The ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Darkstar Sequence Was Shot at a ‘Top Secret’ Military Base

The opening of Top Gun: Maverick involves Tom Cruise flying the Darkstar, a fictional plane that can reach record-breaking speeds. It’s an intense sequence that brings viewers right back into the “danger zone.” Many of the flying moments were filmed at amazing locations and this was no different. Director Joseph Kosinski revealed that the Darkstar sequence was filmed at a top-secret military base. 

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ opens with the suspenseful Darkstar sequence

Tom Cruise attends a press conference for Top Gun: Maverick in Korea
Tom Cruise | The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images

The Top Gun sequel is partially about how military technology, including flight technology, has evolved since the original movie in 1986. Top Gun: Maverick opens with Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, testing the Darkstar, a brand new flightcraft, and seeing how fast he can get it to go. Maverick hasn’t changed much since the original as he continues to go faster, even after being told that it isn’t possible and it’s incredibly dangerous. 

After this stunt, Maverick is scolded by Admiral Chester Cain (Ed Harris), who is there when the plane blows the roof off of the guard station he’s standing next to. Cain is the one who tells Maverick that he is going to TOPGUN, instead of being demoted from his ranking. 

The Darkstar scene was filmed at a top-secret military base

In an interview with Vulture, director Kosinski discusses how they filmed the Darkstar scene for Top Gun: Maverick. Most of the flying scenes were shot practically in real locations. However, the only way to fly a fighter jet is over military-controlled airspace. Kosinski says that he eventually convinced military personnel to allow him to shoot in a top-secret base. 

“The only place you can fly fighter jets ten feet above the ground is in those military-controlled areas,” Kosinski explains. “Also, that Dark Star sequence was shot in an area that is top secret. You’re not even allowed to go there. When I scouted that base, they said, “Take pictures of everything you want, but do not take a picture of that hangar over there.” And I was like, “Well, what is that?” And they were like, “Don’t ask.” And I’m like, “Well, it looks like it could be really right for this sequence. Because I’m doing a sequence about a top-secret aircraft.” And they’re like, “Well, there’s no surprise that you’re interested in that particular building.” But I did convince them, and we did shoot there.”

Is the Darkstar a real aircraft?

The Darkstar is not a real aircraft and was only created for this movie. It does share similarities with some real-life aircraft including the SR-71 Blackbird. Kosinski tells Vulture that he used the Darkstar as a way of convincing Cruise to return for Top Gun: Maverick. Cruise was hesitant to join the sequel but he felt this opening was a good way to continue Maverick’s story. 

“The first film is a drama, even though it’s wrapped in this glossy action film,” Kosinski says. “This would be the same thing, but it would be Maverick reconciling with Goose’s son set against this mission that would take them both deep into enemy territory. And as soon as I said that, I could see the wheels in his head start to turn. Then I pitched the idea of Darkstar, the opening sequence, what Maverick’s doing when we find him. Which I think was also important because Maverick is still Maverick, but he’s not buzzing the tower at the local air base. He’s on the cutting edge of aviation, pushing the envelope as always. But he’s alone. He’s alone at the beginning of this film.”

Top Gun: Maverick is still in theaters. 

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