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: blue for Red October, green for the Alpha class "V.K. Konovalov" and red for Dallas.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Navy recruiters set up booths in some theater lobbies for people to sign up to join the service, or to at least look into it. The Pentagon hoped that the film would do for the submarine service what Top Gun (1986) did for naval aviation.
The Hunt for Red October (1990) was released in March 1990, just as Major League Baseball was entering spring training. Lou Piniella 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.
After consultation with the wardrobe and makeup departments behind John McTiernan's back, Connery arrived on set for his first day of shoots with his hairpiece incorporating a ponytail. Many years later once Connery's potential influence had greatly waned, McTiernan stated in an interview with Sight & Sound magazine that he was "f---ing livid" with Connery, and that the Scottish actor tried to use his considerable heft with the studio, going over the director's head to pass the alteration with producers. It seemed as though Connery was to get his way until midway through the second day's shooting when Director of Photography Jan De Bont started laughing while reviewing the dailies, remarking to Connery that his ponytail looked like "a limp, swinging d--k." This soon became a meme among the crew, and by the end of the second day Connery was so upset at the mockery he relented, having makeup remove the alteration and forcing the re-shoot of a key scene. McTiernan joked that the reported cost of the hairpiece, some $20,000, was mainly down to the cost of those subsequent re-shoots, and that the hair seen in the final movie was merely "a $10 bargain from a thrift shop."
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.
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.
As already mentioned here, the fighter crashing into the flight deck was stock footage of a F9F panther test flight in 1951. This particular aircraft was piloted by official test pilot George Chamberlain Duncan (1917-1995). Duncan survived the crash with minor burns and after a few months he was back flying again.
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.
Director John McTiernan was unable to direct Die Hard 2 (1990) due to 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".
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.
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.
Several employees that designed and built submarines from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company (now known as Northrop/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.
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.
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.
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.
When the USS Dallas first detects the Red October, sonar man Jones reports: "I'd say we had a boomer coming out of the barn. Could be a missile boat out of Polyarny." Both sentences are equivalent. The second sentence sounds different, obviously added later in case the audience did not understand the references to 'boomer' and 'barn'.
Gates McFadden is best known for her Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) role as a doctor aboard the fictional starship USS Enterprise. In this movie she plays a doctor whose husband is sent to the real US Navy aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise.
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. 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.