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 TV series ER (1994), Wells was only able to help out for a few weeks before leaving the project.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email 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.
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.
The movie begins in the year 1998, where Leo and Sarah's astronomy club is on top of the hills 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 16 August 2000.
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 mph at 6:30pm on Thursday 26th October 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.
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.
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.
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 film.
from trivia item near top of page When the crew makes rendezvous with the comet, they are reported to have a 20 second delay in transmission of pictures to the ground. This is a distance of 3,728,120 miles. The Earth is on average, 93 million miles from the Sun. Communication from the spacecraft at the comet, back to Earth, has a 20-second delay, at the speed of light. The Earth is a little more than 8 light-minutes from the Sun, which places the comet pretty close to the Earth at the point of interception, at 3 million miles. Thus, if the Sun suddenly went dark, or exploded, we wouldn't know for over 8 minutes.
19 years before this movie, Maximilian Schell had starred in The Black Hole (1979). One of that film's science fiction competitors in the theaters that year was Meteor (1979), another movie about the Earth being threatened by an impact with an astronomical object.
Bruce Weitz and Merrin Dungey both appeared on Shonda Rhimes "Grey's Anatomy" (2005) with Dungey appearing as Naomi Bennet in the backdoor pilot for "Private Practice" (2007) before she was replaced by Audra McDonald.
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.
Both in Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998), the comet and astroid were both destroyed with the sacrifice of a crew (or in the case of this film, crew members) as both films bombs proved unsuccessful otherwise.
The Statue of Liberty's severed head is seen being washed into the streets of Manhattan by the tsunami. A decade later, the monster film Cloverfield also featured the Statue of Liberty's head in the streets of the city, this time knocked off by the monster.
In eerie imagery, the Twin Towers are the only structure still standing above sea level after the destruction of NYC by the tidal wave at the end of the movie. The Twin Towers have since been destroyed in the September 11th, 2001 attack on America.