(February 1, 2001) First film to be screened at the White House by President George W. Bush and Laura Bush. In attendance at the historic screening were members of the Kennedy family, members of Congress and personal friends of the President and First Lady.
The destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy was loaned to the movie company by the Battleship Massachusetts Foundation in Fall River, Massachusetts. In addition to being named for a Kennedy brother killed in WWII it was actually part of the Cuban Blockade. The ship was towed to Narragansett Bay for filming. The ship is normally on display in Fall River.
While this movie carries the same name as the book "Thirteen Days" by former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, it is in fact based on a different book, "The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis" by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow. In contrast to The Missiles of October (1974), which was based on Kennedy's book, this film contains some newly declassified information not available to the earlier production, but takes greater dramatic license, particularly in its choice of Kenneth P. O'Donnell as protagonist.
Some historians believe the Yom Kippur War in 1973 was the closest the world came to nuclear conflict. They have asserted that DEFCON 2 was secretly enacted as the USSR moved nuclear weapons into Alexandria Harbor.
In the early briefing scene where Arthur Lundahl, director of the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center, shows a map of the missiles' range, the town of Oxford, Miss., is one of the targets. All other targets were major US cities. This was not an error. It's not clear whether the joke started with the Kennedys or the CIA, but in any case President John F. Kennedy was still smarting from the previous month's riots in Oxford, which put him at cross-purposes with a recalcitrant segregationist Gov. Ross Barnett of Mississippi and some US army generals -- notably Gen. Edwin Walker -- whose hesitation to dispatch troops to northern Mississippi bordered on insubordination. Kennedy was said to have quipped "Can they hit Oxford?" when told about the missiles.
After John F. Kennedy leaks the Walter Lippmann column to the press, and the representative from Russia is on the television expressing his concern, Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) struggles with his tie and clearly mouths an expletive that gets overdubbed as a sound of frustration to maintain the PG-13 rating. In his next line, he mouths that the representative is "fucking killing us," and again his line is overdubbed to remove the curse.
The Soviets decided to place nuclear weapons in Cuba after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. President John F. Kennedy refused to provide air support for the invasion, unlike Dwight D. Eisenhower during the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état.
The aircraft shown carrying the President to Connecticut is an actual VC-137 (Boeing 707) Presidential aircraft used by President John F. Kennedy. The 707 shown wasn't in service until a month after the Cuban crisis, though. At the time another 707 with a different color scheme was used.
Although the F-8 aircraft used in the movie are real aircraft once used by the Philippine Air Force, they were, in fact, nonfunctional at that time. During the filming of the movie, the planes were actually being towed.
The film was made and released about three years after its source book "Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis" by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow had been first published in 1997.
This motion picture was originally instigated as a project for writer-director-producer Lawrence Kasdan who had helmed The Big Chill (1983) which had contained a soundtrack full of 1960s Motown classics and featured a story-line about a reunion of 60s graduates.
Universal Pictures was originally set to make the film with Phil Alden Robinson directing but shelved it as it neared production. Kevin Costner was able to reactivate interest in the project at Sony Pictures.
When Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp were cast as JFK and RFK respectively, weeks ahead of the start of filming, they would call each other on the phone to practice their Boston accents. They called it playing "Dueling Kennedys", according to special features in the DVD version of the film.