Flashback Friday: Young Tom Cruise Talks 'Top Gun' in 1986

Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun,’ which celebrates its 30th anniversary this month

Risky Business made Tom Cruise a regular on the Teen and Tiger Beat circuits. But it was Top Gun, released 30 years ago next Monday, that sent him into the stratosphere, both literally, since the movie required him to fly Navy fighter jets, and metaphorically, because it catapulted him to a higher level of movie stardom.

Related: How Much Do You Really Know About ‘Top Gun’?

In a Flashback Friday move, the Los Angeles Times has republished a profile of Cruise that appeared in the newspaper not long after Top Gun arrived in theaters and became the No. 1 movie in America.

Still navigating his way through the whole mega-fame thing in May 1986, Cruise comes across as more candid and less guarded than he would later become.

Watch the trailer for the ‘Top Gun’ re-release in 3-D/IMAX:

He told reporter Pat. H. Broeske that he avoided doing interviews for a while because he wasn’t used to fielding so many questions about his personal life. “It [publicity] was a whole new thing to me,” he said. “I traveled around a lot while I was growing up; my dad was an engineer. No one ever really got to know me. It’s like I was always the new kid in town. When you travel like that, you can kind of make up who you are. But I couldn’t do that in interviews.”

“Someone would ask about my parents’ divorce,” he added. “And I’d say to myself, ‘My God, I’ve never told anyone about these things before in my life.’ You know?”

Related: Exclusive Clip: Tom Cruise on ‘Top Gun’ and Its Spectacular F-14s

He also made it clear that there are some things he would not discuss—"I make it a policy not to talk about money” — and that Paul Newman, his co-star in the then-upcoming The Color of Money, had given him useful advice about how to handle the press: “He said that they’ll make up things if you don’t talk to them.”

But my favorite part of the interview is the section where Cruise defended the volleyball scene in Top Gun, standing firm that it serves a purpose in the movie apart from just showing hot dudes minus their shirts.

“That scene happens to be very important,” he said. “First of all, it shows that to fighter pilots physical prowess is very important. Plus, the scene shows the constant competition between these guys — how they compete on every level.”

Related: ‘Top Gun’ Among 2015 National Film Registry Selections

“I don’t take my shirt off to sell tickets,” he insisted. “The way I look at it is, let a good movie bring the audience in.”

Top Gun certainly did that; it would become the top-grossing movie of 1986, earning $176.7 million in North America. And you know what else? The volleyball scene is very important, dammit!