Al Pacino's final rallying speech for the team before the playoff game is based on a rallying speech real life NFL Coach, Marty Schottenheimer gave the Cleveland Browns during the 1989 AFC Championship game.
When the NFL refused to assist the film in any way, the fictional league used instead was imagined as a more successful version of both the World Football League and United States Football League, who both challenged the NFL in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively, but did not last long. The screenplay makes this explicit in a scene where the Mayor of Miami tells Cameron Diaz's character that one of the reasons the city cannot afford to build a new stadium for the Sharks is the local prominence of the Miami Dolphins.
When Willie Beamen enters Tony D'Amato's house, the movie that is on television is Ben-Hur (1959), starring Charlton Heston, who also appears in Any Given Sunday as the Commissioner. Oliver Stone says on the commentary that the meta connection was deliberate, and meant to show that yesterday's rebels become the establishment. Charlton Heston agreed to appear in the film and granted permission for his image in Ben-Hur to be used.
According to Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J took the scripted rivalry between their characters too seriously and punched Foxx in the face while filming the scene in which their characters fight. They then had an altercation in which Foxx received a cut on his head before the two were separated. Foxx spoke about the incident in Jamie Foxx: I Might Need Security (2002). In 2006, Foxx announced that he and LL have become friends.
Although, according to Oliver Stone, the NFL actively attempted to prevent players from taking part in this project, then San Francisco wide receiver Terrell Owens can be seen playing and scoring two touchdowns for the Miami Sharks. While the name on the back of his shirt is 'Owens', he wears the number 82 and not 81 as he does in real life.
Oliver Stone originally wanted to adapt the book "You're Okay, It's Just a Bruise: A Doctor's Sideline Secrets" by Robert Huizenga as a theatrical movie, but had meanwhile purchased an unrelated football screenplay by John Logan intended to be made for television. After Al Pacino became interested in the Logan script, Stone was given the greenlight for a theatrical movie. Stone wrote a shooting script that combined the two different screenplays.
Oliver Stone wanted to use the music of the Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor and actually filmed a scene using their music, when he later asked for permission, the band said no, so Stone was forced to redo the scene without the music.
For the scenes during a football game, production asked local schools to participate as extras for the movie, including Lake Stevens Middle School in Miami, Florida. For each shot the crowd was asked to move around so that each section looked filled, in empty seats cardboard cutouts we placed in seats with balloons attached to them so that they would seem in motion.
In a great coincidence, both Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx won their first Oscars in a year that they were nominated in two acting categories. Not only that, but they both won for their lead performances, which were also both blind characters (though Pacino's character was fictional rather than Foxx's).
When Barry Switzer is the broadcaster for the playoff game in Dallas, a player bumps an official and Barry yells out, "He hit an official." When Barry Switzer was coaching the Dallas Cowboys against the San Francisco 49ers in the 1994 NFC Championship game, he was penalized 15 yards for bumping an official.
Sean Combs was initially cast as Willie Beamen, but scheduling conflicts supposedly caused him to drop out, leaving the role to Jamie Foxx. Other sources cite that when the football experts began working with Combs on quarterback drills, they quickly realized that he had zero throwing experience. They knew he could never be convincing as a pro quarterback, whereas Foxx was a natural athlete and quick learner at the position.
Barry Switzer: former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys as a television commentator for the game between the Miami Sharks and the Dallas Knights (supposedly set in Texas Stadium, where Switzer once coached).