Cast and crew of this movie found themselves in a distribution race with Twentieth Century Fox, who were producing the similarly themed potential blockbuster Volcano (1997) at the time. Due to a sped-up production schedule, Dante's Peak reached the cinemas almost 3 months earlier than Volcano, and had by far the best box office success.
The plot is partially inspired by the eruption of Mount St. Helens, that Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) mentions at a point of the movie. In May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens located in Lewis County, Washington, exploded with a force of 24 megatons of thermal energy (7 of being a direct result of the eruption), in an blast equivalent to 1,600 times the size of Hiroshima's atomic bomb. Between other damages it killed 57 people, 1,500 elk, 5,000 deer, 40,000 young salmon and approximately 12 million Chinook and Coho salmon fingerlings. The cloud produced during the eruption get 40 miles (64 kilometers) wide and 15 miles (24 kilometers) high, and the pyroclastic flows thrown by the volcano destroyed an area 23 miles (37 kilometers) across and 19 miles (31 kilometers) long.
Pierce Brosnan said in a press interview shortly after the film's release that he practiced shouting the line "It's a pyroclastic cloud!" in front of a mirror for six days prior to shooting the scene. Brosnan stated "it is the movie's key emotional scene, and I needed to get that enunciation just right. That's acting."
When Paul, Greg, Terry, Stan and Nancy arrive in Dante's Peak (at around 20mins), Stan comments that the residents of the town must feel cozy by the mountain and Nancy remarks "Yeah! Just like Pompeii." A nod to the historic volcanic disaster of the roman city of Pompeii, near Naples in the Italian region of Campania in the territory of commune of Pompei, on August 24, AD 79. When the entire Roman city was wiped out, when the nearby volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted and 16,000 people were killed.
Roger Donaldson had not met Pierce Brosnan before the making of Dante's Peak. He had seen Brosnan play James Bond in GoldenEye (1995), and the two got to know each other before filming of Dante's Peak commenced.
Pierce Brosnan was known for playing James Bond in the James Bond films, which he played from 1995 - 2002 and Linda Hamilton was known for playing Sarah Connor in the Terminator films, which she played from 1984 - 1991. Daniel Craig succeeded Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in the 2006 reboot "Casino Royale" and played the role until 2015 and Emilia Clarke succeeded Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in the 2015 reboot "Terminator Genisys", which was her only time in the role.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When the volcanic lava begins to destroy the mountain cabin, everyone runs to get onto a small boat. When filming this the first time, the boat sank. Jamie Renee Smith (Lauren) could not swim and Pierce Brosnan held her until a crew member pulled her from the water.
The ITV2 (UK) edited TV version (shown september 2015) removes some graphic material, including a graphic shot of the Hot Springs charred corpses, and at least one edit during the town evacuation sequence, of a human engulfed in flames, amongst others.
In the narrative behind Ruth foolishly jumping into the acid lake and getting both her legs burnt. Ruth got off the boat, so she could save the lives of Harry, Rachel, Graham and Lauren by dragging the boat to the wooden dock at the other side of the lake.