SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — We were about one minute into our interview when Whip Hubley, an actor who has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, left me floored. Asked about the first film he ever appeared in, he didn’t know the picture's title.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” I said in disbelief. “You don’t remember the name of the first movie you were in?”
“It was something like ‘King of the Hill,’" he said. “But I can’t promise you that. It really was an unmemorable job.”
A few years later, a role came along in a movie that Hubley—and hundreds of millions of other people—would not forget: “Top Gun.” He portrayed Hollywood, one of the high-flying, high-testosterone naval aviators who joust with each other and, most notably, with Maverick, the hotshot pilot played by Tom Cruise.
At the time, Cruise was a rising star but not yet the superstar that “Top Gun” would turn him into.
“What first struck me about Tom was that he was a very polite guy, very polite,” Hubley said. “Really looked you in the eye and always said, ‘Thank you, sir,’ and stuff like that. He was very focused.”
This weekend, 36 years after the original movie (which was by far the highest-grossing film of 1986), the eagerly awaited sequel, “Top Gun Maverick,” will hit theatres. Hubley will see it, but he won’t be in line on opening night. Now living in southern Maine, where he works in construction and still acts in local theatre and the occasional movie or TV role, he has a clear-eyed view of the modest fame "Top Gun" conferred on him.
“It’s not something I go blabbing around about, because it does feel silly to be talking about what you were doing 36 years ago,” he said. “But that’s a little bit the nature of the business.”
While Hubley is not one to live in the past, he does look back on his “Top Gun” experience with affection.
“It wasn’t like high theatre by any means," he said. "But it was really fun.”