As absurd as it may seem, body horror legend David Cronenberg originally lined up to direct the Tom Cruise vehicle Top Gun. It’s hard to imagine Top Gun directed by someone other than Tony Scott, whose vision ultimately defined 80s blockbuster cinema with its clear blue and orange visual palette, dynamic camerawork and propulsive, immersive action sequences.
Even the hugely successful Top Gun: Maverick was nostalgic for the signature style of the late, great Tony Scott. The sequel started with a shot-by-shot recreation of the original Top Gunopening scene and received high praise from none other 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 was aware Top Gunhowever, the director was not the studio’s first choice for the project.
Of all people, horror author David Cronenberg got the chance to direct Top Gun shortly after he also became eligible for Return of the Jedi. The director declined Top Gun for a very reasonable reason, stating that he just wasn’t invested in the story. While the original Top GunThe box office success seems to make this a regrettable, short-sighted decision. The fact that Cronenberg never made the switch to directing blockbusters means he was probably right to avoid the project. To this day, Cronenberg’s work tends more towards modest, dark dramas and ambitiously weird sci-fi horror, neither of which fits well with the rock-scored, fast-paced suspense of the Top Gun franchisee.
David Cronenberg’s reason for rejecting Top Gun
According to 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 directing. Directing takes at least two years of your life. If you look at it, it takes two hours. So that’s the difference.” While Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski had an entire pitch ready for the sequel seven years before filming began, Cronenberg wasn’t even interested enough to meet producers. It’s just as well because the director’s decision to turn down the project opened the door for then-lesser-known Tony Scott to get the offer.
While Cronenberg spent the ’80s developing his unique brand of body horror with critical hits like Dead Ringers and The flyScott parlayed Top Gunsuccess in a career as a Hollywood hitmaker. He directed The Last Boy Scout, Crimson Tideand numerous other hits in the years that followed, proving it to be the perfect choice for Top Gun. But before he got the job, another iconic horror director, John Carpenter, also turned down Top Gun because of the unrealistic depictions of war in the film. Lucky for Scott, Top GunThe lack of realism did not deter the director from the future hit when he signed up to direct.
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