Last November, when Gene Hackman was aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson shooting the military thriller Behind Enemy Lines (opening Friday), little did he know that less than a year later the formidable aircraft carrier would be called into action in a war against global terrorism.

"The Carl Vinson is now in the Arabian Sea," the two time Academy Award winner notes. "And the jets that we saw taking off on maneuvers while we were there filming, they're now over there doing the real thing.

"There's something very pertinent — almost eerie — about knowing that the room I slept in [on the aircraft carrier] is now being slept in by somebody who, nightly, is going over into Afghanistan," he adds.

In fact, as tribute to the vessel and crew that proved indispensable during the gritty war movie's production, a print of Behind Enemy Lines was shipped to the Carl Vinson over the Thanksgiving holiday for a special "thank you" screening. Calling that gesture "wonderful," Hackman goes on to say that his latest cinematic offering, which depicts an admiral's determination to rescue a shot-down fighter pilot (played by Meet The Parents star Owen Wilson), is coming at the right time — and presenting the right message — for America.

"We all have a sense of patriotism, and a loyalty to the military, which has changed from the post-Vietnam era, when the military was looked at as something different," says the actor, who joined the Marines at age 16 (albeit "for fun," he admits). "This film has good values. It's one that people can come out of feeling good about what America does."