According to writer and director Andrew Niccol, the filmmakers worked with actual gunrunners in the making of this movie. The tanks lined up for sale were real, and belonged to a Czech arms dealer, who had to have them back to sell to another country. They used a real stockpile of over three thousand AK-47s, because it was cheaper than getting prop guns.
Before shooting the scene where tanks were lined up for sale, the filmmakers had to warn N.A.T.O., lest they thought a real war was being started when they saw satellite images of the set.
The character of Andre Baptiste is loosely based on famous warlord and ex-leader of Liberia, Charles Taylor.
Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) was largely based on the exploits of international arms dealer Viktor Anatol'yevich But, a former Soviet officer, who was finally arrested by Thai authorities in March 2008. Bout, known as the "Merchant of Death", was trying to make a deal with American agents posing as F.A.R.C. insurgents when he was apprehended. After languishing in a Bangkok prison awaiting extradition by the U.S., he was tried and found guilty, and awaits sentencing in a Manhattan prison. The quote from Orlov seems appropriate, "I know that just because they needed me that day, didn't mean that they wouldn't make me a scapegoat the next." As a further reference, Orlov's father is named Anatoly, just like Bout's father.
The character Colonel Oliver Southern is a reference to Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who was tried (and ultimately pardoned) for selling arms to Iran to raise money to support the Contra movement in Nicaragua.
The Antonov An-12 airplane number 9Q-CIH filmed in the movie was owned by Russian citizen Evgeny Zakharov. On January 8, 2005, the plane crashed at Bukalaza, Uganda, killing all six crew members. The plane departed Entebbe airport for its destination Kinshasa. It was reportedly carrying humanitarian relief items.
Kono, the name to which the ship is changed, is a diamond-rich area of Sierra Leone named for a tribe that lives there.
In the opening scene of the bullet being manufactured and travelling along the conveyor into its box, the box in front of it has "Odessa, Ukraine" stamped on it. This is where Yuri's family came before settling in America.
When Yuri first enters the lobby of the hotel in Monrovia, there are two men in front of the television and making comments about it. They are watching O.J. Simpson's murder trial, which places the action somewhere in October of 1995.
Monica Bellucci was originally supposed to play the role of Ava, but had to back out due to scheduling conflicts.
The Berlin Arms Fair was filmed at the Thunder City airfield in South Africa. The two aircraft were an early Mk2 Buccaneer and a Hawker Hunter, both old timers in 82.
In the opening "Life of a Bullet" sequence during the opening credits, the ammo box on the conveyor belt ahead of the one the bullet is traveling in has a label in Cyrillic-lettered Russian. It translates as: S/N (Seriynyy Nomer, or "Serial Number") 83027 / Odessa, Ukraine / Code: DD / KOL-RO 1588. The second line spells "Odessa, Ukraine" the Russian way rather than the Ukrainian way. This is not an error; it is common practice on Ukrainian export ammunition to former Soviet client states, even non-Russian speaking clients. The third line uses the code letters "DD," presumably to denote the bullet type. The last line has two errors that seem to be deliberately inserted for English-speaking audiences. KOL is an abbreviation for KOLICHESTVO, or "quantity of," RO is an abbreviation for "rounds," and 1588 is the total number of cartridges in the crate. The standard Russian/Warsaw Pact term for items per package (like bullets) is Wtyka (SHTUKA > "Pieces") and is shortened as Wt. (Sht.). This was probably done to avoid confusion with the Western abbreviation "Wt." used to denote a package's weight. The letters "RO" for "rounds" should be "PU" or "PULI" for Puli, the Russian word for "bullets".
When it was released on DVD in the United States, the studio accidentally released it in 1.78:1. The correct aspect ratio is 2.35:1.
The helicopter taken apart by the mechanic just before Agent Valentine arrives is an Mi-24 Hind-A. It is distinguishable from later versions of the Hind due to the "greenhouse" cockpit. Later versions had two rounded canopies.
Liberia is shown in the original version as a french-speaking country, and not as an english-speaking country as it is in reality.
In order to avoid being captured on the high seas, Yuri paints over the name of the cargo ship he was smuggling arms on and changes the vessel's name and the national flag it is sailing under. It is considered incredibly bad luck to change the name of a boat, and it was at that point in the story that Yuri's luck starts going badly.
Nicolas Cage and Bridget Moynahan mutually appeared in films directed by Alex Proyas. Cage starred in Knowing and Moynahan starred in I, Robot.
When Yuri (Nicolas Cage) finds Vitaly (Jared Leto) in the Bolivian boarding house, the shape in which Vitaly has laid the coke represents Ukraine, the brothers' country of birth.