May 1986 (October in the UK)
Top Gun is released. Tony Scott directs. The unbeatable Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer produce. Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer and Kelly McGillis star, with support from Tom Skerritt, Anthony Edwards, Michael Ironside, Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan. The story - about rival macho pilots pitted against each other in the titular competition - is a lot of hoary old clichés, but Scott's aerial action sequences are breathtaking, and everyone looks hot in uniform. A generation is indelibly imprinted with Kenny Loggins tunes and quotes about feeling the need for speed.
Serious talk about a sequel begins to creep onto the interwebs. Christopher McQuarrie puts together a pitch for Cruise, Scott and Bruckheimer, reportedly involving a new set of characters, but leaving space for Tom Cruise's Maverick to show up. There is no official announcement.
Very shortly afterwards, Tony Scott confirms he’s involved and is doing the research. He says Top Gun 2 will not be "a remake or a reinvention", but will examine the quantum developments in military tech since the first film, and deal with "the end of the era of the fighter pilots". His interest has been piqued by a chance encounter on - what else? - a plane. Heading home from Las Vegas, Scott found himself sitting next to a hung-over computer geek who turned out to be a military test pilot. "These kids sit in a trailer in Nevada," Scott marvels, "and if we ever went to war, these guys would actually be flying the drones: the unmanned aircraft. They operate them like they're playing videogames, and then they party all night! Their world fascinated me because it's so different from what it was originally."
X-Men: First Class screenwriters Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz are hired to come up with a script.
The Town’s Peter Craig is writing a new screenplay. Miller and Stentz apparently never wrote anything after all. Cruise is once again confirmed to be developing the film alongside Scott. David Ellison also becomes involved as a producer, through his Skydance production company.
Tony Scott tragically takes his own life on the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles. In the aftermath, Top Gun 2 is widely believed to have been abandoned.
The original Top Gun is re-released in IMAX 3D. It makes just shy of $2m from 300 theatres in its single weekend back on screens.
Super-producer Bruckheimer sets up a new deal at his old studio home Paramount, having spent the preceding 20 years at Disney. Sequels to Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop – both Paramount properties - are the first things on the agenda.
Bruckheimer starts talking about Top Gun 2 again. “We've been trying to get that movie made for 30 years, and I think we're getting closer and closer,” he tells The Huffington Post. “Don Simpson and I tried to develop something; we didn't succeed. Tom Cruise took over, and he tried to develop something, and he didn't succeed. Now we’re back at it. The concept is, basically, are the pilots obsolete because of drones? Cruise is going to show them that they're not obsolete. They're here to stay. It's just getting to the starting place. Fortunately for Tom, he's very busy, so you have to find a slot he can fit into and get a budget that Paramount feels they can make the picture."
Yet another new screenwriter. This time it’s Justin Marks, who only has Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun Lee to his name, but has garnered attention for his unmade thriller War Dogs and his script for Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, which, at this point, is just getting underway (it’ll be out on April 15, 2016).
Ellison gives an update. "Justin Marks is writing the screenplay right now. He has a phenomenal take to really update that world for what fighter pilots in the Navy have turned into today,” he tells USA Today. “It's not a world that exists to the same degree when the original movie came out. This world has not been explored. Today it's very much drone technology, and fifth generation fighters are really what the United States Navy is calling the last man-made fighter that we're actually going to produce. So it's really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today."
Val “Iceman” Kilmer causes a social media storm by saying he’s been “offered” Top Gun 2 by Bruckheimer and Cruise. “Not often you get to say ‘yes’ without reading the script,” he enthuses. “Jerry Bruckheimer and Tom Cruise!!! ‘Yes.’ We will all miss Tony Scott - one of the kindest gentlemen I've ever met in the film biz - but let's fire up some fighter jets again!!!” He calms down a bit shortly afterwards, admitting that he "jumped the gun" and that nothing is confirmed yet. “Being offered a role is very different from doing a role,” he clarifies. “It’s an innocent mistake. It was just such a wonderful phone call with my agent.”
Bruckheimer tweets that he’s spent a weekend with Cruise "discussing a little Top Gun 2"…