Tom Cruise Landed His Top Gun Role With A Little Help From Ridley Scott

When Tom Cruise's Joel Goodsen danced across a wooden floor in his underwear as a teenage pimp in "Risky Business," he became an '80s heartthrob. (For some reason, people then were into that kind of thing!) Early in his career, Cruise could have remained as a teen-mag pinup type. Instead, he became a superstar badass known for films like the "Mission Impossible" franchise. Shortly after "Risky Business," Cruise played a young, ambitious football star in a nowhere town in "All the Right Moves." He then portrayed Jack, the heroic savior of damsels in distress in "Legend."

Ridley Scott's fantastical tale of good vs. evil was widely panned by critics. Over the years, it has become a cult-classic hit. Putting aside the possible cinematic shortcomings of "Legend," it surprisingly led to the emergence of one of America's most successful action stars and most beloved action films of all time.

It had things I love: movies and aviation.

Back in 1983, Tom Cruise was in London filming "Legend" with Scott. As the actor revealed on the 30th anniversary digital HD rerelease of Top Gun, he was dedicated to the task at hand:

"I remember I didn't address 'Top Gun' during that time period, I was focused on shooting Legend... In 1984, Ridley said, 'You gotta meet my brother.' He's going to direct this film 'Top Gun.' It had things I love: movies and aviation."

After wrapping "Legend," Cruise focused on "Top Gun." He spoke about the life-changing role with The Tribune:

"All I ever wanted to be was a pilot or an actor, so 'Top Gun' was a huge moment in so many respects, including my passion for aviation. It was life-changing for me."

Today, the actor is known for dedicating himself to every role he takes — which might be a habit he picked up from "Top Gun" director Tony Scott. According to Men's Journal, Scott wanted the movie to be realistic, so Cruise prepared for the role of Maverick by immersing himself in Navy life. Cruise and his co-star Kelly McGillis shadowed real Navy pilots and instructors in San Diego to understand the reality of the job (via Time Magazine). The research definitely paid off.

Over 30 years later, at 60 years old, the actor continues to successfully land his action roles. The older Cruise puts his younger self to shame, as he now performs his own stunts and pilots navy jets. When 2022's "Top Gun: Maverick"  debuted, it earned a staggering $1 billion at the global box office. Cruise's leading man status seems to be more appreciated than ever.