The scene in which the U.S.S. Alabama is diving for the first time, is footage of the real submarine submerging. Tony Scott was following along in a helicopter obtaining shots of the ship. When the Captain of the Alabama requested that the helicopter cease filming, they submerged, which is what director Tony Scott was hoping for anyway.
The "Sonar" panels constantly depicted in the film are completely false. The movie version depicts a dumbed down pseudo radar screen, complete with a sweeptrack and bears absolutely no resemblance to a broadband passive sonar display. This was done to give the audience a more visual feel for the otherwise auditory science of Sonar operation.
The disagreement, between Captain Ramsey and Lieutenant Commander Hunter, over the origin of the Lipizzaner stallions throughout the movie foreshadows and illustrates the fundamental source of friction between the two men, both insisting that their mutually exclusive version of reality is the truth. Ironically, Captain Ramsey (who believes the stallions are Portuguese) and Lieutenant Commander Hunter (who says they are Spanish) are both incorrect. The Lippizaner stallions are in fact Slovenian - they originate from a town called Lipica. However, the horses are generally associated with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria, so Hunter was technically closer to the truth than Ramsey.
According to a 1995 Premiere magazine article, when Quentin Tarantino visited the set, Denzel Washington confronted him about his use of the word "nigger" in his films. Tarantino got embarrassed and wanted to move the conversation to a more private area. Washington said, "No, if we're going to discuss it, let's discuss it now." Washington later said he still felt that Tarantino was "a fine artist".
Since the U.S. Navy would not cooperate with the filming, the French Navy allowed the use of one of their Triomphant Class ballistic missile submarines, along with the aircraft carrier Foch for several scenes.
Robert Towne received an urgent call from Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer one night, regarding a key scene between Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. They wanted Towne to rewrite the discussion on the nature of war between the two characters, thus setting up a more plausible potential for conflict, for the remainder of the film. Such was the urgency of the situation, that Towne had to dictate his rewrite over the phone, to Simpson and Bruckheimer, as they recorded his words.
Skip Beard, listed as a Technical Advisor, served as the Commanding Officer of the real U.S.S. Alabama (SSBN 731). He can be seen in the Board of Inquiry scene. He is the man with no hair, sitting next to Jason Robards.
At one point in the film, a sonar operator mentions a Soviet "Akula" class submarine. There are two different Soviet/Russian submarine classes referred to by that name: the Project 971 attack submarine known to the Russians as the Shchuka ("Pike") has the NATO code name Akula. The Project 941 missile submarine, NATO codename Typhoon, is named the "Akula" class in Russian. U.S. Navy personnel would usually use the NATO code-names, so the submarine under discussion, is an attack boat.
Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer originally offered Val Kilmer one of the headlining roles, but he declined. Years later, Kilmer noted it was one of the few films that he wished he had agreed to be in. The role offered to Kilmer, by Simpson and Bruckheimer, was never formally specified.
When Lieutenant Commander Hunter is relieved of duty, Captain Ramsey says "Get Lieutenant Zimmer in here!" Hans Zimmer composed the films soundtrack, and his name was added to the script, to pay him honor.
Quentin Tarantino was brought in to do uncredited "punch-ups" of the dialogue. His major contribution was the comic book bickering. The character name "Russell Vossler" is a reference to Rand Vossler, with whom Tarantino used to work at a video store. See also Pulp Fiction (1994).
The cigars, that Captain Frank Ramsey and Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter smoke at the beginning of their mission, are made by Montecristo. The brand is made in Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, by two different companies. But Ramsey's "more expensive than drugs" comment, implies that theirs were the Cuban-made variety. Ramsey's cigar of choice throughout the movie is the classic tapered Montecristo #2.
This film marked the first of five collaborations between Tony Scott and Denzel Washington before Scott's death in 2012. It was also the third time Scott worked with James Gandolfini, with whom he would work four times in total.
Along with Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Glory (1989), Independence Day (1996), and The Dark Knight (2008), this is one of only five films whose purely orchestral soundtracks won the Grammy Award for Best Score despite not being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
Toward the end of the film, the VLF antenna is raised. VLF is the acronym for the Very Low Frequency radio spectrum, used by submarines because VLF signals can penetrate up to forty meters of salt water. This allows submarines to receive messages while submerged. In addition, the very long wavelengths (10 to 100 kilometers) make it impossible to precisely determine the location of a VLF signal.
The Alabama's torpedo tubes are located on either side of its hull instead of the traditional bow and stern positions. This is because her bow, like that of most modern submarines, contains a large passive sonar array.
The name of the submarine is the U.S.S. Alabama. The University of Alabama's football team is called "The Crimson Tide," once led by famous coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. In the film, "Bear" is the name of the Alabama's Captain's dog.
The origin of Lippizaner horses resides in 9 stallions and 24 mares of Spanish horses imported by the Archduke Carlos II of Austria in 1580. The Archduke founded the stud farm in Lipizzia (Slovenia). But, as Denzel Washington, states in the film, the horses are actually Spanish.
There is another U.S.S. Alabama, a World War II battleship, permanently docked at Mobile Bay, Alabama, that serves as a museum, which has also been occasionally used as a hurricane shelter. Most recently, during Hurricane Katrina, in which members of eighteen museum employee families took shelter during the storm.
Jason Robards, who plays the Admiral in the inquiry scene, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and received the Navy Cross (though he is not listed in official rolls of Navy Cross recipients, despite the claims some - not he - have made).
The underlying dramatic plotline of this film was; at the time, a closely held secret in the command and control of the U.S. Navy's Ballistic Missile Submarine force. The "boomers", were the third leg of the "triad" of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems consisting of: manned bombers, land-based missiles (in underground concrete silos); and, submarine based intermediate range ballistic missiles, as are carried aboard the SSBNs, like the Alabama. The crucial dramatic plotline of this film is; that without the authorization, and the validated order to do so; and, with such authorization and order being in doubt; and, not being positively and affirmatively known; and, not being in the possession of the submarine's Commanding Officer and its qualified nuclear weapons officers; the Commanding Officer (Hackman) proposed; (and his submarine had the capability to); arm and launch the nuclear weapons of his boat, on his and his officer's decisions alone, to do so. Unknown to the American public generally, at the time, and wrongly presumed to in fact be wholly otherwise; this allegedly fictional sequence of events was in fact true. The commanding officers and the nuclear weapons officers of the ballistic missile submarine force; unlike their Air Force counterparts in the then-existent Strike Command (the legendary Strategic Air Command (SAC) was abolished in 1992), had in effect, independent launch authority; should the officers of the submarine agree to such an action. The complete nuclear weapons release protocol (i.e. the permissive action links to arm and launch), existed entirely aboard the sub, and in the training of its crew, and the equipment and systems they were provided. For the land based missiles and bombers, this was not the case. The launch order transmitted by the "football" carrying military aide to the President, for the bomber and land based missile forces had to transmit to those forces, the unlocking codes necessary to initiate the weapons' arming and release (launching) protocols. Without this, the missiles could both never be launched, and their weapons never armed. It was known as positive control. Because of the difficulty of communicating with the subs, at all times on deterrent patrol, and normally several hundred feet beneath the ocean's surface; and also normally operating in total radio silence; a crisis might develop, and the ground based radios to communicate with the subs might be preemptively destroyed. So, the Navy and Defense Department's initial solution; was, to give launch control authority jointly, and individually, to the sub's commander and his officers. This was not generally known until Crimson Tide (1995). With the reduction in global tensions since the 1990s, between the superpowers; and, the vast improvement in ground and space based global communications, the U.S. Navy's "boomers" are now joined in the positive control regime with the other legs of the nuclear triad.
The dockside scene, where Captain Ramsey addresses the crew, shows the U.S.S. Alabama in the background, and after his speech, the crew runs onboard. The sub was actually the U.S.S. Barbel (SS-580), a conventionally-powered (i.e. non-nuclear) attack submarine originally commissioned in 1959. The sail ("conning tower") is a plywood mock-up that generally matched the real Alabama's. Barbel's original sail not only looked different, but had already been removed (the Barbel was about to be scrapped).
"Eternal Father, Strong To Save" which is playing when the submarine dives for the first time is commonly known among naval personnel as "The Navy Hymn". It can be heard in many movies, such as The Right Stuff (1983), Titanic (1997) and The Perfect Storm (2000).
Hollywood Pictures movie executives, to include studio President Ricardo Mestres, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott, and writers Michael Schiffer and Richard Henrick, were invited by the Navy to ride the Trident ballistic missile submarine U.S.S. Florida (SSBN-728) with the Gold Crew in 1993, to support research into the movie. The submarine crew was informed that the plot line of Crimson Tide would be "Hunt for Red October meets 2001: A Space Odyssey," where a computer on the ship was trying to launch missiles to start World War III, while the crew tries to prevent it. The crew was instructed by the Navy to demonstrate to the studio executives that there was no computer that could launch missiles. The studio was given full access to film onboard the ship, and videotaped the ship's Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander William Toti, responding to a fire drill, a flooding drill, and a missile launch, just as Denzel Washington does in the movie. When the studio forwarded the film's script to the Navy several months later, the story had changed to Denzel Washington leading a mutiny. While Bruckheimer later stated that the story was always about a mutiny, some Navy leaders blamed the ship's real XO, Toti, for planting the mutiny storyline in the producer's heads. Four years later, when the ship's XO, then Commander Toti, took command of a submarine in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Crimson Tide screenwriter Michael Schiffer was one of the attendees at his change-of-command ceremony.
The only previous film that has been about an American Naval Officer being relieved of command by his Executive Officer was The Caine Mutiny (1954), in which Humphrey Bogart played the Captain. Bogart and Jason Robards, who appears in this film, have both been married to Lauren Bacall.
As Ramsey reviews Hunter's service record, November 11, 1959 appears as the character's date of birth. Numerous other events have taken place on November 11th, including: birth of General Patton in 1885, President Harding's dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1921, the beginning of construction of the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in 1909, and the date Washington became a state in 1889. The U.S.S. Alabama is based in Washington. General Patton is mentioned in the movie. The actor is actually five years older.
In the prelude, the CNN reporter (played by former NBC correspondent Richard Valeriani) establishes his location as "Reporting live from the French aircraft carrier Foch, somewhere in the Mediterranean." The carrier's namesake, French General Ferdinand Foch, once notably commented, "Aviation is fine as a sport. But as an instrument of war, it is worthless."
The movie opens with the statement about the three most powerful men in the world. They are: 1. The President of the United States. 2. The Premier of the Soviet Union. 3. The Captain of a nuclear submarine.
The dog that Captain Ramsey has in the movie, is named "Bear". Gene Hackman and James Gandolfini starred together again, in Get Shorty (1995). Gandolfini's character's nickname in that film was "Bear".