The initial version of the screenplay by J.D. Shapiro was less serious and a much looser adaptation of the original novel. The producers, and John Travolta in particular, wanted a more faithful version than Shapiro had written (in addition to more action scenes), and he soon left the project. Corey Mandell was then hired and delivered a screenplay much more along the lines of what the producers were asking for, and most of the advertising materials credited Mandell alone for the screenplay, although Shapiro was later awarded joint credit by the WGA.
John Travolta's contract for this movie had him take a large up-front pay cut from his usual fee, to around $10 million, with incentives that would have paid him about $15 million more when and if the movie met standards at the North American box office. Unfortunately, the film fell short of these standards.
The original plans called for a sequel to be produced, which would be based on second half of the novel by L. Ron Hubbard. These plans were scrapped due to the poor critical and public reaction to this film.
Until I Know Who Killed Me (2007) exceeded their record by winning eight Razzies in 2008, 'Battlefield Earth' was tied with Showgirls (1995) for the most Golden Raspberry Award wins in a year: seven. While 'Showgirls' received almost twice as many Razzie nominations, 'Battlefield Earth' "won" in every single category it was nominated at the 2001 Awards. Forest Whitaker was the only nominee to escape without a Razzie (for Worst Supporting Actor; Barry Pepper won). 'Battlefield Earth' also went on to win special Razzies for Worst Drama of Our First 25 Years (2005) and Worst Picture of the Decade (2010).
The investor, Intertainment, sued producer Franchise Pictures for fraud. Franchise claimed the budget was $75 million instead of the actual budget of $44 million. Franchise Pictures were sentenced to pay Intertainment $121.7 million in damages and went bankrupt. Intertainment only financed the film because it came as a package deal with The Art of War (2000) and The Whole Nine Yards (2000).
In an interview with Movieline magazine, Barry Pepper said that the food provided on the set wasn't great and that John Travolta decided to summon his personal chef to the movie's Canada location to feed the cast and crew.
When the book was first written, John Travolta wanted to make the movie, and star as Johnny Goodboy, the young hero, however he could get no investors to back him because of the project's association with Scientology. By the time the movie was made he was too old to play the part of the hero and, instead, opted to play the part of the villain, Terl.