Originally the character of Kano was Japanese-American. However, Ed Boon and John Tobias were so impressed with how Trevor Goddard portrayed him that they retconned Kano's history in future games to make him Australian, which they thought was Goddard's nationality. They later learned that, although Goddard gave Kano an Australian accent, Goddard himself was actually born in England but had claimed to be of Australian descent.
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras performed all her own stunts (refusing to use a double), including the fight scenes. She dislocated her shoulder during one scene, but they were able to fix it on set, without any recurrence.
(at around 6 mins) Steven Spielberg, an avid fan of video games, in particular the Mortal Kombat series, was set to make a cameo appearance as the director in Johnny Cage's first scene. However scheduling conflicts forced him to back out. Nonetheless, the "director" character in this scene does resemble Spielberg, which is most likely a reference to this.
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras had read and auditioned for the part of Sonya Blade several times, but due to the long casting process, she chose to do Billy Madison (1995) instead. Cameron Diaz was cast after the producers saw dailies of her from The Mask (1994). However, Diaz broke her wrist during training, just before filming. Fortunately, filming on Billy Madison had just wrapped, making Wilson available again. She happily took the role, even if it meant that she had to be flown to the set the next day, and had to train for the big fight scenes in between shooting the rest of the movie.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa was the filmmakers' first and only choice for the role of Shang Tsung. He came to the audition in a costume, and read his lines while standing on a chair. Shang Tsung was depicted as relatively younger in the film in order to avoid the excessive makeup that would have been required to duplicate his aged appearance in the game.
(at around 1h 12 mins) When the chameleon creature takes over the body of an Outworld statue and rises as a green ninja, you can hear, very quietly, a voice say "Reptile". This is the voice of Shao Kahn, and was sampled directly from Mortal Kombat II (1993).
The original screenplay for the film was more faithful to the game, in that it had graphic violence and strong language making it a R rated script. However, the deal that the producers had with New Line Cinema included that they deliver a PG-13 movie to keep the film accessible to the target audience (mostly teenagers).
The locations in Thailand were so remote they were only accessible by boat. Cast, crew and equipment had to be transported by long canoes. An outhouse was built in a secluded area near the set so that the crew didn't have to make constant trips to and from the mainland.
On-set injuries were surprisingly minimal despite the amount of action involved, consisting mostly of painful bruises and some broken ribs. The worst injury was when Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage) mildly bruised his kidney in his fight scene with Scorpion (Chris Casamassa). Ashby originally requested a stunt double, but Robin Shou convinced him that the fight would look much better if he did it himself. Ashby wore protective padding on his back, but a kick from Casamessa just happen to land in between them, injuring his kidney. Ashby said that it was very painful and that he urinated blood after that.
Scripted but not filmed was a scene where Shang Tsung allowed the "Kombatants" a night to bury Art Lean and mourn his loss. They buried him the Garden of Statues, underneath the statue of Kung Lao; this is the only place where Kung Lao appears in any of the movies. Also scripted but not filmed was a battle between Sonya Blade (who wins, naturally) and Jade, another of Shang Tsung's bodyguards.
Liu Kang doesn't perform any of his "special moves", until he has traveled to outworld. It is there in which he performs both his gravity-defying bicycle kick and later his fireball to Reptile and Shang Tsung respectively.
The coined phrase "Flawless Victory" ( a match where the victor sustains no attacks from their opponent) was used regarding at most 4 matches in the film. However only 2 of the matches meet the criteria: Sub-zero's first match against a henchmen and Johnny Cage's match against Goro.
(at around 54 mins) Liu Kang was supposed to duplicate the acrobatic flips of Sub Zero's down the ramp during the fight, but Robin Shou couldn't pull it off successfully. After a few takes, instead of the acrobatics, he just ran down into the ramp yelling like a maniac. That's the shot that got used.
Frank Welker was uncredited as the voice of the creature Reptile and of the Emperor, Shao Kahn. The voice Welker gave Shao Kahn is almost identical to Welker's Dr. Claw voice on Inspector Gadget (1983).
Although uncredited, some of Johnny Cage's fighting was done by stuntman J.J. Perry. Linden Ashby actually did a lot of the fighting himself, and according to cast and crew members, he got injured a lot as a result.
Robin Shou said that in the original script he "was supposed to fall in love with Talisa Soto [Kitana]. I was looking forward to it, but they thought we have so much action, we don't want to add romance to it. They cut it out."
Reptile was originally not included in the movie, but was added in response to focus groups being unimpressed with the amount of fighting in the film. Robin Shou and Paul W.S. Anderson noted that neither knew what Reptile's lizard form would look like until after filming, making the pre-fight sequence difficult to shoot.
The film was originally due for a May 1995 release, but was pushed to August after test screenings pointed out that the target audience loved what they saw, but thought there weren't enough fights. Extensive reshoots were done to extend the Johnny Cage VS Scorpion fight as well as add in the fight between Liu Kang and "human" Reptile. In the original cut of the film, Johnny Cage was supposed to defeat Scorpion with the shadow kick in the forest as opposed to being sucked into a portal created by the latter. This is most evident in the novelization of the film, when the fight does indeed end with the aforementioned kick. Even early TV spots of the film show Cage making contact with Scorpion and no portal appearing. As for the Reptile scene, it originally ended with his reptilian form being sucked into the gargoyle body (as seen in the final cut), but not actually morphing into the green ninja. Basically this implied that the gargoyle had become his tomb, and no actual fight took place, also confirmed in the novelization. Ironically, these two fights are considered to be the best of the film, most likely because Robin Shou was the exclusive fight choreographer for the reshoots as opposed to the credited choreographer, Pat E. Johnson. For these fights, Shou used wirework martial arts techniques that he had employed as a stuntman in Hong Kong. Although these techniques became mainstream following the release of The Matrix (1999), Mortal Kombat was actually the first big Hollywood film to use them.
All of Goro's scenes were filmed in a Los Angeles studio. The animatronic that was used to portray him had to be operated by 13 to 16 people, and it frequently broke down, causing significant delays. It could not be brought on set in Thailand out of fear that it would cause even more trouble. For the fight scenes involving Goro, the crew had created a soundstage with ponds and water, but these were quickly removed to prevent Goro from falling in accidentally and short-circuiting.
In a co-ordinated release schedule, the film of Mortal Kombat was released in August, a digital TV special came out at the end of the month, a tour arrived at Radio City Music Hall in September, a CD-ROM came out in October and Mortal Kombat 3 (1995) also came out that month.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson credits Christopher Lambert for smoothing over his first job on a big movie. Lambert, a veteran of several Hollywood blockbusters, never got overwhelmed by the large scale of the production, and his laid-back attitude positively influenced the other, less-experienced people on the set. Even Ed Boon, co-creator of the original video game, admitted that Lambert did a great job, despite not being Asian like the character's depiction in the game. Since Lambert was the most expensive actor on set, the production could only afford him for a few weeks of close-ups in an LA studio; a stand-in would be used for the wide shots filmed in Thailand. However, Lambert believed that the movie would be better if it was him all the time, so he came to Thailand for no extra charge (no doubt to the chagrin of his agent and managers). He even payed for the wrap party afterwards.
According to the film, the outworld world have won nine straight victories of mortal kombat and only need one more inorder to take over earth. Given that the tenth tournament takes place in 1995, this means that the earthrealm had been participating since 1725 ( the battle taking place a generation which is 30 years).
According to Linden Ashby, the medic on set in LA also acted as a set security guard. The man took his job very seriously: when Tom Cruise happened to be in the area and came to take a look at the set, the medic sent him off since Cruise wasn't in the movie.
Since Paul W.S. Anderson had no experience filming fight scenes, he shot the first fight sequence in wide continuous shots. After multiple takes, the actors were completely exhausted, so Robin Shou (Liu Kang) told Anderson the secret of the trade: wide shots are generally used for only a few seconds, whereas the rest of the scene is filmed as a series of short close-up shots. Filming the fight scenes became easier after Anderson realized his mistake.
Quickly after the movie's box office success, director Paul W.S. Anderson was asked by New Line Cinema to helm a sequel, but he had set his mind to doing something completely different, and accepted the offer to do Event Horizon (1997) instead. He later expressed some regret over not being involved in the making of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) (which he disliked). It was one of the reasons that he remained involved in the making of the sequels to Resident Evil (2002), as a way of "stay[ing] with the franchise and shepherd it".
After seeing the first two Mortal Kombat games, producer Lawrence Kasanoff, who nicknamed it 'Star Wars meets Enter The Dragon', was convinced it would make a great movie and perhaps even television series. However, due to the commercial and artistic failure of previous game adaptations (especially Super Mario Bros. (1993) and Double Dragon (1994)), his enthusiasm was shared by very few people. It took him three months to convince the developers at Midway Games to sell him the rights to the game series, and even after green-lighting the film, the studio head of New Line came to him to state how much he hated the script (yet told him to "Go ahead and make it").
The film's script was still being written during preproduction, so Paul W.S. Anderson and the actors were able to provide a lot of input and ideas. Anderson also encouraged the actors to improvise during filming and add a lot of humor. Especially Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage) and Christopher Lambert (Rayden) made ample use of this opportunity, which sometimes clashed with the thoughts of the screenwriter and the game developers (especially with regards to the character Rayden, who was originally envisioned as much more serious).
The producers were rejected by both Sony and Virgin Records for producing the film's soundtrack. They wanted to use electronic dance music, whereas the record companies insisted on popular artists like Van Halen and Janet Jackson. The producers finally went with TVT Records, a relatively small record company at the time, and the soundtrack became the first platinum EDM record ever in history.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson was so nervous for the movie's premiere that he went on a holiday to Hawaii, ending up "in the middle of absolute nowhere" to get away from potentially bad news. He quickly regretted this when he read that the movie opened at No. 1 after a $23.3 million weekend (the second-biggest August opening in history at the time), but he chose to stay since the trip had all been paid for.
Pat E. Johnson was the film's official fight choreographer, but he gave Robin Shou (Liu Kang), a former Hong Kong stuntman, free reign to come up with ideas, which were then incorporated into the fight scenes.
Rob Cohen, Steve Barron & Dwight Little were all considered to direct this movie, until the producers saw the movie Shopping (1994), directed by a then-unknown Paul W.S. Anderson, which was reportedly made for only $100,000. They loved his innovative and fresh approach, and were convinced he was the right person to helm the film. Anderson happened to be a fan of the Mortal Kombat game, and was very enthusiastic, even though he had absolutely no experience with visual effects. He immediately bought every book he could find on visual effects, matte paintings and computer-generated special effects, and became so knowledgeable on the subject that the producers were convinced he was right for the job.
Shooting locations in Thailand were accessible only by boat, so cast, crew and equipment had to be transported on long canoe-like vessels. Gerrit V. Folsom constructed an outhouse in a secluded area near the set in order to alleviate the problem of repeated trips to and from the mainland.
(at around 46 mins) Right before the fight ensues between Johnny Cage and Scorpion in the forest, Johnny Cage's fighting stance is exactly the same as Scorpion's from the video game Mortal Kombat II (1993).
The film was originally supposed to end just after Rayden tells Liu Kang and company: "I've gotta tell you something, you guys did great." But a new ending was re-shot and incorporated into the final film, which is when The Emperor (Shao Kahn) suddenly appears and says, "You weak, pathetic fools, I've come for your souls!" To which Rayden replies, "I don't think so." And he and the others prepare for battle.
Although the events in the film are primarily based in the events of Mortal Kombat (1992), it features some notable elements that were incorporated in Mortal Kombat II (1993): Kitana was introduced in the second game, where Reptile's reptilian nature was also first demonstrated; he was only seen in human form in the first Mortal Kombat game. After defeating Scorpion, Johnny Cage drops an autographed picture of himself near Scorpion's remains after their battle, which references his autograph Friendship move. Liu Kang uses his Bicycle Kick in his match against Reptile. The Shadow Priests, seen before the final battle, were first seen in Mortal Kombat II as part of one of the backgrounds. Sonya Blade is held captive and chained in Shang Tsung's tower, similar to how she was chained to pillars in Shao Kahn's arena stage in Mortal Kombat II. Subzero's Ice Grenade, which he uses in the demonstration ("And now for a taste of things to come") is a Fatality in the second game, and a special move is referenced when he freezes the water that Liu Kang spills on the floor. When Johnny Cage kills Scorpion, he uses a shield with serrated edges to slice through his skin (to a PG-13 degree), which is a reference to Kung Lao's blade-rimmed hat and his associated Fatalities.
In the ending of the prequel TV series Mortal Kombat: Conquest (1998), Shao Khan states Kitana is dead and pulls out of a chest, one of Kitana's steel fans. However, in the film Kitana is not dead and is alive and is 10000 years old.
The producers had to frequently consult the ratings board to find out how much curse words could be used and how much blood could be shown in the film, in order to make it violent enough for the target audience, yet still carry a PG-13 rating as agreed with the studio. They found out that showing a human death on-screen would automatically mean an R rating, but the death of a monster or creature would not. This explains why all human deaths occur off-screen, but the deaths of creatures like Goro could be shown in full.
Robin Shou (Liu Kang) would rate fights from one to three, according to the amount of ribs that got bruised or broken. For the Reptile fight, he had the maximum score of three broken ribs. Two of them were broken when Keith Cooke (Reptile) threw him against a pillar on the tenth take. He asked Cooke to avoid hitting his painful right side, finished the fight, and then went to the hospital. Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage) wasn't spared either: according to Paul W.S. Anderson, Ashby was at one point in so much pain from getting kicked around that he "was eating Advil like they were M&M's".