Recently, America marked Top Gun Day, but really, isn’t everyday Top Gun Day? Rick Rossovich, whose best-of-the-best credits include The Terminator, Roxanne and an early stint on the TV series E.R., portrayed Slider, wingman to Val Kilmer’s Iceman. He touched down recently to share with Redbox his memories of being swept up in director Tony Scott’s testosterone-fueled ‘80s-defining action-classic. In advance of the long-awaited sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, due out in Christmas, satisfy your need for speed by renting Paramount Home Entertainment’s Top Gun on DVD at the Box. You can also rent it or buy it On Demand.
Redbox: To quote a line from the movie, was Top Gun your dream shot?
Rick Rossovich: Yes, in retrospect, it has all the elements of a dream ticket for any young actor trying to break out and have little moments to shine.
RB: How did the project come to you?
RR: If you look back at that time, there were so many great movies being made for young guys: Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Aliens. Every young actor in town was fighting for roles. I had a bit of an edge because I had made a film for Paramount four years earlier, The Lords of Discipline. I did the movie with Franc Roddam, who was boyhood friends with Tony and Ridley Scott. I was originally cast for the role of Cougar, but then at the first table reading, they said they wanted to move me into the Slider role and John Stockwell would go on to play Cougar, which was a good role but it didn’t have the real estate that Slider had. I can’t tell you what that’s like when out of nowhere you land a really nice role.
RB: You worked with Tom Cruise on Losin’ It (about teenage buds in the 1950s who head to Tijuana to lose their virginity). When you were reunited on Top Gun, did you share Shelley Long memories?
RR: Isn’t that funny? That’s probably Tom’s least successful movie. It was directed by Curtis Hanson, who directed L.A. Confidential and won the Academy Award. I played this crummy Marine the guys kept coming across. John Stockwell, who I switched roles with in Top Gun, was also in that movie. He was one of the teenagers. It was my first film, a little independent movie. We were all just trying to grab on to whatever we could. That was all in the rear view mirror (by the time of Top Gun). Tom had had Risky Business. His rocket was lit. I couldn’t have been more pleased for him. I’m four years older than the rest of the group. I was married. I had a house.
RB: What do you remember about your first days on the set of Top Gun?
RR: There was a lot of puffery and peacockery; everyone trying to top the other guy and have the edge. That was the mantra from the pilots as well. All those guys are just tops in their class, tops in their field. As actors you have to wear that attitude around the clock.
RB: Every actor who costars with Tom Cruise is asked to relate a Tom Cruise story. But I’d like to ask you what’s your favorite Rick Rossovich story from making Top Gun?
RR: I had been driving an old, crummy truck. I got myself a new Ford pickup as any stupid actor will do; the first thing they do is go out and buy a car. Literally the day before I flew in the jet for the first time, I managed to have an accident in San Diego in the truck. A wheel had come off a delivery van and created a chain reaction accident. My wife was in the passenger seat. We totaled this brand-new truck. I had to lift her out of the wreckage. She was okay, but she had a bit of a back injury. The next day, I’m strapped into this F-14. She’s on the runway in an open jeep and there I am hurtling 150 miles straight out to sea. I disappeared so fast, she said. I spent that day in the jet for about two hours. I had a camera in the cockpit and I could squeeze off seconds of film now and again. We had to train to certify to sit in the back seat. That’s the kind of memory that sticks in your head.
RB: You were in The Terminator, which was an unexpected hit. But Top Gun and E.R. were nothing less than phenomenons. What was it like to be swept up in that?
RR: They were 10 years apart. Top Gun earned $350 million at the box office. It beat out some really big movies. We had informal bets on all the young guys who were going to land on their feet. Ten years later, the phenomenon with E.R. was like a whole other world. Everyone was glued to that series because, like Top Gun, it was so different and new.
RB: How did you stay grounded?
RR: I’ve been married for 37 years. I have the most incredible partner and I love being with my children. A lot of actors don’t have that comfort zone. They have to look for shelter in another way and that can lead to bad habits. I never picked those up. It was always about looking for the next job. I had a career for about 25 years and then I put the brakes on it. I lived in Ojai, a great little town, and I didn’t want to drive to Los Angeles to meet or audition. I wanted to be with my kids. I was living in Sweden half the year, which I still do. It took some of the pressure off of just making Hollywood being the end-all be-all. That will be my saving grace going into my last chapter.
RB: As an actor who was in Top Gun and E.R., which does your wife respond to most: when you talk to her in pilot-speak or in doctor-speak?
RR: She probably would go more for my character from Roxanne. She likes to laugh. I give her that goofy grin, that gets to her a lot faster.
RB: For all the classics you’ve been associated with, do you get lines quoted back to you in public?
RR: It’s crazy. From Terminator, it’s “Don’t make me bust you up, man.” From Roxanne it’s “Because I was afraid of worms`, Roxanne.” From Top Gun, it’s “You stink.” If you Google those, my picture will jump up and I have a lot more hair, but I’m still there.
RB: You’ve said that there shouldn’t be a Top Gun sequel, but 34 years later, here we are.
RR: I said that for years, but I had a caveat: If Tom’s in charge, you won’t be disappointed. I have to take my hat off to him. He’s waited a long time for this. Here’s a guy who could do anything. I just read recently he’s going to go up in a rocket with Elon Musk. With Tom behind it, we’ll all be ready to unwrap that present if it comes out at Christmas. I’m looking forward to it.