Jerry Bruckheimer And Joseph Kosinski Talk Top Gun: Maverick’s Incredible Plane Hangar Scene And How It Impacted Real-Life Espionage

Major spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick lie ahead, so read at your own risk. 

To put it simply, Top Gun: Maverick is a cinematic feat, one that includes impressive aerial sequences and genuine emotional stakes. One of the most dazzling feats happens at the beginning of the movie and sees Tom Cruise’s Maverick and co. testing an experimental (and fictional) aircraft called the Darkstar in order to save their program. As it so happens, it took some doing to get those hangar scenes filmed, according to director Joseph Kosinski and producer Jerry Bruckheiemer. The pair also revealed that the moment had an impact on real-life espionage. 

Material involving the powerful Darkstar (which was designed with help from Lockheed Martin) was filmed in and around a hangar located in China Lake, California. Joseph Kosinski and co. collaborated with the Navy to pull things off, a working experience that he calls “amazing.” When he appeared at CinemaCon to screen and discuss the movie though, he revealed that the crew was prohibited from shooting footage at one specific location. And as Kosinski would explain, that restricted area would turn out to be the perfect place for the scene:

‘You can film anything you want, except for this building over there.’ Of course, I just instantly became focused on this hangar in this corner surrounded by barbed wire. You know, I said, ‘That looks like the perfect location for what we’re trying to do.’ They said, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ I go, ‘Can we drive over there? Take a picture?’ They let me do that. Then, I said, ‘God, it’d really be great to shoot here if I could.’ Cut to two weeks later, they call us back and they say, ‘Alright. You can shoot this hangar. Just tell us when and we’ll take whatever’s inside that out.’ So, yeah, we got to shoot that sequence in that very special place.

Darkstar in Top Gun: Maverick

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Only the Brave director was truly a smooth operator when it came to landing the location, yet I’m not surprised that he found a way to get what he desired. This is, after all, the man who successfully pitched Top Gun: Maverick to Tom Cruise, even after learning that the star had no interest in making the follow-up. (Seeing as the movie has broken personal box office records for Cruise, I’d say the filmmaker’s efforts paid off.)

Once the movie actually commenced production at the site, the Darkstar’s presence had an interesting side effect. Jerry Bruckheimer, who was also at CinemaCon, explained that another country apparently took notice of the aircraft once it was in plain sight:

I think it was the Russians or the Chinese. When we pulled that airplane out of the hangar, they moved their satellites to photograph it. They thought it was really something that the government had developed and they were watching it. It was fascinating.

I wonder how said country reacted when it learned what was really going on. Interestingly, Chinese audiences haven’t even been able to see the movie yet. The Paramount Pictures production has yet to secure a release date there – and it may have something to do with Maverick’s iconic aviator jacket.

Despite that situation, many other moviegoers across the globe have been able to enjoy the sheer amount of effort that Joseph Kosinski, Jerry Bruckheimer and their colleagues put into Top Gun: Maverick. This film is going to have some serious staying power, in part due to the incredible Darkstar hanger sequence.

Top Gun: Maverick, which is one of 2022’s biggest new movie releases, is now playing in theaters.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.