An actual giant object from space did once strike the general area of the Eastern Seaboard where "Biederman" impacted in the film. Hitting the Norfolk, Virginia vicinity, it created the huge, now-buried Chesapeake Bay impact crater.
During the school assembly, one student makes the observation "You're going to have more sex than anyone else in our class!" to Leo Biederman. This line was improvised by Jason Dohring, and the reactions from the other students are genuine.
Morgan Freeman wanted his character (the President) to be wearing an earring. Director Mimi Leder turned him down. Later we see the President addressing the nation from the oval office. His sleeves are rolled up and one of Freeman's tattoos is showing. The director liked this. She felt it gave the President an everyman look.
After discovering the comet, one of the astronomers is killed in a car accident. This mirrors the real-life car accident death (July 18, 1997, in outback Australia) of astronomer Eugene Shoemaker, who helped discover the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet.
A line was edited in the President's press conference scene. President Beck stated "Life will go on, we will prevail." Originally, President Beck said "Life will go on, we will prevail...THIS IS NOT ARMAGEDDON!" The producers later realized that the movie was going to be in box office competition with the movie Armageddon (1998).
The scene where Jenny Lerner first meets the President, was filmed in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, where Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, while campaigning for the Presidency of the United States.
The traffic jam scene was filmed on Virginia State Route 234, a bypass that was under construction at the time. The roughly 1,800 vehicles used in the scene, came mostly from volunteers from the Washington, D.C. suburb of Manassas, Virginia. State Route 234 (SR 234) is a primary state highway in Virginia. It runs from U.S. Route 1 near Dumfries via Independent Hill, a bypass of Manassas, and Catharpin to U.S. Route 15 near Woolsey.
The ship that goes to destroy the comet is called "The Messiah". This is not only an appropriate name, but also an inside joke. When the first space shuttle was being conceived, NASA constructed a full-scale, wooden mock up of the STS Orbiter. It was nicknamed "The Messiah" because, according to Flight Controller Jerry Greene, everyone who walked into it said, "Jesus Christ!" in reference to its size.
One of the NASA officials in the movie is played by Gerry Griffin, who is a former NASA Flight Director. Griffin presided over the Apollo 12 mission, and later became Director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Director of Photography Dietrich Lohmann was very ill during the production phase of the film, and the cast and crew found out he was dying from leukemia. A special dedication to Lohmann was put in the movie's closing credits, as he passed away not long after the film was finished.
When Marcus Wolf (Charles Martin Smith) is trying to send an e-mail about the approaching comet, we see the first few entries in his e-mail inbox. Two of the messages are from "cshoemaker arizona.unv", one of which has the subject line "101 Mir jokes". Carolyn Shoemaker and Eugene Shoemaker are well-known comet experts, credited as "comet advisors" to the movie.
"Deep Impact" was a NASA space probe designed to study the composition of the interior of the comet Tempel 1. On July 4, 2005, one section of the Deep Impact probe successfully impacted the comet's nucleus. This is coincidental, as the scientists behind the mission, and the creators of the movie, devised the name independently of each other, at around the same time.
Just before the movie's release, astronomers announced that the asteroid 1997 XF11, about one mile across, will impact the Earth at a speed of over 100,000 miles per hour at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 26, 2028 - greatly boosting ticket sales. Just after the movie's release, a new orbit (based on a sighting from many years before) predicted that 1997 XF11 will miss by 600,000 miles.
The movie begins in 1998, where Leo and Sarah's Astronomy Club is on top of the hill, looking at stars, and where Dr. Wolf died in a car crash. A year passes, and it's 1999, the year when President Tom Beck announces to the world, that a comet would threaten to hit the Earth in one year on August 16. Therefore, the date of the Wolf-Beiderman impact is predicted to occur on August 16, 2000.
The story revolves around Leo (Elijah Wood), Spurgeon (Robert Duvall), and Jenny (Téa Leoni). Jenny has two scenes with the President, but Leo doesn't have a scene with either of them. In the script Leo was supposed to have a scene in the White House watching the launch of Atlantis with the President.
Of the screenplay, one executive attached to the film said that John Wells "would take three pages and turn them into one, and it was a more compelling page". However, due to his work running the television series ER (1994), Wells was only able to help out for a few weeks, before leaving the project.
The first movie to prominently place MSNBC as the primary media provider in the film. MSNBC is an American basic cable and satellite television network that provides news coverage and political commentary from NBC News on current events. MSNBC was launched on July 15, 1996.
In a 2016 interview with the New York Times, Lori McCreary (president of the PGA and Morgan Freeman's producing partner) recounted that when Mimi Leder wanted to cast Freeman as the U.S. President, the studio objected on the basis that it wasn't realistic to cast a black person as President. McCreary recalled that one studio executive said, "we're not making a science-fiction movie; you can't have Morgan Freeman play the President." Aside from the obvious racism present in the notion that a black President is inherently unrealistic (just a decade after this movie's release, the United States did elect a black President), the executive was also mistaken about Deep Impact not being a science-fiction movie. Basically, the "executive" was a moron.
Jon Favreau said that it was so uncomfortable for the cast to film in the astronaut suits, that during breaks, they had to be hung on a rack in their suits and brought outside to get air. This led to some awkward moments whenever a studio tour bus came by.
Morgan Freeman played President Tom Beck, with James Cromwell portraying Treasury Secretary Alan Rittenhouse. In The Sum of All Fears (2002), Cromwell played President J. Robert Fowler, while Freeman portrayed CIA Director William Cabot.
At one point, A character says "People knew about the Manhattan Project, you know, and they kept it a secret." "Manhattan Project" is also the name of one of the production companies that worked on the film.
The Earth is ,on average, 93 million miles or a little more than eight light-minutes from the Sun, If the Sun suddenly went dark, or exploded, we wouldn't know for over eight minutes. As stated above; when the crew makes rendezvous with the comet, they are reported to have a twenty second delay in transmission of pictures to the ground. This is a distance of only 3,728,120 miles.
In the film's final trailer, the blue background used behind the text graphics, is a slightly altered version of the background used for the opening titles of Event Horizon (1997), another Paramount picture.
Morgan Freeman portrays the President in this movie, in Olympus Has Fallen (2013), he portrays the Speaker of the House, and in London Has Fallen (2016), he portrays the Vice President. He is set to reprise his role of Allan Trumbull in Angel Has Fallen (2018).
Maximilian Schell had starred in The Black Hole (1979). One of that film's science fiction competitors in theaters was Meteor (1979), another movie about the Earth being threatened by an impact with an astronomical object.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Jenny Lerner is looking up "ELE" on the Internet, the ad banners on the right-hand side of the screen foreshadow the tidal wave at the end of the film: "The Wave of the Future", "You've got some ocean coming", etc.
The film portrays the wave that struck New York City crashing over and around the towers of the World Trade Center, which were the only buildings barely above water at the end of the sequence, surviving the wave. After the events of the September 11 terrorist attacks, some television broadcasts of the film were edited to remove the buildings. The tidal wave also incorrectly comes from the west from New Jersey and not from the south from the Atlantic Ocean.
In eerie imagery, the Twin Towers are the only structure still standing above sea level after the destruction of New York City, by the tidal wave at the end of the movie. The Twin Towers have since been destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attack.
The Statue of Liberty's severed head is seen being washed into the streets of Manhattan by the tidal wave. Cloverfield (2008) also featured the Statue of Liberty's head in the streets of the city, this time knocked off by the creature.