San Diego went full-throttle Wednesday for the long-awaited "Top Gun" sequel premiere, which started with a red carpet aboard the USS Midway Museum and ended with a screening at the San Diego Civic Theatre.
"Top Gun: Maverick" is making its debut 36 years after the original film spotlighted San Diego's Naval aviators who had a "need for speed," competing to become the best in their class at the elite fighter weapons school in Miramar, San Diego.
A red carpet rolled out on the Naval aircraft carrier-turned-museum for what was a star-studded premiere.
Photos: ‘Top Gun: Maverick Red Carpet Event at USS Midway Museum
A lucky group of fans secured tickets to the event before they sold out in minutes, but Paramount also live streamed the event across about 150 YouTube channels.
NBC 7 San Diego was there as Tom Cruise arrived by helicopter in a N547SA Airbus chopper he piloted himself, landing right on the flight deck. He took off from the USS Nimitz after attending a special screening at NAS North Island for the military and their families.
Other attendees included Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell and Lewis Pullman, as well as director Joe Kosinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
The spotlight then landed on the San Diego Civic Theatre performing arts venue, which was tranformed into a movie theater for the global premiere.
San Diego was the obvious choice for the "Maverick" festivities. Nearly four years ago, NBC 7 cameras spotted the "Top Gun" team filming portions of the film outside Naval Air Station North Island, and there are sure to be other recognizable locations in the film. San Diego, like the original, plays a starring role.
"Coming back to where they shot the original — it’s iconic and that’s why we’re doing the premiere here," said Teller, who plays Rooster in the film. "Honestly, it really is. San Diego — Miramar — it’s like a character in the film itself, so couldn’t be happier to be down here.”
"'Top Gun,' you know, is San Diego," said Kosinski, the film's director. "The world of 'Top Gun' is the beach and the sunsets and so it was important that, you know, just as Maverick is going back to Top Gun in the film, we wanted to take the audience back to the world of 'Top Gun.' So, San Diego seemed like the perfect place.”
San Diego's military community not only makes appearances in the movie, but also helped train the cast to withstand the same G-forces as real fighter pilots, since many of the stunts were filmed live and without the use of computer graphics.
"It was incredible to just be surrounded by the energy of the military. You don't have to do as much pretending when you're around the people you're representing," said Monica Barbara, who plays Pheonix in the movie.
"I'm just amazed at how committed they are at every task," said Charles Parnell who plays Adm. Solomon "Warlock" Bates. "For instance, if you are lost on the ship, they don't say, 'Go that way,' they say, 'I'll take you there.'"
The sure-to-be blockbuster film was set to premiere in 2020 but was delayed repeatedly by the coronavirus pandemic. But fans of the original "Top Gun" will say it was worth the wait.
The film follows Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise) as he trains a group of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it. During the training, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Teller), the son of Maverick's late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka "Goose."
"Top Gun: Maverick" lands in theaters on May 27.