The original Top Gun from 1986 remains memorable not just for its thrilling depiction of aerial combat and its effective propaganda for the American armed forces. It’s also a great soundtrack movie, filled with hits such as “Highway to the Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin, and, of course, Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” as performed by Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards. So when producer and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie was crafting the sequel Top Gun: Maverick, he knew he had to include some great songs.
McQuarrie is a talented director who knows his way around an effective sequence, as demonstrated in his movies Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible – Fallout. But when it comes to integrating pop music and movies, only Martin Scorsese does it better than Edgar Wright.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Wright said he received a “dream text” from McQuarrie, asking, “Hey, we need a new song for the bar scene in Top Gun: Maverick. What can you think of that’s like …?” Wright said he wasted no time, answering “Oh, give me 45 minutes!” to come up with some ideas. McQuarrie took Wright’s suggestion to include the Foghat blues jam “Slow Ride,” but that was only one of the song ideas the latter provided. “I think I still have that playlist on Spotify,” Wright revealed. “it was ‘Maverick Bar’.”
Like his fellow director James Gunn, Wright has become a master of following Scorsese’s use of pop music, not to simply energize a scene or (worse) do the heavy lifting for the story, but to add layers of complexity to a scene. Wright’s breakout Shaun of the Dead, starring future Mission Impossible actor Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, featured memorable moments set to “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen and “Ghost Town” by the Specials. More recently, Wright opened Last Night in Soho with Thomasin McKenzie dancing to Peter and Gordon’s “World Without Love” and “Wade in the Water” by the Graham Bond Organisation accompanies a standout sequence featuring Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith.
While these talents make Wright an in-demand advisor for other filmmakers, he’s been known to bend the ear of a fellow director or two. “On Last Night in Soho, I showed [Mad Max: Fury Road director] George Miller something, and he had such a tiny, tiny note that was so great,” Wright told The Hollywood Reporter. Of course, Wright accepted the suggestion because “nobody can say no to an action note from George Miller.”
Of course, not every bit of advice directors give one another is so easy to take. Wright previously told McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton that Mission Impossible – Fallout needed to trim 15 minutes. “They hated me for that,” Wright recalled, but they still took his advice. And with the exception of adding “Slow Ride” to the movie, Wright had no other notes for McQuarrie or director Joseph Kosinski on Maverick. As it only appears in one scene, it’s hard to argue that Foghat is the reason for the movie’s stellar box office run. But it certainly helps establish the movie’s connection to its fan-favorite predecessor.