December 3rd, 2013
05:00 PM ET

Inspiration for ‘Top Gun’ character gets top-level Pentagon post

By Laura Koran

The inspiration for the leading female role in the 80s blockbuster movie “Top Gun,” has soared to new heights in real life.

Christine Fox has become the first woman appointed to the Pentagon’s No. 2 job, set to serve in an acting capacity until a permanent successor is named.

Her boss, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, called Fox, "a brilliant defense thinker and proven manager."

Fox most recently held a top-level defense post where she played a large role in determining budget priorities.

"She helped identify the challenges, choices, and opportunities for reform facing the department during this period of unprecedented budget uncertainty. She will be able to help me shape our priorities from Day One because she knows the intricacies of the department's budget, programs and global operations better than anyone," Hagel said in a statement.

A long-time civilian defense employee, Fox held several influential positions over the years.

But she is perhaps best known for serving as the inspiration for Tom Cruise's love interest in the 1986 film, about a hot shot pilot's experience at the Top Gun Naval Flying School.

According to a People Magazine profile published shortly before the film's release, Fox was working as a mathematician at the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego when she was introduced to movie producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.

The two had been brainstorming a possible love interest for Cruise's character, Maverick, and thought Fox fit the bill.

The result was Charlie, a beautiful astrophysicist played by Kelly McGillis, who instructed the Top Gun candidates.

The movie was a hit with viewers. Off screen, Fox continued to advance through the ranks at the Defense Department, serving as a scientific analyst to the Chief of Naval Operations and as president of the Center for Naval Analyses.

As acting deputy secretary, Fox will take over the role being vacated by Ashton Carter until a permanent successor is named and confirmed by the Senate.

Filed under: Pentagon
soundoff (134 Responses)
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  12. Stephen Michael Slee

    Over 20 year report, top gun flew fighter jet, dropped laser guided missile on drug dealer.

    May 17, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Reply
    • chase

      wrong, watch the movie its not about airplanes and dropping bombs on drug dealers not evan close

      October 1, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  13. torontosecuritycompany

    Rock ON. That is so cool. Congrats give them the time of their lives!

    April 3, 2014 at 9:43 am | Reply
  14. Dmitry1964

    The actress who played the character came out of the closet. Hmm just the thought.

    December 9, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Reply

    One thing is for sure – you better listen to her, because the president listens to her about your proficiency!

    December 5, 2013 at 11:40 am | Reply
  16. dou44

    Wasn't this woman in a POV porn movie?

    December 4, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Reply
    • Stephen Swain

      Did you forget to take your meds? Why would you ask such a stupid question in public. Was it supposed to be funny, or just asinine? Really. That's pathetic.

      December 4, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Reply
    • chase

      no, she was no. But she was an instructor at the original top gun acadimy

      October 1, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  17. Michael C.

    It seems like a lot of you out there are missing what this is all about... It's about a very intelligent young lady who has accomplished a lot in her Life as of this time & date, and she should be commended for her efforts & Well Respected for her Accomplishments...! Yes, I do Care !! Michael C. U.S.M.C. San Clemente California

    December 4, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  18. Fiona

    Of course, for the movie they had to make the character "beautiful." Her credentials weren't enough.


    December 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Reply
  19. dontbead

    Fine. She got transferred and promoted. Now, can we please stop trying to build an alternative to Mig 28? For our current list of enemies, couch-jumpers armed with tomcats would be more than sufficient.

    December 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  20. Dylan

    This is not correct. The original love interest for Maverick was a bimbo athletic type. McGillis refused to do the film unless her character was changed to someone intelligent–THAT is how Charlie was created. Nice try though CNN.

    December 4, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Reply
    • Josh

      It's as if CNN publishes stories that contain flaws and are often unprofessional in nature.

      Oh, wait...

      December 4, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Reply
    • steveo

      it dosent matter as both actors are gay playing straight people. at least gillis came out...

      December 4, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Reply
  21. Pablo

    But can she make a samich?

    December 4, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  22. smokeyscot

    Let's hope that she pointed out that there are other organizations within the government that could use a haircut. Not just the DOD. We need 16 inteliegiences, Education department appears to be needing a look, and how about multiple agencies that do the same thing? It's your money.

    December 4, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  23. Michael C.

    She Looks Absolutely Beautiful To Me... I'll Take Her In A Heartbeat !! Michael C. U.S.M.C. – San Clemente, Calif.

    December 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • John

      Hey, Mike, Do You Think This Capitalization Of Yours Is Anything Other Than Annoying?

      December 4, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  24. kbjbinva

    Ok – somebody out there with good eyes. Take a look at the patch on Kelly's left arm/shoulder. It looks like there's a "77" in the middle. That's pretty clear to me. Now what do the navy blue and gold letters say underneath the light blue patch? It kinda looks like "USS – something or other" just not sure. Can't be HW Bush (CVN-77). Kinda looks like it might say "Oriskiny?" but that hull number is "34" Anybody out there know what the patch says?

    December 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Reply
    • Zan

      this is the patch

      December 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      Lets try this again... replying to the right person.

      A better picture is here:

      If for some reason you can't see the picture, the Patch says:

      Task Force


      December 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Reply
      • kbjbinva


        December 4, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • military bratt

      TF-77 TASK FORCE Seventy Seven Korea Uss Oriskany

      December 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  25. mgkdrgn

    Congrats Ms. Fox, keep up the good work and thank you for your service.

    December 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      A better picture is here:

      If for some reason you can't see the picture, the Patch says:

      Task Force


      December 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Reply
    • Pliny

      Well said mgkdrgn.

      Congrats to Ms Fox. And thank you for your service.

      December 4, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  26. Hey

    Take her to bed and lose her for ever.

    December 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Reply
    • WhatsamattaU

      The line, I believe, is take me to bed or lose me forever.

      December 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  27. paul

    No matter how you guys see it, the pentagon sees to it that she knows more than you do....

    December 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Reply
    • kbjbinva

      Now that's funny right there.

      December 5, 2013 at 7:07 am | Reply
  28. Andulamb

    Nice job stretching those photos, CNN. Way to look like amateurs.

    December 4, 2013 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • Caveman

      Spoken like a true "pessimist" .. for real man.. perfection may be for some but not all. Plus, you get the idea... do me a favor and quit breathing the rest of our's air.. lol.

      December 4, 2013 at 11:27 am | Reply
      • Bo

        the photos are badly distorted.

        December 4, 2013 at 11:43 am |
      • Amused

        Kelly's photo is streched but Christine's is fine. Besides, who really gives a krap about how "accurate" an old movie frame is, anyway! Get a life dude!

        December 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Ken

      How about commenting about the article instead of whining about the photos? If you don't like CNN, stop coming to the site. We aren't going to come unglued without your useless comments.

      December 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Reply
    • Josh

      Agreed. CNN is a garbage site.

      December 4, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Reply
  29. emskadittle

    well maybe she can get the sectaries postilion when Hilary wins the next election

    December 4, 2013 at 11:09 am | Reply
  30. John

    So she's also a lesbian?

    December 4, 2013 at 10:53 am | Reply
    • So shes a lesbian

      Thank You for the definition. Now I know what I am.I too like girls

      December 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Reply
    • Howie

      LOL, she's married to a guy at CNA. You fail.

      December 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Reply
    • Mitt Romney

      I'm a Lesbian too!

      December 4, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Reply
  31. Huh?

    Really? A bean counter is running our war machine? Really? You're joking right? No wonder we're paying $350k to Haliburton for Humvees when they blow fan belts. What a mess... and it just keeps getting messier. Even worse – this candidate's claim to fame is "inspiration for a movie character"? LOL... what a mess. Who wrote this? A fourth grader?

    December 4, 2013 at 10:34 am | Reply
    • thewiz_71

      Sigh – see comments below. Civilian oversight and command of the military is a vital pillar of western democracy. The POTUS is, after all, the Commander-in-Chief, and that is the way it has been since 1787.

      December 4, 2013 at 10:53 am | Reply
    • kenny

      its sad how ignorant you are...

      December 4, 2013 at 11:33 am | Reply
    • Amused

      Have YOU passed fourth grade? You don't appear to be smart enough for fifth grade yet...

      December 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  32. Maverick

    "(We were) Keeping up foreign relations. You know, giving him the bird!"

    December 4, 2013 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Goose

      You know, the finger!

      December 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  33. TheRipper


    Keep up the awesome work Christine!

    December 4, 2013 at 10:24 am | Reply
  34. SupportDeadlyForceOfWar

    Good. An emotional, manipulative woman to tell us what we need to continue dropping bombs on innocent civilians around the world by using souless statistics. Brilliant strategy.

    December 4, 2013 at 9:56 am | Reply
    • mplh89

      Where do you get that she is either emotional or manipulative?

      December 4, 2013 at 10:24 am | Reply
      • mplh89-duh

        Let me guess . You don't deal with woman much... to even challenge scientific evidence is amazing. What foxhole do you live in?

        December 4, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • thewiz_71

      Troll warning, folks. DO NOT FEED.

      December 4, 2013 at 10:54 am | Reply
    • YourMathDoesn'tCheckOut

      Explain to me how you can be "emotional" AND drop "bombs on innocent civilians around the world by using souless statistics?" You're either emotional OR data-driven.

      December 4, 2013 at 11:22 am | Reply
    • annier

      Your screen name already tells us everything we need to know about you...

      December 4, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Reply
    • Amused

      My my, aren't we presumptuous and full of ourselves!

      December 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  35. WomenAtHome

    Jesus. Is this the best we can do? We're F*&^&*^ked. lol

    December 4, 2013 at 9:51 am | Reply
    • mpouxesas all fairness, we had an(other) actor for a president ...

      December 4, 2013 at 10:08 am | Reply
      • Brian

        She's the person who inspired the creation of the character, not the actress who played her. Did you even read the article? Or see the movie?

        December 4, 2013 at 10:18 am |
      • bobbaft

        I did not realize Obama was in the Color Purple.

        December 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • TheRipper

      Id1otic post from an Id1otic individual.

      December 4, 2013 at 10:22 am | Reply
      • Noone

        Congratulations, Charlie! And to those who naysay women being in top defense positions, I have known men that were more emotional and would be much worse choices for the job (John Boehner, anyone?). Some of the coldest, most calculating, analytical people in the world are women(in the best way possible :-)). I have no problem with someone well trained in logic and the scientific method holding a top office anywhere in our government. I'm sure she would rather you thank her for her public service, and went on your way, Otherwise, she may suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. (Whoops, wrong Tom Cruise military movie).

        December 4, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Tom

      Well at least she was smart enough that she didn't have to be a woman at home!

      December 4, 2013 at 10:41 am | Reply
  36. dbarak

    I may have sat through a debrief with her years ago. We flew a mission using an instrumented pod (TACTS for those that are interested, resulting in displays similar to what was seen in the movie). I believe we debriefed at NAS North Island (NASNI), where I was stationed, and I remember it was a blonde woman. I don't know if she ever made trips down to NASNI or not. (Although they did film part of the movie on my ship – our airplane may even be in one of the opening shots, hard to say.)

    December 4, 2013 at 9:17 am | Reply
  37. G_Edwards

    Well done! Congrats! …and make it permanent.


    December 4, 2013 at 8:19 am | Reply
  38. dave

    ' to serve in an acting capacity ' lol

    December 4, 2013 at 8:15 am | Reply
    • mplh89

      What's so funny about serving in an acting capacity? You do realize that Ms. Fox is not an actress, right? She is a career civilian employee from the Department of Defense and was used as the inspiration for the character in the movie.

      December 4, 2013 at 10:26 am | Reply
  39. Richard

    BHO is an Idiot !

    December 4, 2013 at 7:56 am | Reply
    • DrPete

      And what information from this article are you using to decide whether she's the right person for the job?

      December 4, 2013 at 8:18 am | Reply
      • dontbead

        He's talking about the president. Read the initials. Also, he probably puts the same post into every message board.

        December 4, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • dbarak

      Hmmm... the lack of any connection between your comment and the story implies that you're not so bright yourself. And if BHO is such an idiot, why aren't YOU president? I'm no fan of BHO, by the way, but one could hardly call him an idiot and be correct.

      December 4, 2013 at 9:14 am | Reply
      • CommonSense

        He's not President because he's not a dishonest criminal sociopath lawyer. Simple. We only elect lawyers who have enriched themselves in THEIR broken court system.

        December 4, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Amused

      Apparantly YOUR initials must be BHO as you are the only lDlOT I see here!

      December 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  40. sybaris

    It's great to have civilians who have never worn a uniform dictate what soldiers and sailors need

    December 4, 2013 at 7:38 am | Reply
    • Aaron

      Indeed it is. If we left military decisions up to the war machine we'd be carving this on stone tablets instead of typing on computers.

      December 4, 2013 at 7:53 am | Reply
      • Katheryn O'Neil


        December 4, 2013 at 8:37 am |
      • JohnnyCarcinogen

        Aaron, in case you missed it, computers were initially designed *for* the military during WW2 to handle cryptography.

        December 4, 2013 at 8:53 am |
      • WrongAgain

        JohnnyCarcinogen – Wrong...the first computers came from the 1800's and were used for mathematics. Cryptography is a form of mathematics so it was a natural fit, but WWII came 120 something years AFTER the first computer. Besides being false, your point is irrelevant.

        December 4, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • SHarmon

      Um, in case you missed a bedrock national policy of the last 200 years, here's a news flash: the United States military has civilian leadership.

      December 4, 2013 at 7:57 am | Reply
    • James

      Of course it is. We don't want the military doing its own thing. Ever.

      December 4, 2013 at 8:45 am | Reply
    • Chris Ruff

      Brains is at least as important as having worn a uniform. And I am a veteran. Brain power in the military is not high on the list of respected capabilities. The brawn and the brains don't have to be in the same body.

      December 4, 2013 at 8:53 am | Reply
      • Chris

        That depends...I'm a military pilot, and brains are most certainly respected in my career field. Having a guy that can bench 200+ pounds but can't understand aerodynamics, physics or how to fly an approach isn't a very good set of characteristics. There are lots of career fields in the military where having brains is very important.

        December 4, 2013 at 9:05 am |
      • Enlisted Maintainer

        Q: How do you know when a pilot comes to your party? A: He will tell you.
        Q: What are a pilots three most favorite things to talk about? A: Flying, Me, and Flying.
        Q: Whats the difference between a jet engine and a flight attendant? A: At the end of the flight the jet engine stops whining
        Q: What's the difference between a fighter pilot and God? A: God doesn't think He's a fighter pilot.
        Q: What's the difference between a pilot and a pepperoni pizza? A: A pepperoni pizza can feed a family of four.

        December 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Mike

      Realize you were being sarcastic, but our Founding Fathers intended it that way, and it makes a whole lot of sense. It's called Checks and Balances, and is the basis for our entire system of government.

      December 4, 2013 at 8:57 am | Reply
      • tom

        Checks and Balances used to be the basis of our government. The last 4 administrations have all but completely usurped the power and bypassed the checks and balances scheme.

        December 4, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • J

      You do know that the president of the U.S. is the commander-in-chief, right?

      December 4, 2013 at 9:25 am | Reply
    • thewiz_71

      Civilian oversight and command of the military is one of the pillars of any legitimate democracy. General George Washington himself set the precedent when his officers, upset with Congress, wanted to stage a coup and place him in charge of the nation by armed force. He put an immediate stop to it, and resigned his commission The rest, as they say, is history.

      December 4, 2013 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • dbarak

      You seem to be misunderstanding the issue on a couple of levels. First, from the country's very beginning, the military has served under civilian leadership – by design. Second, generally speaking, military members in assignments such as the Pentagon bring military expertise to the table and spell out what they need, based on balancing priorities against realities. The civilians essentially serve two masters in a way – the military and the executive branch of government. So although civilians, especially at the higher levels, do set policy, overall it's guided by the President based on requests and information from the military.

      December 4, 2013 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • randoid1234

      That's a good point. We should probably make it more like Ancient Rome and every so often have a general march their army into the capitol, take over the country, and disband the senate. Now that's Democracy!

      December 4, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
    • OwMySkull

      Hey, Einstein, the president and all of Congress are civilians and they allocate what the military needs and does.

      December 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Reply
    • Howie

      Indeed it is, since many of those have advanced degrees and far more experience in the science and engineering of the systems the guys in uniform are using. Glad you agree.

      December 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  41. War is good business...invest your son

    Im having a nerdgasm

    December 4, 2013 at 7:04 am | Reply
    • Badly-Bent

      Good one

      December 4, 2013 at 8:15 am | Reply
  42. scott bleyle

    peter principle,she helped lower the bar.

    December 3, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Reply
    • pbernasc

      and and you couldn't raise it at all and I am not talking of the bar ...

      December 4, 2013 at 12:20 am | Reply
      • Viper


        December 4, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • dbarak

      What possible experience or information could you have that would bring you to that conclusion? Or are you just winging it out of some sort of Freudian or Oedipal frustration? (No pun intended, regarding Top Gun.)

      December 4, 2013 at 9:29 am | Reply
    • mplh89

      Lowered what bar? She's a career civil servant who has proven her capabilities and risen in civilian rank.

      December 4, 2013 at 10:28 am | Reply

        Agreed. Unlike most "public servants," Ms. Fox has earned this position.

        December 5, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  43. sparky

    No pressure there, having to live up to the Hollywood version of herself.

    Being a civilian in the Pentagon, she's probably really good at her job, very smart, and dull as dishwater.

    December 3, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  44. murf

    Kelly was definitely hotter.
    Congratulations nun the less

    December 3, 2013 at 9:51 pm | Reply
    • Yura Melvin

      I think Ms Fox is definitely hotter than Kelly McGillis is now.

      December 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Reply
      • K

        100% agree!

        December 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
      • Dan

        Kelly M is a lesbian.

        December 4, 2013 at 4:58 am |
      • explainist

        "Kelly M is a lesbian."

        you say that like it's a bad thing.

        Me, too. I've watched every movie I can find about the subject and and I do all those things too. This? It's a strap on, baby...

        December 4, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • MarylandBill

      That film was nearly 30 years ago (Which seems crazy, but true)... if the picture is recent, she might have been quite attractive when the film was being made.

      December 3, 2013 at 11:52 pm | Reply
      • DC1973

        This is from 1987.

        http://r. foto. radikal. ru/0705/76/b3d829159684.jpg

        December 4, 2013 at 10:59 am |
      • Dr. Gonzo

        Worked with Christine at COMFIT where she was doing Outer Air Battle tactics for the Navy battle groups vs. Soviet Backfires. Brilliant lady. She's over 6 feet in heels. Impressive. Was there when she met Bruckhiemer and Simpson. They were blown away by both her stature and smarts. Way to go Christine!

        December 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Frank and Beans

      Kelly was never hotter than this:

      Yes, that's Christine Fox.

      December 4, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Reply
  45. reply

    ". . . 2009 appointment to Hagel's office." Think he was appointed as Sec of Def this year. Does anyone at CNN do research?

    December 3, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Reply
    • ChrisInSa

      She's been in the SECDEF's office since '09. Very classy lady, worked with her once. Definitely knows her stuff.

      December 4, 2013 at 4:10 am | Reply
    • DrPete

      Or maybe Hagel was in a different office, but still at the Pentagon...

      December 4, 2013 at 8:20 am | Reply
  46. unretired05

    Good enough tor a temp job but will be replaced by who? Somebody with the "inside track."

    December 3, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Reply
    • CheckSix

      I agree and that is the worst part of this story. The most-qualified people for the position always hold the job warm for a politically-influenced pick to end up taking the spot.

      Congratulations anyway to Ms. Fox!

      December 3, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  47. Jessica McGwin

    Rock ON. That is so cool. Congrats give them the time of their lives!

    December 3, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  48. Observer

    If your last name is 'Fox,' your name is already going to sit well in the minds of the interviewers in the heavily red domain of defense officials.

    December 3, 2013 at 9:28 pm | Reply

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