TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 17: Actress Kelly McGillis attends "Stake Land" Premiere during the 35th Toronto International Film Festival at Ryerson Theatre on September 17, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Getty Images)

Top Gun Star Kelly McGillis Said She Was “Too Old and Fat” to Be Asked Back for the Sequel

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It’s a fairly well-known fact that actresses of a certain age face trouble in Hollywood. The entertainment industry loves to sell a model of femininity that mostly centers on youthful women who look a certain way, when it comes to leading parts in mainstream films, and once a woman outgrows that mold, then she’s discarded and has to find different roles: the mother, the villainess, the comedic side character, etc.

While independent and mid-level films can feature strong roles for actresses of all ages and body types, mainstream pop films tend to only cast actresses who are in their twenties or thirties, who are slender, and who fit Western beauty ideals.

Kelly McGillis, who played Tom Cruise’s love interest in the original Top Gun, spoke about this, in a way, when asked if she was invited to return for the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, by Entertainment Tonight (as reported by Yahoo News). “Oh god no. They did not, nor do I think they would ever. 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.” The actress went on to say she wasn’t hurt by it, saying, “I’d much rather feel absolutely secure in my skin and who and what I am at my age, as opposed to placing a value on all that other stuff.”

It’s worth noting that both male leads, Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, are returning in some capacity. McGillis, at age 62, is only three years older than Kilmer, yet Kilmer was asked to return, and McGillis wasn’t even offered a cameo.

It’s also fun (see: disheartening) to point out that, sometimes, older actresses are asked to diet before returning for specific franchise roles. Carrie Fisher was asked to lose weight before returning for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a fact that breaks my heart whenever I think about it.

McGillis is right to say that the producers most likely didn’t approach her because she no longer fits a certain mold, and I’m glad she’s talking about how she feels better being secure in her own skin. The real issue is with producers and writers who don’t feel like older women can necessarily appear in blockbusters, even if it’s just for one scene. If they’re asked to lose weight like Fisher or ignored like McGillis, that’s a sign of disrespect and a lack of care for the fact that older women do exist in the real world, and therefore can exist on the screen.

As mentioned above, there are films that allow older actresses to be onscreen outside of tropes and boxes, but it would be nice to see a major blockbuster feature women who don’t all have the same body type or don’t fall into a specific age range. If Tom Cruise can do stunts well into his fifties, then an older woman can, as well. It’s as simple as that, and it would be nice to see that reflected in the blockbuster stories we consume.

(via Yahoo News, image: Arthur Mola/Getty Images)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.