John Travolta initially offered the director's seat to Quentin Tarantino, who declined.
The film's cinematographer has gone on record as saying that the overuse of color filters and Dutch Angles wasn't his idea, and that he was given the smallest lighting budget he had ever worked with.
Barry Pepper said that, had he known he was going to win Worst Supporting Actor at the Razzies, he would have shown up to accept his award in person.
John Travolta referred to this film as "like Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) but better" and "the Schindler's List (1993) of science-fiction films" during publicity.
The original plans called for a sequel to be produced, which would be based on the second half of the novel by L. Ron Hubbard. These plans were scrapped due to poor critical and public reaction.
Barry Pepper blamed the film's failure on "a weak script and poor production values". He claimed that John Travolta's paycheck took most of the budget.
In an interview with Movieline magazine, Barry Pepper said that the food provided on the set wasn't great and that John Travolta decided to summon his personal chef to the movie's Canada location to feed the cast and crew.
J.D. Shapiro, the first screenwriter, openly apologized for this film, and even personally accepted the film's Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Movie of the Decade, 2000-09. He stated in a New York Post article that "the only time I saw the movie was at the premiere, which was one too many times. [...] Looking back at the movie with fresh eyes, I can't help but be strangely proud of it. Because out of all the sucky movies, mine is the suckiest."
The investor, Intertainment, sued producer Franchise Pictures for fraud. Franchise claimed the budget was $75 million instead of the actual budget of $44 million. Franchise was ordered by the court to pay Intertainment $121.7 million in damages, and went bankrupt. Intertainment only financed the film because it came as a package deal with The Art of War (2000) and The Whole Nine Yards (2000).
Almost every shot in the film is at a dutch angle, because, according to Roger Christian, he wanted the film to look like a comic book.
A "Battlefield Earth 2" was planned and was set for a 2003 release, so it could not compete with Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) with John Travolta, Barry Pepper and Forest Whitaker returning in their roles. However, the film was a box-office disaster and the planned sequel was abandoned.
Despite the film's critical failure, John Travolta has gone to publicly defend it. He even said that if they were to make it again, that he would do it.
Until I Know Who Killed Me (2007) exceeded their record by winning eight Razzies in 2008, this was tied with Showgirls (1995) for the most Golden Raspberry Award wins in a year: seven. While "Showgirls" received almost twice as many Razzie nominations, this film "won" in every single category in which it was nominated at the 2001 Awards. Forest Whitaker was the only nominee to escape without a Razzie (for Worst Supporting Actor; Barry Pepper won). This film also went on to win special Razzies for Worst Drama of Our First 25 Years (2005) and Worst Picture of the Decade (2010).
John Travolta's contract had him take a large up-front pay cut from his usual fee, to around $10 million, with incentives that would have paid him about $15 million more when and if the movie met standards at the North American box office. Unfortunately, for him, it didn't.
John Travolta's theatrical agency William Morris was also said to be unenthusiastic about the film, reportedly leading to Travolta threatening to leave them if they did not help him to set up the film.
Screenwriter J.D. Shapiro admitted that he got involved in the movie at first because he had read that the Scientology Celebrity Center in LA was "a great place to pick up women". He met up with Karen Hollander, president of the center, who was a fan of Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) (which he had written), and asked him if he would be interested in adapting one of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's books. Shapiro also met with many other Scientology prominents such as John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston. Since he was skeptic of the religious cult, he did some research by following a couple of Scientology courses, and was even invited on their cruise ship, the Freewind. He said that although he was very clear about his negative views on organized religion, everyone within the organization was very friendly, and no one ever took issue with his criticism or tried to force him into doing anything. Even though he compared the finished film to a "trainwreck", he maintained that it wasn't a 'Scientology movie' when he wrote it, nor was the final product (which was completely re-written without his involvement).
When the book was first written, John Travolta wanted to make the movie and star as Johnny Goodboy, the young hero; however, he could get no investors to back him because of the project's association with Scientology. By the time the movie was made he was too old to play the part of the hero and, instead, opted to play the part of the villain, Terl.
Listed among the Top Ten Best Bad Films ever made in "The Official Razzie Movie Guide", by Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson.
The original screenplay was heavily re-written at the behest of the studio and star John Travolta. Original writer J.D. Shapiro thought that the changes "killed the movie", and wanted to be credited under his pseudonym "Sir Nick Knack". However, WGA rules stated that pseudonyms cannot be used when an author gets paid a certain amount of money, so the only alternative to be credited under his full name was to not be credited at all. His agent and attorney talked him out of it, as "there was a lot of money at stake".
Tom Cruise was said to have warned Warner Bros. that he thought the movie was a bad idea. This was later denied by his spokesperson.
George Lucas recommended Roger Christian as director. He was the second-unit director on Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), the art director on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and directed Black Angel (1980), a short film commissioned by Lucas to be shown before theatrical screenings of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) during its original release in the UK.
There are similarities between what happens to Terl in L. Ron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth" and the imprisonment of Xenu that members of Hubbard's religion "Scientology" are taught about when they reach the level "OT III".
John Travolta had both a sequel and an animated series planned even before the film was released.
John Travolta took so much inspiration from Predator that they had to add his voice in post production. He refused to do or say anything other than the Predator's signature growl.
According to the commentary, the prison food is actually a mixture of peas, potatoes and spring greens.
John Travolta ploughed in a lot of his own money to finance the film. He also significantly lowered his usual salary demands of $20 million.
After its opening weekend, the film's box office takings collapsed by $67 million. It earned the bulk of its US take in the first 10 days of its release before flatlining.
In a somewhat controversial means of promoting this film, star John Travolta made the usual publicity rounds but, instead of discussing the film in interviews, he signed copies of L. Ron Hubbard's book.
Author L. Ron Hubbard is the founder of the Cult of Scientology, to which John Travolta and Kelly Preston belong.
The film was reported to have been the most expensive production shot in Canada up to that point. It was also reported that production costs would have been twice as high had the film been shot in the US.
The script originally had the Psyclos jumping into vats of oil. This was changed to them lounging around.
John Travolta's makeup proved challenging. He wore a head apparatus, talons for hands and amber eyes. In addition, he walked on four-foot stilts.
The initial version of the screenplay by J.D. Shapiro was a much looser adaptation of the original novel by author and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. As Shapiro put it, it was "darker, grittier [than what ended up on the screen] and had a very compelling story with rich characters". Both MGM President Mike Marcus and John Travolta (a prominent Scientologist) loved it, and the project was officially greenlit with a $100 million budget and Travolta set to star. However, the studio (pressed by Travolta's people) later wanted a more faithful version than Shapiro had written; according to insiders, 'Battlefield Earth' was the book that Hubbard most wanted to see adapted as a movie, and he had left detailed notes before his death on how that movie should be made. MGM and Travolta's camp insisted on re-writes that would completely change the tone, remove some key scenes and characters, and add more action scenes. Shapiro refused and was soon fired. Corey Mandell was then hired and delivered a screenplay much more along the lines of what the producers were asking for (in Shapiro's words, adding "ridiculous scenes [...,] campy dialogue, aliens in KISS boots, and everyone wearing Bob Marley wigs"). Most of the advertising materials credited Mandell alone for the screenplay, although Shapiro was later awarded joint credit by the WGA.
Screenwriter J.D. Shapiro, who wrote an initial draft of the film, surmised that author L. Ron Hubbard conceived of the name 'Psychlos' for the bad aliens because he hated psychiatrists and psychologists.
As a Scientologist, John Travolta had been actively pursuing a film adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard's novel for over 10 years.
Originally, the film was going to be made in the early 1980s and was going to be made into two films with John Travolta playing Jonnie Goodboy Tyler and the first film was planned to be released in 1983. However, the project was canceled due to rising costs.
It was Barry Pepper's idea that Johnnie insist that everyone eat after the prison fight. Originally, he was going to give food to his beaten opponent. Pepper felt the scene as originally written was cliched.
Production went on so long that John Travolta turned down The Shipping News (2001) and postponed production on Standing Room Only (2003).
A sequel to the film was planned to cover the second half of the book, but the panning from critics, poor box office performance, and the financial ruin of Franchise Pictures killed off the plans to do the second half of the novel.
Writer Corey Mandell has stated that he did not want to write the script to this film at all. Many people told him to walk away from the project altogether including his agent, his wife, his friends and his dog, he said jokingly. He personally felt that his heart was not into the project at all. He was approached by John Travolta for a meeting at Fox at the time and Travolta had tried to sell him on it by stating that it was not Scientology based and it was intended to be an epic movie like Star Wars. Mandell politely refused the offer despite Travolta trying to working him with good vibes. He eventually took the assignment after the original script was not what they had intended. Mandell takes complete responsibility for its' failure but it did not end his career.
After Franchise Pictures took over the film, the film endured serious problems because they did not have executives to oversee the project. The company was solely an investment firm, which would lead to bankruptcy and other legal problems after this film was released. The film was overseen by John Travolta, his producer and members of the Scientology Church.
John Travolta and Forest Whitaker previously starred in Phenomenon (1996) together.
This was first mooted as a film in the mid-80s with British director Ken Annakin behind the camera, working from a screenplay by veteran writer Abraham Polonsky.
This film was originally set up at MGM and then picked up by Fox 2000 Pictures until the project was finally dropped by Twentieth Century-Fox for unknown reasons in the mid 1990's. The films original budget was said to be over 100 Million dollars with John Travolta's salary being around 20 Million. Franchise Pictures picked up the project in turn around with the budget significantly less.
The film's budget went from the 100 Million dollar price tag that Fox 2000 Pictures had set up to a measly 44 Million dollar one once Franchise Pictures picked up the project, which was a difference of 56 Million dollars that would been for the film's special effects, production design, casting and music as well as John Travolta's salary of 20 Million dollars. Travolta's salary is what ate up most of the budget for the film leaving the film with minimal chances to succeed with limited resources and low rent special effects.
After the release of this film, Franchise Pictures was in deep trouble. Their package of films that included this one, Get Carter, The Art of War, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Angel Eyes, Heist, City By The Sea, and Spartan were box office failures. The only films to have any success were The Whole Nine Yards and The Boondock Saints, which enjoyed it's most success after being released on home video and DVD after the studio failed to give the film a proper theatrical release in 1999 and now a cult classic. There were major problems with Andrew Stevens and Elie Samaha in regards to the firm's finances along with the other investors involved in which the bank that had loaned Samaha the investment capital, Imperial Bank (now Comerica) had given the firm 500 Million dollars as start up capital for these films. Stevens was not apart of this but Samaha was deeply involved with the fraud being committed by these investors which led to a major lawsuit and eventually in 2004 was ordered by the US courts to pay over 121 Million dollars in restitution and Samaha personally was responsible for 77 Million in damages for fraudulently over estimating the budget for all their film projects including this film.
The film was made in Canada for financial reasons after Fox 2000 Pictures dropped the film and had to resort to low budget cheats to get the film made with the limited 44 Million dollar budget that they had.
Originally John Travolta was going to star as Johnny Goodboy Tyler in the original big budget version of the film with the original script at both MGM and at Fox 2000. When Corey Mandell came on board to write the script based back on the book, Travolta decided to take the part of Teryl, the films' villain.
The film has no real development history because both MGM and Fox 2000 Pictures had dropped the film off their development slates and Franchise Pictures was more an investment group and not real film studio.