Roger Willie was originally hired as a dialect coach to the cast on the Navajo language. But his screentests were so good, they ended up casting him opposite Christian Slater.
Weapons coordinator Robert "Rock" Galotti amassed over 500 vintage World War II-era firing weapons and 700 rubber replica weapons for the film from private collectors and prop houses. Also featured moving across battlefields are vintage Sherman tanks, their smaller Stuart brethren, and Japanese Hago tanks.
Prior to filming, most of the principal cast joined a core group of sixty-two extras for boot camp, where they endured a week of rigorous military training as World War II Marines. The production received assistance from the Department of Defense, which made Kaneohe Marine Corps Base available for the actor's basic training. Under the tutelage of Sergeant Major James D. Dever (a retired twenty-five-year veteran of the Marine Corps) and his active-duty Marine instructors, the cast learned how to walk, talk, and think like Marines.
To add authenticity, MGM bought some genuine World War II-vintage radios from Samuel M. Hevener, a collector from Ohio.
Nicolas Cage actually learned to speak Najavo fluently for his part, despite the fact that his character in the film does not. Cage later said that he did it to better understand the script, but John Woo maintained that Cage had misunderstood the character for which he had been cast.
Naval Air Weapons Station, Point Mugu, was used to film the Camp Tarawa portion of the film, the Marines pre-battle embarkation point.
Fleming Begaye Sr. one of the 400 Navajo code talkers in the Marines, born in Red Valley, in 1921, died in Chinle, Arizona on May 10th, 2019. Now only seven code talkers remain.
Originally slated for a fall 2001 release, but pushed back several months following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001.
The desert scene in the opening credits uses the same stock footage of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona as Back to the Future Part III (1990) and City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold (1994).
When the film release was pushed back, many of the posters, cutouts, and promotional items sent to theatres were recalled. As such, they have become collector items, and fetch huge prices on auction sites like eBay.
During the "blue bus" scene at the beginning they originally had a person riding a horse around the trading post. Somehow the horse got spooked, bucked off the rider, and ran "frantic" around the set, crew, cast, extras, and cameras at Vasquez Rocks Park in Los Angeles county. They finally caught the horse and it was cut out of the scene immediately.
George Smith, one of the Navajo code talkers who helped the U.S. military outfox the Japanese during World War II by sending messages in their obscure language, was confirmed to have died by the President of the Navajo Nation on 2nd November 2012.
Steve J. Termath was originally cast for the role of Private Nellie however the role went to Martin Henderson when Termath took a brief hiatus from acting for actual military service, enlisting in the U.S. Army Reserves.
The last surviving Mohawk Code Talker Levi Oakes born 23 January 1925 in Akwesasne reserve died therein May 2019. The US Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008 acknowledged that indigenous servicemen speaking 33 different languages were employed by the US Armed forces during WWII.
The film was intended to be John Woo's dramatic breakout film for a major studio, and a lot of effort was put into hiring the right people to invoke his vision, including Oscar winner James Horner. However, the studio saw this more as a war-time action film and forced Woo to re-edit it as such, which was the version released to theaters in summer 2002, which was total disaster for the studio, losing over $70 million in the process.
The desert scene in the opening credits is Monument Valley, Utah/Arizona, used in movies such as Back to the Future Part III (1990), National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), and City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold (1994).
This was the second time that Oscar winner Nicolas Cage worked with director John Woo. Cage co-starred in "Face/Off" with John Travolta, in which Christian Slater who is in this film had co-starred with in Woo's second American-directed film, "Broken Arrow".
This would be the second to final film that John Woo would direct in the United States and for a major studio. "Paycheck" starring Oscar Winner Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman would be Woo's final film for Paramount Pictures. Woo left stating "All Hollywood offers me is crap or big action pictures. I want to do something good."
In the Camp Tarawa scene, while Ox Henderson (Christian Slater) is running with Joe Enders (Nicholas Cage), Ox tells Joe that people call him "Ox" because he is from Oxnard, California. This scene was filmed at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, which is just a few miles away from Oxnard, California.
This is the only time that Oscar winner James Horner worked with director John Woo. Horner was hired because his music gave the film a much bigger scope in its original version of the film before it was re-edited for its June 2002 release.
Filmed in 2000 but not released until two years later in June 2002 due to the tragedy of 9/11 and the film being re-edited for release.
The film was slated to be released at Christmas 2001 for Oscar consideration in a version that ran 153 Minutes. However, MGM pushed back the film due to the events of 9/11 and later released as Summer film in June 2002 in a shortened, less graphic version of 134 Minutes which lost the essence of the storyline despite it's violence.
This movie was released on the same day as Scooby-Doo (2002) and The Bourne Identity (2002).
This is the second film in which director of photography Jeffrey L. Kimball worked with John Woo. The first was "Mission: Impossible 2" and their final collaboration would end up being Woo's last (to date) Hollywood film, "Paycheck" in 2003.
Upon its release, the film was highly criticized by many critics for its racial overtones against Native Americans as well as its depictions.
This was the third consecutive film featuring Mark Ruffalo co-starring with a previous Oscar winner or nominee. They include Laura Linney ("You Can Count On Me"), Robert Redford ("The Last Castle") and this one with Nicolas Cage.