Nearly 25 years after the movie first appeared in cinemas, the Top Gun phenomenon is still going strong. In fact, a new videogame based on the film is arriving in the PSN Store this very day.
There are many reasons for Top Gun's enduring popularity. There's the amazing soundtrack, the amazing dogfights and the amazing homoerotic subtext, for starters. And then there's the script, with its authentic feel and brilliant one-liners.
Jack Epps Jr. is the man who wrote that script. He's also been working on dialogue for the new Top Gun game, which gave us an excuse to ask him a few questions. Read on to find out why he thinks the game will be good, where he got all those lines from and whether he thinks Zac Efron would make a good Maverick.
Eurogamer: What's your involvement with the new Top Gun game?
Jack Epps Jr.: Part of it was holding true to the feeling of the original game, a lot of the narrative and characters. And to bring in some new elements and some new storytelling. So my involvement was really to add that narrative and make sure that it's Top Gun.
Eurogamer: A lot of games based on movies are rubbish. Why do you think that is? What will set the Top Gun game apart?
Jack Epps Jr.: This game plays really solid. Whether you buy into the narrative or not, you're going to like to play.
The focus from the very beginning was, 'Let's make a great game, let's make something people will really want to play.' It's not reliant on the movie, it's just a great design and great visuals.
We do have this narrative people are very familiar with, and there's a sense that you're now deeper into the world. That's the exciting part of it.
Eurogamer: How closely does the story of the game follow the story of the movie?
Jack Epps Jr.: The game follows it with regard to the big arcs, but we get to explore further. At the end of the movie we're in the Indian Ocean for the final sequence. In the game we're there for five or six missions, so we get to have a lot more time there with Maverick and Ice Man.
Eurogamer: Can you change the narrative? Is there a point in the game where you get to save Goose?
Jack Epps Jr.: No comment...
Eurogamer: Why do you think Top Gun remains so memorable and so popular? Presumably you'd say because of the script...
Jack Epps Jr.: That's the ten million-dollar question. Really, movies like this happen by accident. Seriously. It's just got to be the right director, the right producer, the right actors, the right writers, the right studio, the right timing...
The movie just seemed to hit a chord. Everybody set it up right. It's just fun, you can relate to the people and you want to be them. I think that's the thing. You want to be in the movie and to be part of it.
That's what we've hopefully done with the game - we've put you in the movie and you get to be Maverick.
Eurogamer: I always wanted to be Kelly McGillis actually. Can you be Kelly McGillis?
Jack Epps Jr.: Haha! Let's see, can you be Kelly McGillis...
Eurogamer: I asked our readers if they have any questions for you via Twitter. One of them said, 'Kelly McGillis: Hot or Not?'
Jack Epps Jr.: Hot or not? In the movie she's hot, yes.
Eurogamer: She's super-hot!
Jack Epps Jr.: Yes.
Eurogamer: The script does feature some iconic lines. How long did it take you to come up with, 'Your ego's writing cheques your body can't cash'?
Jack Epps Jr.: One of the reasons Top Gun's stayed around so long is because we worked with a lot of pilots. Pete Pettigrew, who was the technical advisor, was a fighter pilot and later an admiral, and there were a lot of different people like that.
So a lot of these lines came from a lot of different sources. These are things people say. The movie is based on true stories, and everything which happens in the movie actually happened to someone.
Eurogamer: So are you saying a real life person actually said, 'Your ego is writing cheques your body can't cash'?
Jack Epps Jr.: Exactly.
Eurogamer: That is awesome.
Jack Epps Jr.: That military jargon, the stuff that comes out, you're going, 'OK, that's great, let's pull that in, we'll find a place for it.' Then you'll be writing at three in the morning and something will just pop up.
Part of being a writer is, you've got to get into this mindset. You've got to be the character. It's a kind of schizophrenia - you think and act and feel the character, and the lines come out. You can't force it.
Eurogamer: Reader @mrjfirth asks: "When you wrote the line, 'No, you can be mine,' did you think: 'La mot juste,' sit back, fold your arms, smile and nod at the page in front of you?"
Jack Epps Jr.: Haha! Um... Yeah, you don't do that. You just sort of... It feels good. Usually these things are done late at night, when there's a certain exhaustion level, and you just go, 'That's done.'
Eurogamer: You think to yourself, 'That's good stuff. I won't be flying any rubber dog poo out of Hong Kong any time soon.'
Jack Epps Jr.: Good writing comes out of exhaustion, when you're so tired it's just coming out of you. I'm not comparing myself to Bob Dylan, but he listens to his songs today and he says, 'Where did all those lines come from? I don't know.'
That's how it works - you write stuff and it just comes out of you, and you go, 'Wow!' Being tired opens you up. It takes a filter level away.
Eurogamer: So your advice for aspiring screenwriters would be to stay up all night hanging out with blokes from the army?
Jack Epps Jr.: That's exactly it, right. And write in a bar all night long. That will help.
Eurogamer: What's Don Simpson like? Got any good stories about him?
Jack Epps Jr.: Don Simpson was a wild man, he really was. He lived every second as some character, depending on what he felt like at that moment. He was a larger than life guy.
I don't have any specific stories from the set, but he was just a wild man. That's all there is to it.
Eurogamer: Several readers asked, if you were writing Top Gun today, who would be the enemy now the cold war's over?
Jack Epps Jr.: That's a very good question. When I was researching the movie, back in '82, we asked the pilots, and they kept talking about the North Koreans a lot. I think that might be who we would go up against.
The greatest fighter pilots in the world today would be England, Israel, probably China and probably North Korea. Those would be the top pilots.
Eurogamer: Who would you cast in the role of Maverick? Tom Cruise is a bit over the hill. I was thinking Zac Efron would be good.
Jack Epps Jr.: That's an interesting one... Wait, is this a remake, or is this Maverick II, going to where he is now?
Eurogamer: You tell me, you're the famous Hollywood scriptwriter. I'm just the creative consultant.
Jack Epps Jr.: I would basically like to take the story and move it forward. That's what gaming allows you to do - we can take it, examine it and keep exploring it.
You'd probably want the movie to involve Tom. But we've got to have a young guy, right? So there's room for Zac.
More on Top Gun
Eurogamer: EFRON. EFRON. EFRON.
Jack Epps Jr.: Yep.
Jack Epps Jr.: My daughter would agree with you.
Eurogamer: Perhaps your son would too, I don't know. Here's a question from a reader who calls himself Crikey: "Do you feel miffed at all the praise received by Brokeback Mountain, when you wrote a subversive homoerotic masterpiece many years before?"
Jack Epps Jr.: Haha! I think Quentin Tarantino did a great rant about that in one of his films which was really funny. What the hey.
Eurogamer: Was the homoerotic thing intentional?
Jack Epps Jr.: No. Tony Scott really addresses the visual style on the commemorative Top Gun DVD, where he talks about his influences. So it's more about the visual influences.
Eurogamer: So you didn't write, in the script, 'At this point, men take their shirts off and play volleball'?
Jack Epps Jr.: No. We did write that these guys compete on the ground, in the air, they compete everywhere. So it's about that competitive effect.
But then you have a director who comes along and puts his stylistic look onto it, and that's what part of it is about. The story is about the highest level of competition, truly, and that's how we wrote it.
Eurogamer: I'm a big Top Gun fan. My husband knows this, so at our wedding a few weeks ago, he had the Top Gun anthem played as we walked into the reception. All the guests were wearing aviator shades he'd secretly handed out.
Jack Epps Jr.: I love it! That's great. I'd love to see a picture.
Eurogamer: I'm not saying it's not going well, but if I were to get married again, would you be interested in writing my vows?
Jack Epps Jr.: Absolutely.
Eurogamer: Are you saying you would be willing to be my wingman at that time?
Jack Epps Jr.: Absolutely.
Eurogamer: Brilliant. I'll send you an email.
Top Gun is available now via PlayStation Network, priced at £7.99.