Social media buzzed with debate: Is the city being April fooled early? Rumors of film crews, Tom Cruise and a possible long-delayed comeback of the need for speed flooded Facebook forums.
As residents tried to explain the booked hotels, unusual commotion at the base and atypical flight patterns, an old Whidbey News-Times article kept coming up.
Almost exactly two years ago, former reporter Ron Newberry lifted spirits of fans of the 1986 classic with his sensational headline: “Top Gun 2 to be filmed at NAS Whidbey.”
Despite a publication date of April 1, 2017, Newberry’s April Fools article was the most-viewed on the News-Times website last week.
“When I heard about the filming, I laughed to myself thinking there was no use trying to convince anyone that it was real because who would believe me?” Newberry said in an email. “It got me thinking about the story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf.’”
Though it was meant to be top secret, it seemed all of Oak Harbor was talking about Maverick’s return. Despite the secret being definitively out, Navy officials did their best to keep details about the filming hush-hush.
Cmdr. Ron Flanders, spokesperson for Naval Air Forces, confirmed the Navy had agreed to support the sequel. He said film crews were on aircraft carriers and at various air stations.
Asked if NAS Whidbey was recommended or chosen by Paramount Pictures, Flanders said he couldn’t divulge which bases the crews were using.
NAS Whidbey Public Affairs Officer Mike Welding answered no questions that included the words “filming” or “Tom Cruise.”
As for the Maverick, there were conflicting accounts on whether he’s a “nice guy.” He didn’t allow pictures, for the most part, according to some who encountered him.
Some say he didn’t even let people look at him.
Oak Harbor resident and part-time Uber driver Rhettman Alexander said he drove a woman involved in the production who said she thought Cruise was good guy.
She also thought he was relatively tall, but Alexander said the woman stood at about 5-feet-2. She claimed that actor is 5-feet-9, but his Wikipedia page says he’s 5-feet-7.
Cruise reportedly left about a week ago, but crews and other actors stayed behind to wrap up filming.
Some personnel and their guests were treated to a special viewing of the original along with an appearance by the executive producer on Monday.
Though many of the people involved are sworn to secrecy, it didn’t take long for the residents of Oak Harbor to notice what was happening.
“There’s no way to keep it a secret,” Alexander said.
When the sequel was announced, multiple news outlets including San Diego Star 941 and The Denver Channel reported some of the filming would take place on Whidbey. However, those articles cited Newberry’s 2017 April Fool’s article as evidence of that claim.
Those last two words, for those that read that far, created confusion among people trying to get to the bottom of the great Top Gun debate.
This time around, however, it’s no April fools.