Billing itself asa "Top Gunà la Française," the movie Chevaliers du Ciel (Knightsof the Sky), beganfilming in Paris at the beginning of July, and shot its climax scene over theheads of thousands on Wednesday.

Loosely based onthe French aviation comic book Tanguy & Laverdure, which was created 40 years ago, themovie is directed by Gerard Pirès, whose most recent workincludes Double Zero, Riders, and the successful action film Taxi.

The adventuremovie will star Benoît Magimel (The Pianist), Clovis Cornillac and Alice Taglioni aswell as the French Air Force, L'Armee de l'Air, which isproviding its pilots' acrobatic maneuvers in the hope that the film willinspire recruits - as has Top Gun, every time it has been broadcast on Frenchtelevision, according to Colonel Claude Baillet, the head of the SIRPA armedforces information service.

The story,written by Gilles Malençon, was originally closely tied to the comicbook, but has been modified to include the current political climate."The script is anchored in today's reality," directorPirès said at a press conference this week. "We saw what happenedon September 11 [2001] in New York. But what would happen if a military planelost control in France on Bastille Day'"

The production,which will include assistance from Pathe, Canal Plus, and Frenchtelevision channel M6, will be the "most ambitious aviation film evermade in France," according to Pirès, an amateur pilot himself.

French airplanedesign software manufacturer Dassault Systèmes was called upon to builda device which could hold four cameras at a time inside of an airplane to shootplane interior flight scenes, and two simulators had to be produced for shotsfeaturing the actors in cockpits - lengths to which even the Americanfilm starring Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan and Kelly McGillis, producednearly 20 years ago, did not go.

Other camerashave been attached to the underbelly of a Mirage 2000 fighter jet andhelicopters 10 film crews along the Champs-Élysees also filmedlarge crowds watching Wednesday's Bastille Day parade - unbeknownstto the thousands of accidental extras below helping to provide the first shotsfor the film, which is slated for release one year later, on the 216thanniversary of the French Revolution, July 14, 2005.

The film has a$24m budget and will conclude shooting in December in southern France and atthe Farnborough air show in Britain, and will be distributed internationally byPathe.