Director Sidney Lumet writes in his book "Making Movies" about an argument between River Phoenix and writer Naomi Foner. A scene in the movie concerns the character played by Phoenix being interrupted while practicing a classical piano solo. In the script, when he is caught, he breaks into a jazz riff to cover his "embarrassment" at being caught doing something serious. Phoenix fought hard against this, feeling that his character would never be embarrassed about working at the piano. Lumet was so impressed by the point Phoenix made, he shot the scene the way Phoenix wanted it.
The bombing that the Popes had carried out is loosely based on the August 24, 1970 bombing of Sterling Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, Wisconsin during the height of the Vietnam protest era in which a physics post-doctoral researcher named Robert Fassnacht was killed. Coincidentally, River Phoenix (Danny Pope) was born on August 23, 1970.
One of only a handful of films to successfully have its MPAA rating changed through the formal appeals process. Originally given an "R" due to more than one use of the "F" word, it was revised to "PG13".
The plot and conflicts are nearly identical in Christian Petzold's acclaimed German feature Die innere Sicherheit (2000), only the setting, political context and some characters are different. The original screenplay by Naomi Foner is not credited in the German version.
Jomo, the name of the family's dog, is a reference to Jomo Kenyatta, the first prime minister and president of Kenya. This may also be a reference to the movie Sunday Bloody Sunday, in which a similarly liberal family's pet dog is named "Kenyatta."
One of two 1988 theatrical features films starring actor River Phoenix which were first released in that year. The two cinema movies are Little Nikita (1988) Running on Empty (1988). Both movies were about espionage.
This film, which stars Judd Hirsch, was inspired by the 1970 bombing of Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin. In the TV episode Numb3rs: Protest (2006), Hirsch's character Alan Eppes is revealed to have a history of protesting (albeit peacefully) the Vietnam war, and a bombing suspect in that episode is named Matt Stirling.
The plot is similar to Quantum Leap: Animal Frat - October 19, 1967 (1990) where in the original history a woman blows up a building at a university that she thought was unoccupied, so the person inside was killed as a result, and the woman spent the rest of her life on the run.