Director Joseph Kosinski says the secret military base where Darkstar is located was real.

That’s why the airplane was brought to China.

At the beginning of the film, Tom Cruise’s character flies an experimental high-speed plane called the Darkstar; unlike the other aircraft shown in the film, it is a mock-up. But the secret military base where Darkstar is located was real.

In an interview with Collider, director Joseph Kosinski says that in order for the film crew to be able to shoot on the base, real equipment had to be taken out of there. Kosinski has no idea what was in that hangar.

Joseph Kosinski , the director .

I went to China Lake Air Force Base, which is a desert naval base. I was looking around the base for a hangar for the Darkstar scenes, and they said, “You can take pictures, but don’t turn the camera over there”. I look over and there’s this really interesting hangar, a tower, barbed wire around it, blue door.

I said, “What’s that?”. They said, “Don’t even think about it, you’ll never be able to film there. Don’t take a picture, don’t even look that way.

Kosinski convinced the escorts to drive past the hangar to get a better look. Then the Navy, which was helping to make the film, decided to go along with the director.

Joseph Kosinski , the director .

I look at him and he’s just perfect. It looks like a top-secret hangar inside a secret base. And I’m like, “We have scenes where a secret plane is being taken out at night, and I think that’s the perfect place for it”. And they say, “Well, then it’s not surprising that you’re interested in this particular building”.

And then a couple of days later, they call me and say, “Okay, if you tell us when you want to shoot there, we’ll take everything that’s there and take it out a few days before the shoot, leaving you the building”. And we ended up shooting in a top-secret hangar.

At the time, producer Jerry Bruckheimer said that the Darkstar cartoon had caught the attention of a Chinese intelligence satellite. According to Kosinski, the satellite’s movement was discovered during filming on the territory of a secret base.

Joseph Kosinski , the director .

If they could zoom in, they’d see Tom Cruise in the cockpit. That’s great.

In the same interview, the director shared another interesting fact: Tom Cruise actually had to take off from an aircraft carrier during filming. Apparently, Kosinski believes Cruz is the first civilian to be allowed to do so.

The ultra-low-altitude flights were real, but this time Cruise was not at the helm: the planes were operated by members of the Blue Angels piloting group, and the actors just sat in the cockpits.

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