Although the film was conceived of as an indie drama, when producer Elie Samaha took control of the film, he attempted to change the film to fit the action genre. Samaha recut the film against the wishes of the director and cast. This included shooting new action scenes. Since Val Kilmer refused to shoot these new scenes, Samaha used a stunt double to play the part of Kilmer. There are now two versions of the film: The director's cut (a quiet, character-based drama intended for film festivals like Sundance), and Samaha's action-based cut, intended for a video release in Eastern Europe.
The version released on video in the U.S. is producer Elie Samaha's recut of the film, which was rejected by the writer/director as well as the principal cast and crew. There are no plans for a release of the director's cut.
Charles Burmeister's script for Columbus Day won the Chesterfield Screenwriting Fellowship sponsored by Paramount Pictures and was named Top 30 of 5,500 scripts in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' Nicholl Fellowship.
Val Kilmer had to undergo over an hour of daily makeup to look older for the role. Kilmer insisted on this to increase realism and even brought in his makeup artist from Tombstone (1993) to facilitate the desired "raw" look.