Cooperation with the U.S. Navy was critical to the production of Top Gun and its sequel, Top Gun: Maverick. Without support from the Navy, neither film would have been as successful as they are. To that end, actor Tom Cruise and producer Jerry Bruckheimer were both named Honorary Naval Aviators in 2020. In 2023, Cruise and lead crew from Top Gun: Maverick visited the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) during the carrier's deployment for an onboard screening of the hit sequel.
The visit to the carrier took place from March 2-3, 2023. Cruise was joined by writer and producer Christopher McQuarrie, editor Eddie Hamilton, and actress Hannah Waddington. The guests visited with the sailors and attended a screening of Top Gun: Maverick in the ship's hangar bay. The George H. W. Bush sailed from Naval Station Norfolk on August 10, 2022. With the rest of the strike group, the carrier is conducting exercises with NATO allies to improve interoperability.
The special guests were welcomed by Navy leadership. "I know our Sailors will never forget that night in the hangar bay, and I am equally as certain that neither will Mr. Cruise," Rear Adm. Dennis Velez, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, said in a public affairs release. "The Sailors of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group represent what is best about America. Their commitment and courage is on display every day, and I know Tom and his entire team left with a fuller appreciation of the capabilities and power of U.S. Navy's carrier strike groups -- and the dedication and grit of our Sailors that make it all possible."
The captain of the George H. W. Bush also expressed his appreciation for the visit. "While Top Gun will always be an American and Navy classic, Tom, Chris, Eddie, and their team outdid themselves with Top Gun: Maverick!" Capt. Dave Pollard, a genuine Top Gun graduate and instructor, said in the same press release. "Every minute they spent with the crew of our mighty warship paid dividends toward our crew’s morale from the top-down. It buoys my spirits to know that the leading entertainers and filmmakers of our day not only conceptually know what we do, but they can relate to what our nation’s warriors do on a daily basis through their personal experiences aboard USS George H. W. Bush."
Since its theatrical release in May 2022, Top Gun: Maverick grossed over $1.4 billion, the highest-grossing film of Cruise's career. The film earned six Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound, and walked away with one Oscar at the 95th Academy Awards: Best Sound.