In 1983 none of this existed, the YouTube videos from the pilot’s cockpit, the training films, the flight simulators. But the May 1983 issue of California Magazine ran a long article that began with the words, “At Mach 2 and 40,000 feet over California, it’s always reckoning time.” He described the training of fighter pilots and gave such vivid descriptions of that feeling there above the clouds that no one had read before. The main character was a cool aviator named Yogi, and Paramount felt it could be made into a movie hero. The studio also liked the headline: “Top Guns”.

When the film was actually made three years later, Yogi had become a Maverick and the title had lost the “s”: “Top Gun”. Article author Ehud Yonay had been paid to portray his character and her world. We don’t know how much he got, but it was a few years before Hollywood started paying six- and seven-figure sums for scripts and scripts. In any case, Paramount bought Yonay the rights for the usual 35 years in 1986, including the rights to a sequel.

Fast forward to 2018. Paramount is filming the sequel Top Gun: Maverick, and Yonay’s heirs are terminating the contract by the end of 35 years in 2020. The sequel was scheduled to hit theaters in July 2019 but was delayed a year , to be able to work on the flight sequences. Then the pandemic hit, and Cruise rightly demanded not to waste his film on a streamer, but to wait for theaters to return.

It’s showing there now, two years after the end of the license, has already made $550 million and could even reach the billion, as the first Cruise film. And the Yonay heirs are suing for damages and bringing in even heavier artillery: the film should no longer be allowed to be shown. Yonay’s widow and son have hired lawyer Marc Taberoff, a copyright specialist who is also trying to get Marvel Comics writers a share of the billions the studios make from their characters.

German legislation is more advanced than American legislation. She has known the “fairness paragraph” for 20 years, which grants creatives an appropriate share in the film’s success if their original remuneration is “conspicuously disproportionate” to the income from the film. For four years, Til Schweiger and his screenwriter Anika Decker have been arguing in court as to whether the 50,000 euros he paid for their “Keinohrhasen” screenplay were “reasonable”.

The Yonays and Paramount will meet in court. And that will have to decide what exactly counts in “Top Gun 2”: the start of shooting, the completion or the theatrical release.