Producers Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau, who were feuding with Terrence Malick, said they would attend the Oscars ceremony. Malick said if they were going to attend, he would stay home. None of them attended the Oscars. The movie won no awards.
Hans Zimmer, the composer on the film along with John Powell (who provided additional music) composed over four hours of music on this film, presumably for the original director's cut of the film. However, when director Terrence Malick re-cut the film down to its current running time of 170 minutes, he chose only a few select pieces of music from Zimmer's and Powell's musical contributions, along with original source music and that's what ended up in the theatrical edition of the film.
In the film's script, much of the characters' speech and much of the narration are actually lines taken from the James Jones novel "From Here to Eternity". For example, Witt frequently speaks the words of Private Pruitt, and Sergeant Welsh speaks the words of Sergeant Warden.
In the scene where the American soldiers are sitting around among the Japanese prisoners after their bivouac is captured, you see an American soldier sitting next to and taunting a dying Japanese soldier. The Japanese soldier is retorting and what he is saying over and over to the American soldier is this: Kisama mo itsuka shinun daiyo! Kisama is an unfriendly way to say you. Kind of like saying "you nasty person" but the word is just "you". Mo is "too". Itsuka is "someday or sometime, one day etc. ". Shinu is the verb "to die". Daiyo just gives it force and provides a exclamation point. So he's basically saying "you're gonna die one day too you"
Prior to the film's release, producers Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau allegedly violated a confidentiality clause they had signed by giving an interview to Vanity Fair about their long involvement with Terrence Malick and the film. Malick was upset by this. Geisler and Roberdeau had to sign another agreement stating they would not attend the Oscars ceremony. If they violated that agreement, their names would be stripped from the film and video credits.
Most of Adrien Brody's scenes were cut from the film without his consent and he wasn't aware of these changes until he saw the film at the premiere. Brody came to the premiere expecting to see himself as the lead character and was shocked when he saw that he was barely featured in the film.
Music Editor Lee Scott and Francesco Lupica, the creator and performer of the Cosmic Beam, provided the haunting "metalic" sound to the films score. What sounds like a large distant bell is actually the Cosmic Beam. Malick would later use variations of the Cosmic Beam in his films, The New World (2005) The Tree of Life (2011) To the Wonder (2013) and Knight of Cups (2015)
Right after Captain Staros (Elias Koteas) has his big confrontation with Colonel Tall (Nick Nolte) in which he refuses to make a frontal attack on the ridge, he hangs up the sound power and mutters in Greek. "He's lost it. He doesn't know what he's saying." Roughly: "Ta echi chasi aftos," then "xery tee moo lay." (This line is not in Jones's novel.)
In the final narration by Train (John Dee Smith), he says, "Darkness and Light. Strife and Love. Are they the workings of one mind, the features of the same face?" This is a slight misquote of William Wordsworth's Prelude: Book Six, lines 636-8: "Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light / Were all like workings of one mind, the features / Of the same face".
The movie was almost not made. Sony Pictures dropped plans to produce it because of fears that it couldn't be made for its then $45-million budget. Fortunately, Fox Pictures came to the rescue by providing most of the cash.
This movie takes place at the Battle of Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal is situated in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean, north-east of Australia. Its local name is Isatabu and contains the country's capital, Honiara. The island is humid and mostly made up of jungle with a surface area of 2,510 square miles or 6,500-km². Guadacanal was named after Pedro de Ortega's home town Guadalcanal in Andalusia, Spain. de Ortega worked under Álvaro de Mendaña who charted the island in 1568.
Nick Nolte, as Lt. Col. Tall, says to Capt. Staros on the dawn of the day of the attack, "Eos rhododactylos . . . rosy-fingered dawn." He uses the second part of that line, "Rosy-fingered dawn" again in a later movie, The Good Thief (2002).
Hans Zimmer's score for The Thin Red Line would inform the direction he would take in style for the rest of his career. Many directors (especially Chistopher Nolan) would employ him based on their love for The Thin Red Line and the desire for its similar ambiance. More specifically based on the track "Journey to the Line". Ironically, with the exception of "Journey to the Line", most of Zimmer's score did not make the final cut. What was used was often sampled with various other music chosen by Malick to create an intricate work that is very often mistakenly credited to Zimmer.
Two aircraft were used for the background flying sequences. They were painted and modified to look like USN Douglas Dauntless dive bombers, but were in fact a Harvard and a Wirraway. Unfortunately little footage of the aircraft managed to make the final cut. There's a glimpse of the Wirraway running along the invasion beaches piloted by Doug Haywood and Owen O'Malley. O'Malley is one of two of the movie pilots who actually flew in World War II; Jack Curtis was the other one. and . Sadly, The Wirraway crashed at an air show in Nowra, Australia in 2000. It was piloted by O'Malley, and both he and his passenger perished.
On Roger Ebert's show at the end of the 90's, Martin Scorsese sat in as a guest to list their top ten movies of the decade. The Thin Red Line was chosen as his second favorite of the 90's. However, it should be considered his number one since the 1986 film from China "The Horse Thief" isn't technically apart of the 90's decade. That film would actually debut in the United States at the beginning of 1988 in a limited release.
Contrary to popular belief, the unit in the film and the characters in it are US Army, not Marines. They are wearing Army herringbone twill fatigue uniforms, and are using M1 Garand rifles, which most Marines on Guadalcanal did not have.