The Secret Jewish History Of ‘Top Gun’

Over the past 30 years, quite a few adrenaline-fueled drivers have uttered the famous line from “Top Gun:” “I feel the need…the need for speed.” A substantial percentage of them were likely pulled over shortly after making the proclamation, but when Tom Cruise takes once more to the air as Navy pilot “Maverick” Mitchell, there will be no police for him to worry about — only the ground below, and fellow top gunners to dodge.

Yes, Tom Cruise recently confirmed plans to film a sequel to the 1986 action classic, with filming to begin “probably in the next year.”

“Top Gun” might never have been a classic, though, were it not for Israeli journalist Ehud Yonay, whose article “Top Guns” in the May 1983 issue of the now-defunct California Magazine was the primary inspiration for the film. (A different California Magazine now exists.)

In the article, Yonay profiled actual Navy pilots training at the Top Gun school at Miramar in San Diego. The piece was accompanied by aerial photos taken by Top Gun pilots.

After the success of the film adaptation, Yonay looked to write a sequel to his article, but according to his wife, somebody told him, “you know the best aviation story in the whole world is in your back yard.”

Returning to Israel, in 1993 Yonay published “No Margin For Error: The Making of the Israeli Air Force,” which detailed the history of the Israeli Air Force. Yonay later settled in the Galilee, running an olive farm with his wife until passing away in 2012.

Though Yonay’s spirit will be missed, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who first adapted the original story from his fellow tribesman, will carry the Jewish torch on set in the next installation of the testosterone-heavy epic.

There’s no word yet on whether the Righteous Brothers’ 1964 hit, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’” which was co-written by Phil Spector and featured in “Top Gun,” will make an appearance in the sequel. However, considering that in the 30 years since the movie’s release Spector has committed murder and developed a bizarre rat-fro, the famed music producer might be one part of the story best lost to the annals of secret Jewish history.

Steven Davidson is an editorial fellow at The Forward. Contact him at davidson@forward.com or on Twitter, @sdavidson169

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The Secret Jewish History Of ‘Top Gun’

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