Tom Cruise returns to star in Top Gun: Maverick in May of 2022, but most of the original movie cast won’t be back – here is every character not returning after Top Gun. The long-awaited Top Gun sequel is among the most anticipated movies of 2022. The original 1986 movie is a classic, and Cruise’s role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell remains one of his most recognizable.
When Top Gun: Maverick finally returns audiences and Cruise to the familiar world of air combat, it will do so with an almost entirely new cast of characters. Cruise’s newest co-stars include well-known Hollywood names like Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, and Jennifer Connelly, but Top Gun 2 also consists of fresher faces. The most significant addition to the cast is Miles Teller, as he’ll play Bradley’ Rooster’ Bradshaw, the son of Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards). The other new pilots Maverick will work with include Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Danny Ramirez, and Manny Jacinto.
The return of Goose’s son is a rarity in terms of how Top Gun: Maverick is handling using characters from the past. Other than Rooster and Maverick, the only person from the first movie to return is Iceman. Val Kilmer is confirmed to play Tom Kazansky once more, and there are a variety of theories about the exact role he will play in the sequel. Some of the more popular theories suggest that Iceman will die in Top Gun 2. Even though Goose’s son and Iceman are in Top Gun: Maverick, that is where the list of characters returning from the original film ends. This means that several characters from Top Gun won’t be making an appearance – or at least have not been revealed to do so. Here is every character who will not return in Top Gun: Maverick.
Kelly McGillis is not returning as Charlotte Blackwood in Top Gun: Maverick. As the female lead of the original film, Charlie played a significant role in the movie and Maverick’s life. She struck a romance with the hotshot pilot shortly after another stint of contract work with the TOPGUN program. Even though Top Gun concluded with Charlotte and Maverick’s relationship in a good place, their love didn’t last. Top Gun 2 is making Connelly’s character Maverick’s new love interest. Charlotte’s absence from the sequel is surprising, but McGillis has confirmed she was never asked to return anyway.
Mike ‘Viper’ Metcalf
Tom Skerritt is not confirmed to return as Mike ‘Viper’ Metcalf in Top Gun 2. Metcalf has a history with Maverick’s family as he flew alongside Duke Pitchell during the Vietnam War. After his time as a pilot, Metcalf became an instructor at TOPGUN. He has a close relationship with Maverick as a result. After the TOPGUN graduation ceremony, Metcalf offers to fly with Maverick in the film’s final sequence if he does not receive a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO). Skerritt has teased that Viper’s Top Gun 2 return is possible, but this would likely only be in a cameo capacity if it even happens.
Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly
Michael Ironside will not return in Top Gun: Maverick as Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly. Jester is a former pilot for the US Navy and served as another instructor at TOPGUN during the events of the first movie. He is still alive at the end of the film, but it appears he has moved on from the program by the time Top Gun 2 rolls around. Ironside confirmed he isn’t returning for Top Gun: Maverick due to an ongoing feud with producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Some of the new cast members have positions of power at TOPGUN now, so a reference about what happened to Jester could be made.
Bill ‘Cougar’ Cortell
Maverick’s original wingman is not expected to return in Top Gun: Maverick. Portrayed by John Stockwell, Bill ‘Cougar’ Cortell was a fellow pilot in Top Gun who had a panic attack during a flight with Cruise’s character. Although Pete attempted to coach Bill through the moment, the experience was too much for him to handle. He resigned from the Navy after the incident despite him being part of the best flight duo in the squadron and on his way to being accepted into TOPGUN. Since he left the piloting world behind several decades ago, Bill’s absence from Top Gun: Maverick won’t be too surprising.
Sam ‘Merlin’ Wells
Top Gun: Maverick is not scheduled to include the return of Tim Robbins as Sam ‘Merlin’ Wells. He was Cougar’s RIO prior to him resigning, leading Merlin to join Maverick for Top Gun’s final jet fighter sequence. Merlin was assigned to be Maverick’s RIO after he graduated from TOPGUN. Together, Merlin and Maverick took down three of the six MIG-28s and proved to be a formidable pairing. There hasn’t been any sign that Robbins is involved with the sequel, which would mean Merlin and Maverick won’t be flying together again.
Meg Ryan is not returning in Top Gun: Maverick as Carole Bradshaw. Right before she became a rom-com star with films like Sleepless in Seattle, Ryan appeared in the original Top Gun as Goose’s wife and the mother of Rooster. With her son following in his father’s footsteps as a pilot, it is surprising Carole won’t make an appearance of some magnitude. She’s the cast member from the original film that has the strongest reason to appear. Since she has taken a step back from acting, this could be why Meg Ryan won’t appear in Top Gun 2. Of course, perhaps a surprise cameo from her has remained under wraps.
Rick ‘Hollywood’ Neven
Whip Hubley will not return as Rick ‘Hollywood’ Neven in Top Gun: Maverick. Neven was a fellow graduate of the TOPGUN program and flew alongside Maverick in the final air fight. His F-14 was shot down during the engagement, but he did not die. Neven was rescued by helicopter and greeted Maverick and other pilots who returned safely at the end.
Ron ‘Slider’ Kerner
Top Gun: Maverick will feature the return of Iceman, but his partner Ron ‘Slider’ Kerner is not confirmed to appear. Slider served as Iceman’s RIO in Top Gun, with Rick Rossovich bringing his cocky persona to the screen. He remained Iceman’s flight partner through the film, and Rossovich has teased reprising the role in the sequel. Slider could return in Top Gun 2 as part of Iceman’s storyline, but he also could be left out.
Leonard ‘Wolfman’ Wolfe
Without Hollywood, the return of Barry Tubb as Leonard ‘Wolfman’ Wolfe in Top Gun: Maverick is also unexpected. Wolfe was Hollywood’s RIO during Top Gun, resulting in him also being shot down and rescued in the third act. There is no sign that Tubb is involved with the sequel, so Wolfman and Hollywood may have hung up their wings together.
Why So Few Original Top Gun Cast Members Are Returning For Maverick
Cameo appearances are always possible, but Top Gun: Maverick has very few returning characters relative to how many names and faces there are in the original. It’s not uncommon at all for reboots to inject a healthy dose of new blood into the cast, but in Top Gun: Maverick’s case, it seems to be happening at the expense of the older generation of fighter pilots. There’s a good reason why Top Gun’s original cast return rate is so low, though. The central appeal of the Top Gun franchise is how it seamlessly merges the brazenness of youth, sex appeal, and fighter jet action. Of course, people in their late 50s can still fly planes, but when it comes to youth and sex appeal, a cast from 36 years ago wouldn’t quite be the ticket. It’s therefore going to fall mainly on Top Gun: Maverick’s new generation to carry this aspect of the franchise, which doesn’t leave much room for the original actors. Aside from this, many of those actors may have moved on, lost interest, or simply not have been asked back for the sequel.