Joey Giardello sued the film's producers for libel over the depiction of his fight with Carter. The case was settled out of court and Norman Jewison agreed to make a statement on the DVD version that, "Giardello no doubt was a great fighter."
The Hurricane is considered the third and final part of a loose trilogy of racism-themed films directed by Norman Jewison. The first two were In the Heat of the Night (1967) and A Soldier's Story (1984).
Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter was actually discharged from the military after four courts martial (after just 21 months' service). The movie shows him as a returning hero.
Denzel Washington and the actors who play his opponents in the ring classify as heavyweights. Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter is 5'8" and 155 pounds, about four inches shorter and nearly 40 pounds lighter than Washington, even after he the slimmed down to play Hurricane.
Director Norman Jewison showed the film uncompleted at the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival, without credits or proper color. He had been working on the movie the night before it was shown, and submitted it to the festival with the film still splinted together in hundreds of pieces. Before showing the movie he said to the eager audience, "I'm so nervous that the splints may fall apart."
The Hurricane is based on Rubin Carter's biography "The Sixteenth Round" and the book "Lazarus & the Hurricane" written by Sam Chaiton (Sam) and Terence Swinton (Terry). Bob Dylan's protest song, "Hurricane", featured throughout the film, was also based on Carter's biography.