For the first time in cinematic history, the production shut down Hollywood Boulevard and Highland for seven days for the shooting, according to director F. Gary Gray in an interview featured in the DVD.
In interviews, Jason Statham said that in addition to the stunt driving course they all received, he got two days' driving tuition from Damon Hill, the British ex-world champion Formula 1 driver. However, all the cast members acknowledged that Charlize Theron was easily the best driver among them.
Charlize Theron got two speeding tickets, both for going more than 40mph over the speed limit, during the filming of this movie. She said that after filming driving so fast, she just couldn't get her speed down to drive home.
Lyle (Seth Green) claims he was the creator of Napster, and that Shawn Fanning stole it from him. It shows a flashback of Lyle sleeping, and a person taking a disk out of the PC that has Napster on it. The person is really Shawn Fanning, the creator of Napster. When he steals the disk, the bottom of a Metallica poster can be seen on the wall. Metallica were vocal critics of the original Napster.
Edward Norton made it clear that his participation is a result of contractual obligation, not choice. He signed a three movie deal with Paramount, of which Primal Fear (1996), his breakthrough movie, was the first. He kept dismissing scripts for the other two, until Paramount coerced him into accepting a role in The Italian Job.
The Metro tunnel set was so huge that it wouldn't fit in any soundstage in Los Angeles. It was built in the hangar where the first space shuttle was assembled. They used every inch available in that hangar.
A MINI with two steering wheels was used for some of the shooting in order that a stunt driver could drive the car whilst one of the actors performed in front of the camera. This unusual car is now a part of the MINI factory tour in Cowley, Oxford.
The principal actors in the movie did most of the stunt driving themselves. Whilst all of the principals needed stunt driving lessons - Yasiin Bey needed a little more work because he didn't have a driving license at the outset of the production.
The red Mini Cooper driven by Stella at the beginning of the film is a nod to the Mini Coopers from the original The Italian Job (1969). It is a vastly different model to the one featured in the original, though, being a late Rover-produced model made in the late-'90s, not an Austin Mini Cooper Mk1 as was used in the original film.
After the crew have stolen the gold in Venice and are discussing their shopping lists, 'Handsome Rob' says he is going to buy an Aston Martin Vanquish. Although Steve has a Vanquish (The Green car in the courtyard of his house when Stella goes to repair the TV) Handsome Rob actually drives an Aston Martin DB7 Volante at the end of the movie, an older and totally different car to the Vanquish.
Screen writers Donna Powers and Wayne Powers say in an interview featured in the DVD that they hadn't watched the 1969 original movie before agreeing to write the script. After that, they only watched it once. This was on purpose because they didn't want to copy the movie, they wanted to make their own movie inspired by the original one.
The value of the stolen gold is repeatedly listed as $35 million. During the year 2003, when the film was released, gold prices ranged from around $320 to $420 an ounce. At an average price of $370/ounce, $35 million in gold would weigh just shy of three tons at 5,912 pounds.
Kings Island (Cincinnati, OH) and Canada's Wonderland (Toronto, ON) opened The Italian Job: Stunt Track attraction in May 2005. Kings Dominion (Doswell, VA) added the ride in summer 2006. The ride is based on the chase sequence of the 2003 film. The ride is a heavily themed roller coaster, in which the coaster trains are scaled MINI Cooper S Convertible models.
James Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade wrote the first draft of the screenplay, a fairly faithful translation of the original with a prologue set in World War II in which Charlie Croker's father tries and fails to recover the gold (tying the film in with Troy Kennedy-Martin's other heist film Kelly's Heroes (1970)). A new story was commissioned from writing team the Powers that relocated the action to L.A. Early posters and the trailer still credited Purvis and Wade as co-writers.
During the final chase scene, there are two scenes where Stella's red Mini is not shown. This is because there is a deleted scene (which is on the DVD under deleted scenes) where Stella drives off to lead a police car that is chasing them away.
The White MINI was custom painted into a 'Pepper White' MINI with a pure white roof - this is not a color combination that is made for the MINI. From 2001-2004, you could only buy MINI's with white roofs. It wasn't until 2005 that you could get a white, black or body colored roof. The mirrors had options for the "cap" that went over it. It could be white, black, chrome, or body color.
F. Gary Gray and cinematographer Wally Pfister worked together to develop a visual style for the film before production began. They viewed car commercials and magazine photographs, as well as chase sequences from The French Connection (1971), Ronin (1998), and The Bourne Identity (2002) as visual references. Pfister wanted "dark textures and undertones and strong contrast"; he collaborated with production designer Charlie Wood on the color palette, and the two would confer with Gray on their ideas.
Paramount preferred that the film not be shot in the anamorphic format, despite Wally Pfister's wishes to do so. F. Gary Gray wanted a widescreen aspect ratio, so they chose to shoot the film in Super 35 for a 2.4:1 aspect ratio.
The second unit, under director Alexander Witt and cinematographer Josh Bleibtreu, filmed establishing shots, the Venice canal chase sequence, and the Los Angeles chase sequence over a period of 40 days.
Filming on location posed some challenges. The opening heist sequence in Venice, Italy, was strictly monitored by the local authorities, due to the high speeds the boats were driven at. The frigid temperatures at Passo Fedaia in the Italian Alps created problems during production: "The guns would jam, and if you could imagine not being able to walk 40 feet with a bottle of water without it freezing, those are the conditions we had to work in," F. Gary Gray remarked. Pedestrians had to be allowed to use the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard between takes. Also, scenes which took place on freeways and city streets were only filmed on weekends.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Originally the getaway was a much longer sequence in which a bullet-wounded Handsome Rob reluctantly hands over the driving to Left Ear, despite the fact that he can't drive "stick". After narrowly avoiding pedestrians at the Staples Center, getting stuck in traffic in Downtown L.A. and driving into a shop window, Rob takes over the driving. Some footage from this sequence appears as deleted scenes on the DVD release. There is also proof of this sequence still in the movie. If you freeze the movie at 1 hour 50 minutes and 32 seconds, you can see the spot on the right sleeve of Handsome Rob's coat. Also, when he's turning the car back around after taking out the second motorcycle, he's only using his left hand to steer.