Why are the female leads of 'Top Gun' not in the upcoming sequel?

Meg Ryan attends The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Opening Gala at The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California
Photo credit Getty Images

When the long-awaited sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” arrives in theaters in late May, many fans may wonder why they don’t see either of the two female leads from the original 1986 hit movie.

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The fact is, as director Joseph Kosinski admits in a new interview, neither actress was ever even considered for the sequel. "Those weren't stories that we were throwing around," said Kosinski.

That may sound crass, but the director had his creative reasons to leave those stars out of "Top Gun: Maverick,” as he told Insider.

"I didn't want every storyline to always be looking backwards," Kosinski explained. "It was important to introduce some new characters."

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And indeed they do, but don’t worry, some of the original faves will be around.

Despite his recent health troubles, Val Kilmer returns as "Iceman" Kazansky. And of course Tom Cruise will be back as the title character, Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, who in part of the plot will be training the son of his friend Goose, who died in the original.

The new cast will also include Miles Teller – as Goose’s son, “Rooster” Bradshaw – plus Glen Powell, Jay Ellis, and Monica Barbaro.

While McGillis, as Maverick’s love interest in the first film, and Ryan, Goose’s wife, won’t return, a minor love interest in the original will play a major role in the new one.

Jennifer Connelly, 51, will star as Penny Benjamin, one of Maverick’s earlier flings brought back into his life. She was only mentioned in passing in the original as “the Admiral's daughter.” Now, she’s a single mother who owns a bar near the flight school where Maverick teaches.

No word from Ryan, 60, about the casting snub. As for McGillis – who now lives in North Carolina teaching acting – the 64-year old seems perfectly happy with the decision. As she put it bluntly in a 2019 interview, "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."

As reported when the first trailer for the sequel appeared in 2019, McGillis was asked if she’d even be involved with any promotion of the film.

"You know what, I don't know how to answer that because one, it hasn't happened," McGillis answered. “Two, if and when it did happen, I would have to assess where I am, what I'm doing, what's going on ... I can't project what I would or wouldn't do in the future. I have no idea because I don't know where I'll be."

And what about being replaced as the love interest by Connelly? McGillis stated that she is “happy for her."

"Top Gun: Maverick" lands in theaters on May 27, 2022.

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