Insider, director Joseph Kosinski confirmed both characters were never going to be in the sequel.

Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan haven't returned. Credit: Paramount Pictures
Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan haven't returned. Credit: Paramount Pictures

He said: "Those weren’t stories that we were throwing around. I didn’t want every storyline to always be looking backwards. It was important to introduce some new characters.

"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."

Back in 2019, McGillis also spoke to Entertainment Tonight about not wanting to return for the sequel.

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She said: "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."

Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. Credit: Alamy
Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. Credit: Alamy

One actor who has reprised his role is Val Kilmer, returning as Maverick's frenemy-turned-wingman Iceman. In the sequel, he's a high-ranking who orders Maverick's return to Top Gun.


Kilmer lost his voice due to throat cancer. However, this didn't change anything for Cruise, who 'rallied hard' for him to be part of the movie.

At CinemaCon, producer Jerry Bruckheimer said: "Obviously, he’s compromised, but still an amazing actor, an amazing individual and we’re so thrilled to bring him back in this way.

"Tom was so gracious; Tom actually said, ‘I’m not making this movie unless Val’s in it.’ So that was gracious of Tom."

Top Gun: Maverick flies into cinemas on 27 May.


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Cameron Frew

Entertainment Editor at UNILAD. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the best film ever made, and Warrior is better than Rocky. That's all you need to know.

Topics: Film & TV, Film and TV, Entertainment