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Statuesque Kelly McGillis made herself small around Tom Cruise

Gene Triplett Published: February 8, 2013


His hot shot jet pilot character may have soared thousands of feet in the air onscreen, but in reality Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun” leading lady towered over him on the ground.

Kelly McGillis
Kelly McGillis

Kelly McGillis — who played “Charlie,” the beautiful civilian flight instructor opposite Cruise’s cocky but talented Navy flyer nicknamed “Maverick” — stood a good three inches taller than her male co-star.

Cruise is reportedly 5 feet, 7 inches tall. McGillis says she stands at 5 feet, 10 inches in her stocking feet. And that’s how she had to play her character in “Top Gun.”

“Well first off, Tom and (director) Tony (Scott) and I really weren’t bothered by the height difference, but apparently Paramount was, so I acted the whole time in my stocking feet,” McGillis said in a phone interview Monday from her home in Edneyville, N.C.

“And when I see the film now I see myself trying to shrink, you know? I see myself as the film goes on trying to reduce myself.”

A remastered IMAX 3D version of the 1986 action-drama opens in theaters nationwide Friday for a six-day engagement, and is set for release as a Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray combo package on Feb. 19.

“It doesn’t seem that long,” said McGillis, 55, who was just shy of 30 when “Top Gun” was originally released.

The film also starred Val Kilmer as “Iceman,” Anthony Edwards as “Goose,” Tom Skerritt as “Viper,” Barry Tubb as “Wolfman” and Meg Ryan as Carole. Most of the locations were in and around the San Diego area and its Naval Training Center.

“The film was just a really enjoyable experience,” McGillis said. “I mean working with everybody was really wonderful. All of us hung out together after hours, except for Val and Tom. They lived in a different place. But all of the rest of us, we lived in kind of the same hotel complex, and we all hung out and went to the beach together, went to dinner, you know, it was nice. There was quite a lot of camaraderie on that set, which was nice.”

And McGillis had nothing but praise for her leading man, even though he didn’t hang out with everyone else at the beach.

“He is such a nice guy and he’s very kind and generous and respectful,” McGillis said. “It was just fun. It was really fun working with Tom. I enjoyed it a lot.”

And, she added, “There’ve been a lot of men that I’ve worked with that I don’t wear shoes with.”