The actors did their own stuntwork on the rope bridge scene and Kevin Costner, a skilled equestrian, did his own horse-riding. He also performed the cable cart scene himself, with the cart winched through the air by helicopter.
The area of Metaline Falls, Washington (where a lot of the filming took place) did not have much to offer for housing film crews (like hotels) so many of the crew stayed at local campsites, rented rooms from locals. Kevin Costner rented a house from a resident of the nearby town of Ione, Washington. The stars and crew treated the locals very kindly even when approached for autographs when eating in local restaurants.
Residents of an apartment building in Metaline Falls, Washington were paid to have their windows blown out during the "Hannibal at the gate" scene that takes place in Benning. The apartments were later repaired and cleaned up, returning them to new.
Tom Petty mentioned back in 1982 while filming the video for his song "You Got Lucky" (a post apocalyptic themed story) he wanted to do a small part in a futuristic movie. He said he wanted to portray a post war character, which he finally did in this movie.
An open mining pit in Tucson was used in the movie. It was one of the largest film sets ever dressed, at least two miles wide, and 1200 feet deep to create Bethlehem's camp. Engineers looked over the drawings for buildings of the future to see if they were structurally sound. They built Bridge City on the face of the dam that supplies half of Seattle's power. Despite the danger from being swept away they persisted with the work while wearing rubber suits.
Visual effects supervisor Tricia Henry Ashford was fired several weeks before the end of production and replaced by storyboard artist David J. Negron Jr.. This was reportedly due to various "creative differences" between her and Kevin Costner; she wanted most of the effects to be done in post-production, while Costner wanted them to be done in-camera and on-location.
In the sequence where Kevin Costner's character names Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) as President, he continues with another reference to The Beatles by telling the assembly "It's getting better. Getting better all the time" from the band's song "Getting Better".
The cities of Pineview and Benning where both filmed in the small town of Metaline Falls, Washington. Tons of dirt were brought in to turn the paved roads into dirt roads and a lot of work was put in to make the buildings look old and distressed.
In an interview with Metro before filming began, 'David Brin' (qv expressed his hope that the film would have the "pro-community feel" of Field of Dreams (1989) instead of the Mad Max (1979) feel of Kevin Costner's other post-apocalyptic film Waterworld (1995). Brin said that, unlike typical post-apocalyptic movies that satisfy "little-boy wish fantasies about running amok in a world without rules", the intended moral of the story is that "if we lost our civilization, we'd all come to realize how much we missed it, and would realize what a miracle it is simply to get your mail every day."
On his personal website, author David Brin reveals that while studios were bidding for the book, his wife decided during a screening of Field of Dreams (1989) that Kevin Costner should portray The Postman. Brin agreed that the emotions evoked by that film matched the message he intended to deliver with his novel. A decade later, after learning Costner would be cast as the lead, Brin said he was "thrilled".
The first feature film based on a science fiction/fantasy book to star Olivia Williams. The film is based on the book of the same name by David Brin. Williams would later go on to star as Mam Ward in Seventh Son (2014), which was based on the fantasy book "The Spook's Apprentice" by Joseph Delaney.
There are differences between the film and the novel: In the novel, The Postman's name is Gordon Krantz and he was originally a student at the University of Minnesota. The Major cities in the United States were destroyed by several EMPS and the release of bio-weapons. In the post apocalyptic United States, Gordon traveled west to Oregon in the aftermath of the bio-war and performs scenes from William Shakespeare plays for supplies. Gordon takes the sack of mail to a nearby community to barter for food and shelter. Gordon enters Corvallis Oregon led by a sentient artificial intelligence called Cyclops and agrees to help the scientists whom created Cyclops in a war against the Holnists. Nathan Holn, the founder of the Holnists was executed sometime before the events of the novel. Gordon allies himself with a tough tribal group made up of descendants of ranchers, loggers and Native Americans led by a Native American special forces veteran against the the Holnists whom are their bitter enemies and the novel ends with Gordon discovering the Holnists have another organized enemy to the south and identities their symbol: The Bear Flag and the Holnists and their enemies unites to revive civilization.
It is hinted that General Bethlehem is a homosexual when Abby tells The Postman that when she was Bethlehem's prisoner, he tried several times to rape her and he couldn't do it and that he blamed and beat Abby for his lack of arousal.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The "Once more into the breach" quote the postman narrates as he is riding in the cable basket to escape the Holnists, is an adaptation of a line quoted by King Henry the V in a play written by William Shakespeare.
On the statue on The Postman in the final scene, it states that The Postman was born in 1973 and that he is 40 years old in 2013. Kevin Costner was born in 1955 and is 18 years older than his character and was 41 - 42 when the film was in production.