David Cronenberg Could Have Directed Top Gun (Yes, Really)


As absurd as it might seem, body horror legend David Cronenberg was originally lined up to direct the Tom Cruise vehicle Top Gun. It is hard to imagine Top Gun being directed by anyone other than Tony Scott, whose vision wound up defining ’80s blockbuster cinema with his distinct blue and orange visual palette, dynamic camerawork, and propulsive, immersive action sequences.

Even the massively successful Top Gun: Maverick was nostalgic for the late, great Tony Scott’s signature style. The sequel opened with a shot-for-shot recreation of the original Top Gun’s opening sequence and earned high praise from no less than Quentin Tarantino, who pointedly noted that Top Gun: Maverick was as close as viewers would get to “one last Tony Scott movie.” Despite how much Scott’s vision informed Top Gun, however, the director was not the studio’s first choice for the project.


Related: Tarantino Is Right About Top Gun: Maverick

Of all people, horror auteur David Cronenberg was offered the chance to direct Top Gun shortly after he was also considered for Return of the Jedi. The director turned down Top Gun for a very fair reason, stating that he simply wasn’t invested in the story. While the original Top Gun’s box office success would seem to make this a regrettable, short-sighted decision, the fact that Cronenberg never transitioned into directing blockbusters means that he was likely right to avoid the project. To this day, Cronenberg’s work tends to veer more toward modest, dark dramas and ambitiously weird sci-fi horror, neither of which pair well with the rock-scored, fast-paced thrills of the Top Gun franchise.

David Cronenberg’s Reason For Rejecting Top Gun

Per David Cronenberg, ”Top Gun was about American military stuff. It’s true that I like machines, I like cars, I like airplanes. But it just wasn’t something I was interested in to direct. Directing takes at least two years of your life. If you watch it, it takes two hours. So that’s the difference.” While Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski had an entire pitch for the sequel ready seven years before filming began, Cronenberg wasn’t even interested enough to meet with producers. It is just as well since the director’s decision to turn down the project opened the door for the then-less famous Tony Scott to get the offer.

While Cronenberg spent the ’80s further developing his unique brand of body horror with critical hits like Dead Ringers and The Fly, Scott parlayed Top Gun’s success into a career as a Hollywood hit-maker. He directed The Last Boy Scout, Crimson Tide, and numerous other hits in the years that followed, proving he was the perfect choice for Top Gun. However, before he got the job, another iconic horror director, John Carpenter, also turned down Top Gun due to the movie’s unrealistic depictions of war. Fortunately for Scott, Top Gun’s lack of realism didn’t put the director off the future hit when he signed on to direct.

Next:How Top Gun Impacted Navy Recruiting In Real Life


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