The film starts out in Russian, then switches to English in an early scene as the political officer reads the passage from the Bible. The switch occurs on the word "Armageddon", which is the same in both languages, But pronounced differently.
To help the audience quickly grasp which sub's interior they were seeing as the movie jumped from scene to scene and sub to sub, the filmmakers created a subtle lighting scheme: red for Red October, green for the Alpha class "V.K. Konovalov" and blue for Dallas.
It is a manly film: Gates McFadden with Louise Borras (as Jack Ryan's wife and daughter) and Denise E. James as a flight attendant have the only credited female speaking roles, and all of their dialog scenes are over before the end of the opening credits. There is an uncredited female engineer speaking in the background at Skip Tyler's dry dock and another (non-speaking) flight attendant appears at the end, but apart from that there are no other women in the film.
Two of the submarine captains in this film have actual Navy experience. Sean Connery was in the Royal Navy before becoming an actor. Scott Glenn spent three years in the United States Marine Corps, which falls under the Department of the Navy.
During filming, several of the actors portraying USS Dallas crewmen took a cruise on a real submarine. To train for his role as the Dallas' commander, Scott Glenn was installed as a "co-commander" of the real sub. The real commander ordered his crew to first give report to him, then give the same report to Glenn. Glenn was so impressed with the commander he basically played that man in the film. Always giving orders in a calm quiet voice even in tense situations.
After being faxed the script, Sean Connery initially turned the role down on the basis of the plot being unrealistic for the post-Cold War era. Whoever sent the fax neglected to include the foreword explaining the movie as historical; once he received the foreword, Connery accepted the role.
The underwater model of the Red October has never been in the water. This effect was achieved using smoke on the 'underwater' set and a few digital touch-ups. The sub was hung by 12 wires from an overhead grid which gave the ability to tilt and turn the model as needed.
The US Naval Institute, a private nonprofit professional military association located on the grounds of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has been publishing books and magazines related to naval strategy and maritime history since 1874. A copy of the Naval Institutes's monthly magazine 'Proceedings' is seen in Ryan's London apartment. In 1984, the USNI published a work of fiction for the first time in its history, 'Tom Clancy''s first novel 'The Hunt for Red October.'
Sean Connery's conversation with Sam Neill in the captain's quarters of the Red October has a similar feel as the conversation between Mr. Starbuck and Captain Ahab from Chapter 132 ("The Symphony") of Herman Melville's 'Moby-Dick'.3 Ahab and Ramius both spent forty years at sea and share the line "I widowed her the day I married her" concerning their wives.
There was actually a fire aboard the flight deck of the real Enterprise. It occurred on 14 Jan 1969. Enterprise was undergoing ORI (Operational Readiness Inspections) prior to going to Vietnam. The fire took the lives of 23 men.
The scene where Jack Ryan was lowered onto the USS Dallas was filmed in the parking lot of the Mole Pier at Long Beach Naval Station on a beautiful sunny day. Editing made it look like it was the ocean.
For the purposes of filming the underwater model of the Red October, only the left side of the sub was detailed to appear as an authentic submarine. The effect of showing the right side of the boat was achieved by simply turning the frame and reversing the image.
Gates McFadden filmed her role during the year she had been dismissed from 'Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)(TV)'. Afterward, she rejoined the show and had to be replaced in the sequels by Anne Archer.
During filming in 1989, the USS Houston, which was used as the USS Dallas in the movie, snagged the tow cable between the commercial tugboat Barcona and a barge sinking the tugboat, 10 miles off Long Beach, California. One crewman drowned and two more were rescued.
The Hunt for Red October (1990) was released in March 1990, just as Major League Baseball was entering spring training. Lou Pinella and the rest of the Cincinnati Reds used this movie all season for motivation and swept the Oakland A's in the World Series that October.
Filming started in 1989 with Cold War still in progress but when it was released in 1990, the Soviet government announced that the Communist party no longer was in charge of everything. Producers found this obstacle irrelevant and went on with the release but using a disclaimer telling that the story takes place in 1984 (same year Tom Clancy's novel was published) during the Cold War.
Two torpedoes are dropped from the air at the Red October. One from a Bear-Foxtrot bomber and the other from a Seahawk helicopter. There was only one actual torpedo drop which was incorrectly reported here as: "filmed from two different angles for the attacks". By watching carefully the two sequences, played at the same time, it can be easily seen that the splash pattern around the torpedo of the second sequence is just the mirror image of the first sequence.
Director John McTiernan replaced his original editor, Peter Zinner, because Zinner found McTiernan's shooting approach difficult to work with given his classical, more traditional film background. However, Zinner has a bit part in the film as a Soviet admiral.
Director John McTiernan was unable to direct Die Hard 2 (1990) due schedule conflicts with filming Red October but returned to the series to direct Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995). The motto of the USS Reuben James (FFG-57) which appears and is mentioned by name is "Back With A Vengeance".
The frigate shown when the Red October surfaces is not the real USS Reuben James, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate with hull number 57. USS Gary, hull number 51, portrayed Reuben James and also provided some of the engine room shots of Red October. The crew also participated on some scenes.
Several employees that designed and built submarines from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company (now known as Northrup/Grumman Newport News) were set design advisors for the submarine interiors on the Dallas and Red October. Some of the interiors actually contain real submarine items - mostly things like hatches, lights, etc, to add realism.
A US Navy yard oiler was used to escort the sub at the beginning of the movie. It was in Long Beach CA, and the Red October was built to look like it submerged by using two articulated barges and flooding the front one while being towed.
Factual errors: The Typhoon is a NATO designated name so the Russians are unlikely to use it. The Russian name for the class is "Akula class". This is not to be confused with name "Akula class" that the NATO used to designate the Russian Project 971 Shchuka-B class attack submarine.
After the release of Tom Clancy's novel 'Red October', some members of Congress contacted the CIA demanding to know why the Russians had invented a caterpillar drive before the US-Navy did. Although a result of good research, the caterpillar drive is pure fiction.
In the scene with the frigate "Ruben James", a second frigate was used during the filming. The USS Wadsworth FFG-9 was also used to depict the Ruben James. The Wadsworth's hull number 9 is clearly visible in a couple of scenes.
Harrison Ford turned down the role of Jack Ryan as he felt the script focused too heavily on Captain Ramius, played by Sean Connery. Ford had previously played Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). His father, Henry Jones Sr. was played by Connery.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Lt. Cmdr. Mike Hewitt" is the torpedo operator on the surface ship who calls out the range of the torpedo fired on the Red October, only for it to be remotely detonated by James Greer (James Earl Jones) just prior to impact (to fool the Red October's crew being rescued on the surface). He is not referred to by name in the movie, but his character and the actor's name is listed in the credits. "Mike Hewitt" is a real person, although at the time of filming he was Captain [error] (now retired - he was Captain of the USS Fulton, a "sub-tender" ship stationed at the Naval Base in Groton, CT). He was a technical advisor on the film and they gave his name to the character as thank you.
The body count of this movie is debatable because of the sinking of the V. K. Konovalov - the Alfa class submarine was intended to be operated by a crew of only 30 - 32 (all Commissioned Officers) but in actual deployment would mostly have some 23-24 officers, as well as 4 petty officers and a cook on board. Apart from the crewmen of the Konovalov, the count is five: - Victor Putin, the political officer, the pilot and navigator of the F-14 crashing onto the Enterprise, Red October XO Vasilij Borodin, and cooks assistant/saboteur Loginov.