This One’s for You, Chappy! Remembering Louis Gossett Jr. in ‘Iron Eagle’

Louis Gossett Jr., Iron Eagle
© TriStar/courtesy Everett Collection

With the sad news of the passing of Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. at age 87, I’m reminded of his role as Col. Charles “Chappy” Sinclair in the 1986 action/war movie Iron Eagle.

I watched the hell out of Iron Eagle when I was about 12. Riding the Reagan-era wave of military dramas like Top Gun, Iron Eagle captured every teenage boy’s fantasy of stealing an F-16 fighter jet, bombing the crap out of a hostile dictatorship, becoming an American hero and getting the girl.

Jason Gedrick plays Doug Masters, a teenager who’s father is an Air Force pilot is was shot down and held captive by a Middle Eastern country. While the U.S. government spins its diplomatic wheels, Doug convinces Chappy to devise a plan to commandeer two F-16s and attempt their own covert rescue mission.

It was ridiculous, jingoistic nonsense and I absolutely loved it.

My dad took me to the theater to see Iron Eagle II in 1988. Doug Masters met an early demise in the movie, and it was up to Chappy to lead American pilots in a joint mission with the Soviets to take out a rogue nation’s nuclear weapons program. It was also absurd, and not nearly as entertaining as the first movie.

Gossett Jr. played Chappy Sinclair again in 1992’s Aces: Iron Eagle III. I didn’t actually see that one, but it seems like the most preposterous of the trilogy. [Update: I’ve just been informed there was also Iron Eagle on the Attack (1995). So there’s that, too.]

A few years ago, I was attending a press event at a Los Angeles area hotel. I found myself in an elevator with Gossett Jr., who was using a cane or a walker to get around. We made small talk on the ride, and I remember that he cracked a joke before exiting.

For a brief moment, I was Chappy’s wingman. And it was awesome.

1980s Top Summer Blockbusters
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1980s Top Summer Blockbusters

July 2019

Celebrate the biggest summer movies of the ’80s, when moviegoing morphed from mere entertainment to blockbuster events.

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