May 24, 2022
Melinda Head

Top Gun Maverick: It’s Been a Long Time Coming

36 years, in fact

It has been a long time since aspiring actor-busboy, Tom Cruise Mapother, earned a paltry $75,000 for his breakthrough role in “Risky Business”, which launched his career in the same way that “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” made Matthew  Broderick a cult figure and “The Graduate” catapulted Dustin Hoffman into stardom.

We know that 59 year-old Tom Cruise is height-challenged, we know that he is a Scientologist, we know that he has had three failed marriages and we know that he has had a multitude of aesthetic procedures, including plastic surgery, even though he denies it.

What many might not know is that he is a shrewd businessman, who has not only been highly paid as an actor, but he also partnered for many years with his agent, Paula Wagner, in a film production business (Cruise/Wagner Productions) they formed together 11 years after Wagner first began representing the up-and-coming star.

Without a doubt, Mr. Cruise has Ms. Wagner to thank for his career, as it was Paula who insisted that Paul Brickman (in his directorial debut) audition 21 year-old Tom for the role of Joel Goodsen in “Risky Business”, beating out Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, John Cusack and Tom Hanks. Way back in 1983, “Risky Business” grossed more than $63 million against a $6.2 million budget: that’s a ten-fold ROI, not bad!

Paula Wagner, Tom Cruise’s former business partner, who put him on the map by insisting that he be auditioned for “Risky Business”

“People can create their own lives. I saw how my mother created hers … (she) rose to the occasion. She held 3 jobs. She said, “We’re going to get through this”.” (Tom Cruise)

Brickman admits that he “squandered a really good career” after the success of “Risky Business”, while Cruise’s 44 films have brought in $10+ billion at the box office globally.

In addition to his frequent role as producer, Cruise earns a significant upfront fee and commands a % of the box office gross. For “Top Gun: Maverick” Tom was paid an upfront fee of only $13 million, which will pale in comparison to his percent of the back-end and other lucrative financial dealings.

Globally, 4 of Cruise’s 5 highest grossing films stem from the Mission Impossible franchise:

  1. Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) – $787.2 million
  2. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) – $694.7 million
  3. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) – $688.8 million
  4. War of the Worlds (2005) – $606.8 million
  5. Mission Impossible II (2002) – $549.5 million

The original 1983 “Top Gun” was produced for only $15 million, and grossed $356 million. Paramount has $170 million invested in “Top Gun: Maverick”, which has not earned a penny in the 2 years since it was put on ice due to COVID.

Who isn’t interested in cool fighter jets? F-14 Tomcats used in the original “Top Guns” movie have been replaced with Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Here’s an interesting fighter pilot podcast to check out:

Part 01 | Part 02

I, for one, am also interested in seeing ”Iceman” Val Kilmer on screen in “Top Gun: Maverick” – a heroic effort by the now-voiceless actor who has been battling throat cancer, made possible with a recreated voice produced by London-based AI firm Sonantic. Kilmer’s children have made a very interesting documentary abut their father’s life-changing cancer journey – you can stream it on Amazon Prime. Are you wondering: did he ever smoke? The answer is: unfortunately, yes.

Another first, the “Top Gun” franchise finally has its first female fighter pilot: actor Monica Barbaro. It’s hard to believe that American women were only allowed to fly combat missions starting in 1993, yet, almost 30 years later, male fighter pilots still dominate the skies.

Ladies, here’s how you can take your rightful place in the skies:

Now the big question is: how will “Top Gun: Maverick” perform in theaters? Pre-release reviews are highly favorable; however, some members of the target group may not yet feel ready to sit in a closed space surrounded by strangers. The total box office take for all movies this year is still down 40% from 2019. The number for “Top Gun: Maverick” to beat is $803 million, the amount fans have paid to see “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” since its release on May 6th. What’s your bet?

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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