The voices of the unseen studio executives during the first screenwriting scene (and the one later in the film) are all famous directors, including Garry Marshall, Paul Mazursky, Sydney Pollack, Rob Reiner, and Carl Reiner (although Carl is more famous for his comedic acting). All of these directors are also known their occasional acting forays.
Several names in the movie are connected to real-life persons involved in Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch hunt" investigations. The town of Lawson is named for screenwriter John Howard Lawson who stood up to HUAC and ended the Red Scare. Another writer, Lester Cole, gives his surname to the mayor. Luke Trimble is named for blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Appleton is named for Senator McCarthy's Wisconsin home town. The movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), seen briefly in the epilogue, is considered a metaphor for the McCarthy policies.
At one point, while the characters in the film are examining a store-front display of World War II heroes, a photograph of several men in uniform is shown. This photo is of actual soldiers that fought in World War II, all of whom made their home at the location of the film shoot, Ferndale, California.
The scriptwriter Michael Sloane is a close schoolfriend of Frank Darabont. He also doubles as Kindly Old Professor Meredith in The Majestic's film within a film, Sand Pirates of the Sahara. He first showed Darabont the script back in 1999 and while he wanted to make the film, Darabont was already committed to The Green Mile (1999). As soon as it was finished, he got to work on The Majestic (2001).
Neither the Majestic nor Mabel's Diner actually exist in Ferndale, where the movie was filmed. However, the newspaper office for the Lawson Beacon (across the street from the WWII memorial) is the actual newspaper office for the Ferndale Enterprise. The sheriff's office and city hall were facades built over opposite ends of the U.S. Bank building in town. The facade of The Majestic was built over a city parking lot. Only the facade and lobby were used for filming at that location. The indoor sets were built in buildings at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds.
The fictitious credits for "Sand Pirates of the Sahara," the film-within-a-film, include director Ferenc Arpad, a Hungarian translation of the first and middle name of Frank Darabont, and actor Ramon Jamon, Spanish for ham.
The first choice for the lead role (turned down to star in The Bourne Identity (2002)), provides the voice of Albert Lucas "Luke" Trimble's farewell letter. Many of his lines were written in 1861 by Major Sullivan Ballou, 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, to his wife in Smithfield, a week before he was killed at the First Bull Run Battle.
Heywood and Floyd are the names of two studio executives. Heywood Floyd is a space explorer in books and movies written by Arthur C. Clarke, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and 2010 (1984). The studio guard named Hal, played by Brian Libby, is a possible reference to the sentient computer from the same Clarke stories.