It is rumored that director Kevin Reynolds and Kevin Costner had a huge squabble over the film, resulting in Reynolds walking off the project and left Costner to finish it. Reynolds was quoted as saying that "Kevin should only star in movies he directs. That way he can work with his favorite actor and favorite director".
Kevin Costner was put up, at a cost of $4,500 a night, in an oceanfront villa with a butler, chef, and his own private swimming pool. In contrast, crew members were forced to live in uninsulated condominiums that were subject to temperature swings of up to 50 degrees. This inequity of accommodations contributed to on-set hostility and low morale.
There is a fan-edit of the film called Waterworld: Ulysses Cut, which includes all of the deleted scenes. These additional scenes explain more about the world and beliefs of the people who live there, including the religious concepts of the Smokers, and their ability to refine crude oil. The additional scenes tie up several loose ends left ambiguous by the theatrical release.
The map tattoo on Enola's back is in Chinese traditional characters (or Japanese Kanji). The characters in the middle surrounding the arrow are actual coordinates for longitude and latitude. While one number is not quite readable, the others give almost exact coordinates for Mount Everest, which is Latitude 27° 59' N Longitude 86° 56' E. The movie coordinates give: Latitude 27 or 28° 58' N Longitude 86° 56' E.
The picture on the wall that Deacon refers as "Old Saint Joe" is actually Joseph Hazelwood, infamous captain who crashed the Exxon Valdez oil tanker into the Alaskan landscape, negligently discharging millions of gallons of crude oil. The base of the Smokers is the Exxon Valdez, as evident when it sinks. The stern rises and the word "Valdez" is visible. The real Exxon Valdez was repaired and renamed the Sea River Mediterranean. It is used to haul oil across the Atlantic.
The 1,000 ton floating set did not have any restrooms, nor were there any on any of the 30 boats used by the cast and crew. The result was that filming had to halt so those in need could be ferried to a barge anchored near the shore which had several portable toilets on it.
Jeanne Tripplehorn refused to strip for this film, even though she had done nude scenes before (and would do them after this film). However, she insisted on choosing her body double, as she wanted the naked backside shown to resemble her own. She had the three finalists come into her trailer and drop their robes. She described it as such an odd experience that none of them could stop laughing. In between takes of the nude scene, Tripplehorn remained off-camera to offer a robe or towel to the double.
For the Japanese premiere, Kevin Costner had his private plane flown to Tokyo. However, he failed to get permission to store his plane at the airport for the duration of his trip. He asked the Navy if he could use their airport at Atsugi. They agreed, contingent on Costner showing the movie there, and making a personal appearance.
The studio didn't spend any money researching weather patterns off Hawaii's Kona coast, where the film was shot. If they had, they would have learned that the area was subject to 45 mph winds, which constantly blew the set out of position and ruined shots.
While widely called a box office bomb upon its release, even nicknamed "Kevin's Gate" (after Heaven's Gate (1980)) and "Fishtar" (after Ishtar (1987)) the film eventually turned a profit. The film cost $235 million to produce and market, and grossed $264 million worldwide in 1995, of which approximately 55% ($145 million) went to the studio and the remainder to theaters. As of 2013 the film had actually earned a profit of $8 million from video sales and television licensing.
Stunt coordinator Norman Howell got hit with compression sickness during filming of an underwater scene and was rushed to a hospital in Honolulu via helicopter. He recovered fairly quickly from the potentially life-threatening sickness and returned to the set a couple days later.
The 112-foot model of the Exxon Valdez sat abandoned at the Mojave Airport airplane scrapyard until August 2015, when it was partially stripped to be repurposed as set decoration for Wasteland Weekend.
The original screenplay by Peter Rader was pitched as an children's adventure film. In Rader's screenplay the Mariner was a human and the chief defender of the Atoll, whose embarrassing secret was that he enjoyed painting pictures of seahorses; Helen had two of her own children along with the adopted Enola, and the Deacon was a campy, silly villain who dressed up like King Trident, sat atop a throne on the Exxon Valdez, and punished his subordinates by slapping them around the face with a wet fish. Subsequent rewrites by David Twohy and Joss Whedon turned the original script into a much more serious action-adventure film.
A French science fiction graphic novel called Aquablue, created in 1988 by writer Thierry Cailleteau, explores very similar themes as this movie, although it's set in the future where mankind can traverse space, and it takes place not on Earth, but on a hostile water planet called Aquablue where a survivor from a crashed space cruiser and his robot must survive.
Mark Isham's score, which was not recorded and only demos were completed for approximately 25% of the film, was reportedly rejected by Kevin Costner because it was "too ethnic and bleak", contrasting the film's futuristic and adventurous tone; Isham offered to try again, but was not given the chance.
The four-machine gun chassis in the atoll assault scene is called a Maxon Mount. It is comprised of four .50 caliber Browning machine guns and was used as an anti-aircraft battery during World War II. It also came in a two gun mount which was used upto & in the Vietnam War as a Point Defense Weapon.
Inspired by racing trimarans built by Jeanneau Advanced Technologies' multi-hull division Lagoon; a custom 60 foot (18 m) yacht was designed by Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot-Prevost and built in France by Lagoon. Two versions were built, a relatively standard racing trimaran for distance shots, and an effects-laden transforming trimaran for closeup shots. The first trimaran was launched on 2 April 1994, and surpassed 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) in September of that year. The transforming version was first seen in the film as a sort of raft with a three-bladed egg-beater windmill. When needed, levers could be triggered that would flatten the windmill blades while raising a hidden mast to full racing height. A boom emerged, previously hidden in the hull, and the two sails were automatically unfurled. Once the transformation was complete this version could actually sail, although not as well as the dedicated racer. The transforming version is in private hands in San Diego, California. For many years, the racing version was kept in a lake at Universal Studios Florida, before being restored for use as a racing trimaran named Loe Real, which was being offered for sale in San Diego.
The Mariner turns defensive when Nord is talking to him by saying, "Why are you talking to me?" "Just being friendly", is Nord's response. Later when The Mariner is imprisoned in the cage, Nord rows by in a boat and is sniggering at him.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
In the original ending of the film, we learn that The Mariner isn't leaving simply because he is freaked out over Dryland or that he feels he truly belongs on the open waters of Waterworld. He reveals to Helen that there may be other mutants like himself out there and that he must find them to tell them about Dryland and Helen.