One day during filming, two F/A-18 fighters appeared and radioed in a surprised report that the plane they'd been asked to identify was Air Force One and there were bullet holes in it. (They were actually decals). The air traffic control center in Los Angeles knew about the filming, and was able to set them straight.
Gary Oldman's (Ivan Korshunov's) chilling performance earned him the nickname "Scary Gary" during production, however, he did not stay in character between the scenes. Wolfgang Petersen called the filming experience 'Air Force Fun' because of how comedic and genial Oldman would be off-screen. He also said that Oldman would suddenly return to the menacing film persona like a shot. Harrison Ford has since named Oldman as his favorite on-screen nemesis.
Randy Newman was originally hired to provide the film's score. However, Wolfgang Petersen felt it was too serious to the point of being unintentionally funny. Jerry Goldsmith was hired at the last minute and had only twelve days to come up with an alternative score. (Newman later recycled some of his rejected score for Toy Story 3 (2010).)
Although there are two specific VC-25's (the military version of the 747-200B) used and maintained by the Air Force for the President's use, the "Air Force One" designation is the air traffic control sign of any United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States (with Army, Navy, Marine, or Coast Guard aircraft being referred to as "Army One", "Navy One", et cetera, and civilian aircraft being referred to as "Executive One"). A similar system is used for the Vice President, but with "Two" in place of "One." In the film, the Army UH-60 Blackhawk that delivers the Vice President to the White House would have the designation "Army Two."
The final sequence where a cable is extended from an MC-130 to the 747 was filmed near California's Channel Islands. Paul Bishop flew the 747 in formation within a few feet of the MC-130. The camera plane, a modified B-25, had a top speed of about 230 miles per hour, so the sequence was filmed at about 200 miles per hour, and the 747 had to be flown with flaps extended. This sequence is a nearly a shot-for-shot copy of a similar air to air rescue involving an MC-130 and a Boeing 747 in Airport 1975 (1974).
Harrison Ford went before the MPAA and appealed to have the movie re-rated to PG-13, but they refused. The attempt was apparently inspired by the successful appeal to re-rate Clear and Present Danger (1994), also starring Ford.
Since the release of this film, it has been a source of humor for entertainment magazines, websites, commentators, et cetera, to conduct public polls during real Presidential elections to vote on which fictional movie President Americans would like to see in office. Harrison Ford as President James Marshall has "won" every election. (Bill Pullman as President Thomas Whitmore in Independence Day (1996) commonly finishes second in such polling.)
In December 2015, Donald J. Trump revealed his admiration for "Harrison Ford on the plane ... He stood up for America." Donald was greatly inspired by Harrison's performance in the film that he took it too seriously. When Ford was told during a television interview of Trump's compliment, he turned it down to the camera and said "Donald, it was just a movie. Things like this don't happen in real-life."
Glenn Close was a last-minute casting decision to play Vice President Kathryn Bennett. Close wore a wig from her own collection during shooting, because her haircut at the time was too short for the role. She only made one objection about her character in the original script: "They had written a scene of her breaking down and crying. And I said, 'I will not do that.' Because I thought we'd be doing women a disfavor if we had that cliché moment where she breaks down."
A large part of the crew took a tour of the real Air Force One before filming. They based some of the film's scenes, where the terrorists disguised as journalists survey the plane's layout, and begin to take their seats, on the touring experience. The character of Deputy Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell was based largely on their real-life tour guide, and the crew felt uncomfortable having to film the character's execution by the terrorists.
After Randy Newman's score was rejected, Wolfgang Petersen hired Jerry Goldsmith to compose the replacement score. The task proved too daunting in the time available, so Goldsmith brought in Joel McNeely to write music for several sequences based on the themes he had already prepared for the film. After the film was released, Goldsmith publicly stated he would never accept a replacement score assignment again.
In the beginning of the movie, the President rides in the motorcade back to the plane. In fact, the United States is the only country in the world that transports its Presidential motorcade vehicles to whatever country the President goes.
The sequence set at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, was filmed at Rickenbacker International Airport, Columbus, Ohio. Because the aircraft had to be visible, even though the scene was supposedly taking place at night, a small amount of sky light was required. This restricted filming to two fifteen-minute intervals each day, at dusk and dawn.
President Bill Clinton, who was the real U.S. President at the time of the film's release, loved and enjoyed the film so much that he actually saw it twice while in office and he praised it, giving it good reviews. He pointed out, however, that the real plane didn't have a parachute ramp or escape pods like the aircraft in the movie. In response, Wolfgang Petersen predicted that future models of Air Force One would incorporate such security features.
The football game that the Presidential staff taped for President Marshall, is actually the September 12, 1992 game between Michigan and Notre Dame in South Bend. The game was not a 14-13 win for Michigan, but a rare 17-17 tie. Prominent Michigan players found in the video footage include then-future pros Elvis Grbac and Ty Law.
This turned out to be the last of a wave of "Die Hard"-inspired thrillers (action movies where terrorists invade a confined space and are foiled by a lone hero/saboteur). One reason was that, by now, every conceivable multi-passenger vehicle (planes, trains, city buses) had been tried.
Playing the President's preteen daughter was Liesel Matthews, who had played the lead role a couple of years earlier in A Little Princess (1995). In fact, she was a princess of sorts. She was born Liesel Pritzker, an heiress to the family fortune of the Pritzkers, the Chicago clan that owns the Hyatt hotel chain. Her parents had divorced, and a battle brewed over whether she would use her father's or stepfather's surname as her stage name. She solved the problem by taking her brother Matthew's first name as her professional last name.
The usual Air Force One is one of two modified Boeing 747-200s, officially designated as VC-25's. To represent it, the filmmakers rented and repainted a Boeing 747-146, which had originally belonged to Japan Air Lines, from the cargo carrier American International Airways (AIA). The paint job cost 300,000 dollars. The 747's pilot, Paul Bishop, also came from AIA. See also the goofs entry.
On the DVD commentary, Wolfgang Petersen noted that he likely would not have made the film after the 9/11 attacks. The film features hijackers who seize the plane carrying the President of the United States and his family, but he (an ex-soldier) works from hiding to defeat them.
When a dummy was put on the cable, the 747's bow wave blew off its coat and tie. Rather than put the plane's engines at risk, the filmmakers decided to use visual effects for all shots of the people on the cable.
Scenes depicting the interior of Radek's Palace were filmed inside the Cuyahoga County Courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio. The U.S. team runs down the stairs in front of the statue, all in the Courthouse lobby. There is also a scene in a narrow hallway that was filmed in the Courthouse Law Library.
For Wolfgang Petersen, there was a huge concern about making this film after 9/11 (the real-life Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) and they were really sensitive about it. Petersen has said that, after 9/11, he wouldn't have felt comfortable making a movie about terrorists attacking America by hijacking another jetliner, especially that carrying the POTUS. Had they made the film after 9/11, Petersen predicted that the film would have been panned by critics, and a major box-office failure.
Having President Garrison watch a Michigan football game is likely an in-joke, as former President Gerald Ford went to Michigan, and television news in the 1970s frequently showed clips of him watching Michigan games.
The in-fighting over the correct Presidential line of succession was inspired by the real-world conflict after President Ronald Reagan's assassination attempt. His Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, insisted he was in control of the government while Reagan was in surgery, attempting to bypass the Vice President.
The film was a major box-office success, earning 172,956,409 dollars (54.9%) domestically in North America, and 142,200,000 dollars (45.1%) in other countries worldwide overseas. It grossed a total of 315,156,409 dollars worldwide in the box-office against a budget of 85 million dollars. It was 1997's fifth highest-grossing film worldwide.
The outdoor nighttime shots of the military invading Radek's palace were filmed in Cleveland, Ohio. The building that is supposed to be Radek's palace is actually Severance Hall, home to The Cleveland Orchestra. In some shots, you can see part of adjacent Case Western Reserve University's Thwing Center - a student union consisting of a glass atrium between two brick buildings.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
After successfully rescuing the President, the MC-130 pilot says that "Liberty 24 is changing call signs. Liberty 24 is now Air Force One." Technically, this is an actual fact. Air Force One is the name of any military aircraft that is carrying the President at that time. Theoretically, if the President was in the rear seat of a fighter plane, that plane would be Air Force One. This also depends on what branch of the military the aircraft belongs. The helicopter the President flies in is designated "Marine One", as the U.S. Marine Corps are in charge of the aircraft. If The President flies on a Navy aircraft, it'd be called "Navy One". Since the United States Air Force maintains the President's plane, it's designated "Air Force One". In the case of a civilian aircraft carrying the President, the call sign would be "Executive One."
Wolfgang Petersen's commentary, and some other stories on the movie, say that the original script explained that Secret Service Agent Gibbs, had been a CIA spook, and had lost a lot, due to the end of the Cold War. He was angry at the U.S. Government, and knew the terrorists from his CIA days. It was decided it took too long to tell, so it was cut from the script.
In the scene where the initial hijacking is taking place, and they shoot the pilots as its rolling on the ground, there is a shot of the passengers being tossed around in the cabin and a man yells out "Ahh, Jesus!" But when the plane is about to run into the tower, there's a shot of the people inside the tower watching the plane and you can hear the same man yell out "Ahh, Jesus!", and in the same tone of voice.
The corrupt Secret Service Agent is Agent Gibbs. In NCIS (2003), Mark Harmon plays Special Agent Gibbs (no relation). Coincidentally, the first epsiode of NCIS (2003) takes place on Air Force One, numerous references are made to the movie, which include the weapons hold, and conference room, and Agent Gibbs makes the comment that the terrorist copied the movie.