Originally conceived as a relatively bloodless psychological horror about four salvage crew members who turn against one another in greed and vitriol after being stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean aboard the remains of a cruise ship (The Chimera) believed to have been lost in the 1960s. The idea was to create The Shining (1980) on a boat. In this script, Murphy was actually the killer and after the boat crashes into rocks and begins to sink, he attempts to leave with the gold and inadvertently kills himself while Epps makes it out alive with Katie's help. Much of the gore in the film was not in the script. Two additional crew members were also written into the story. This script was drastically altered by one of the producers Joel Silver. In a 2014 Drama Actress Roundtable discussion, Julianne Margulies said the original script is why she and the rest of the cast signed on to star, and once she got off the plane in Australia and was handed a totally different script she was heartbroken, by then though the actors were contractually bound and could not back out.
The opening floor deck sequence of the film where everyone is severed in the torso area by a cable, was originally conceived to be that everyone was decapitated, but the studio didn't like the idea as they thought it was too horrific.
The scene on the foredeck where the Captain and the passengers were dancing, and the scene in the ballroom, was a common tradition at the time near the end of a trans-Atlantic voyage. These were usually held as the ship approached the end of the trip, near the coast and these Balls were called the "Captain's Ball".
The design for the "Antonia Graza" was modeled after the "Andrea Doria" (a man's name), a real-life Italian ocean liner that also met a tragic fate: it sank in the 1950s after colliding with another liner. Contrary to this fact, the "Antonia Graza" actually shows a stronger resemblance to the 'Leonardo Da Vinci', a slightly altered and larger design which replaced the Doria after she sank.
The Warner Bros. has decided that the film's opening credits should be exactly the same as it was back in the 1960's when the ship actually got lost at sea to make it look more authentic & realistic as possible as one was watching to a documentary.
Was the first Dark Castle Entertainment horror film released to be based on an original concept, as the original idea for the company was to remake William Castle horror films which the previous few films were. Though it was still critically panned like their previous releases.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Jack Ferriman's "Soul Collector" character is named for Charon the Ferryman, the Greek mythological spirit who collected souls from one side of the river Styx and ferried them across to Hades. Also, the painting at the end of the Grand Hall is inspired by Michelangelo's depiction of Charon in the Last Judgment fresco. Although it shows Poseidon instead of Charon, the position and painting arrangements are the same.
The ghost captain tells Gabriel Byrne's character that the Antonio Graza rescued a ship called the Lorelei. Rescuing this ship is what eventually led to the destruction of the Antonia Graza and the death of all its passengers. "Die Lorelei" is a German poem about a siren-type woman who lures boats to ruin and sailors to their deaths.