To make himself look like an average out of shape middle aged man Tom Hanks didn't exercise and allowed himself to grow pudgy. Production was then halted for a year so he could lose fifty pounds and grow out his hair for his time spent on the deserted island. During this hiatus, Robert Zemeckis used the same crew to film What Lies Beneath (2000).
Some crew members were left on the island for a few days to survive and learn some skills. They used some of their survival techniques in the movie for the character of Chuck. They were: having trouble lighting a fire, opening a coconut, talking to a volleyball, collecting packages washed up on the beach, and catching fish.
To see the island that Cast Away was filmed on, put -17.609277,177.0397 into Google Maps and zoom in all the way on satellite mode. The beach that Tom Hanks writes HELP on and sees from the peak is the eastern most part of Monuriki, Fiji.
Contrary to popular belief, FedEx did not pay the filmmakers anything for their presence in the movie. Robert Zemeckis has made this clear in several interviews. While FedEx was very concerned when they heard about the project, they had no objections to the finished script and offered support during filming, with the company later stating that the movie was very good for FedEx business in general, and in overseas markets in particular.
Virtually all the sound, including dialogue, in the scenes on the island (about an hour and a half of screen time) had to be replaced in post-production. Sound man William B. Kaplan made a valiant attempt at getting usable sound on the island, but the nearby surf made it impossible, given that many of the scenes needed to be very quiet.
Tom Hanks said that the hardest part of losing so much weight was not eating any French fries for a long time, and the thing that helped him the most in this process was drinking a great deal of coffee every morning.
The production employed several local Fiji islanders in the surrounding archipelago, including the neighboring Mana Island about a mile away. The locals were allowed to keep some of the supplies and tools as tokens of their help.
When Chuck Noland realizes a Russian FedEx van is stuck after being fitted with a parking boot, he immediately wrangles a crew of employees for a makeshift "sort" in the middle of Red Square. A FedEx sort is designed to separate packages into zones/trucks based on where in the country they'll be routed, once they reach the airport. The process is so ingrained in Noland's psyche that even when marooned on the island, he gathers several FedEx packages from the ocean that have floated ashore, checks their routing destinations and performs a "sort" right on the beach.
Tom Hanks said one of the reasons he wanted to make the film was to reinvent the "stuck on a desert island" concept. He felt that up to that point, most people's association of the idea was limited to either "Robinson Crusoe" or "Gilligan's Island" and that there was room for a new take, one rooted in the modern day.
In the film, Chuck draws a picture of Kelly (Helen Hunt) on the wall of the cave. In the movie As Good as It Gets (1997), Simon Bishop tells Carol Connelly (also played by Hunt) 'you're the reason cavemen chiseled on walls'.
Early in the movie, Kelly gives Chuck a pocket watch for Christmas. She explains that her grandfather used the watch on the Southern Pacific (Railroad). This is a foreshadow to Chuck's later dilemma where he is stranded in the South Pacific.
As Chuck attempts to paddle off the island the first time he is wearing his underwear on his head you can clearly see he is wearing "Calvin Klein" underwear. Robert Zemeckis also directed Back to the Future (1985) where Marty McFly's "Calvins" were a running gag.
"Wilson" is the manufacturer of the ball used in the movie. But, other Wilsons have played an important role in Tom Hanks life and career. Hanks' wife is actress Rita Wilson. And Hanks' first television role was "Kip Wilson" in Bosom Buddies (1980).
Musical group, Phish aired a video clip from the film during their New Years Eve show at Madison Square Garden in 2002. Special guest Tom Marshall pretended to be Tom Hanks. The next song the band played was the appropriately titled, Wilson.
Although the roads Bettina identifies for Chuck at the end are fictitious, her descriptions of where they go essentially are real. The intersection is where FM 1268 meets FM 48 and County Road 5, about 10 miles northwest of Briscoe, Texas, in the northeastern panhandle. You can see clearly in the scene where the smoother, paved, state-maintained FM 48 becomes the dustier, gravelly CR 5 at that intersection. Chuck drove north on CR 5 to get to Bettina's ranch, and the last scene has him coming back southbound on CR 5 and parked at the intersection, facing south. Bettina comes in eastbound (from the west) and turns left (northbound) onto CR 5 where she stops and talks with Chuck. When she points out "83 South", while the real U.S. 83 runs about five miles east of this intersection, she really is pointing south at FM 48, from which U.S. 83 can be accessed within 10 minutes. Although it's unclear to where she's referring, when she says "and this road here will hook you up to I-40 East," since she's off camera, by process of elimination (she describes on camera the other three directions) she's likely pointing at eastbound FM 1268. Although in reality, I-40 runs about 25 miles south of this intersection, if you did go east the way Bettina suggested, I-40 does take a northeast turn towards Oklahoma, and you could eventually meet up with it after approximately eighty miles by going due east, so it's not altogether inaccurate. Bettina really did point west when talking about getting to "Amarillo, Flagstaff, and California", and indeed Chuck could have "turned right" and headed west on FM 1268 towards those locations. And finally, her "whole lot of nothin' all the way to Canada" is essentially true, as CR 5 runs north and eventually connects with one of several U.S. routes that go up the Great Plains, mostly through small towns, all the way to the Canadian border if desired. If Chuck made his trip now (2017), he would see several giant wind turbines on both sides of CR 5 at this intersection, which would tower over them in the frames of the last scene.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
A FedEx commercial during the 2003 Super Bowl telecast featured the final scene of the film where Chuck returns the package to its sender. In this version the woman answers the door; when Chuck asks what was in the box, the woman replies, "Just a satellite phone, GPS locator, fishing rod, water purifier, and some seeds. Just silly stuff."
When Chuck and Kelly are curled up on the couch just before Christmas, the camera pans down the fireplace mantle, and you briefly see a basic sailing certification diploma that Chuck had earned. This explains why Chuck knows how and when to use his raft and sail at the right time through the surf.
During a Q&A session at USC, Robert Zemeckis was asked what was in the unopened package. He replied that it was a waterproof, solar-powered satellite phone. To hear him say it for yourself on the DVD, do this: Start at the Special Features Main Menu and enter the Video & Stills Galleries. When you see "Raft Escape" press left on your remote to highlight the "World Of Time" logo. "World On Time" is the slogan that was on the FedEx box Chuck delivered to the house at the end of the movie.
Alan Silvestri wrote 24 minutes of score (including over seven minutes for the final credits) for a 143-minute film. Aside from the Russian chorus and the Elvis Presley song from the beginning, there is not one single note of written musical score in the film until Noland leaves the island (1 hour and 43 minutes into the movie). Only then does the musical score come in: an oboe, piano and strings are all that Silvestri uses. Every musical cue is a variation on the same melody, which is heard in full at the end.
In the beginning of the film, a FedEx truck delivering a package to the ranch house, drives under a gateway arch that has the names "Dick" on the left and "Bettina" on the right incorporated into the arch. At the end of the film when Chuck goes out to return the package to the occupant of the ranch house, the portion of the arch containing the name "Dick" has been ripped out, presumably due to the divorce action being initiated during the beginning of the film.
When Bettina explains where each road leads at the intersection, she points toward the direction of her ranch and says "you'll find a whole lot of nothing all the way to Canada". Arrington Ranch, where they filmed the ranch scenes, is located in Canadian, Texas.
The film's theatrical trailer controversially revealed Chuck's escape from the island and his reunion with Kelly. Robert Zemeckis's previous film What Lies Beneath (2000) was similarly criticized for revealing plot twists in the trailer. Zemeckis responded by saying "We know from studying the marketing of movies, people really want to know exactly every thing that they are going to see before they go see the movie. It's just one of those things. To me, being a movie lover and film student and a film scholar and a director, I don't. What I relate it to is McDonald's. The reason McDonald's is a tremendous success is that you don't have any surprises. You know exactly what it is going to taste like. Everybody knows the menu."
The moment before Chuck removes his tooth in the cave, he tells Wilson his dentist in Memphis is called "Dr. James Spalding". In the German dub, the name is changed to "Dr. James Volley" because few Germans are familiar with the American label "Spalding". In the Hungarian version the dentist is called "Dr. James Speedo". His best friend on the island was Wilson the volleyball. Spalding and Wilson both make athletic equipment.
When Chuck is aboard the doomed FedEx flight, he has his shoes off and loses them in the crash. Much later in the movie when Chuck is on a plane returning to his homeland he is shown wearing shoes, one of the first signs of his lifestyle transformation.
As Chuck's "welcome home party" is ending a co-worker states that he has to "brief Chuck about his upcoming meetings". The actor that plays this co-worker is Geoffrey Blake, the same actor that plays Jenny's boyfriend at the "Black Panther party" in Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks' Forrest Gump (1994).
When the welcome home party for Chuck ends, he picks up the food left over from the party, and looks disgusted. This is because the food was seafood themed, which he had no choice but to eat for four years, as he was stuck on the island.