According to Michael Mann, Vincent is one that is able to get in and out of anywhere without anyone recognizing him, or remembering him. To prepare for the movie, Tom Cruise had to make FedEx deliveries in a crowded Los Angeles market without anyone recognizing him.
Jason Statham's cameo is often regarded as a nod to his character Frank Martin from The Transporter (2002) and its sequels. He delivers a bag to Vincent at the airport and then disappears, no questions asked.
Australian Screenwriter Stuart Beattie was only seventeen when he took a cab home from the Sydney airport. It was on that cab ride, that he had the idea of a homicidal maniac sitting in the back of a cab, with the driver nonchalantly entering into conversation with him, trusting his passenger implicitly. Beattie drafted his idea into a two-page treatment. Later, when he was enrolled at Oregon State University, he fleshed it out into his first screenplay. Titled "The Last Domino", he put the script away, taking it out occasionally for revisions and re-writes over the following years.
To help Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx best to capture the spirit of their characters, Michael Mann wrote documents containing the background of Vincent and Max. Cruise said that the document of Vincent had information on how he began to like jazz, for instance.
The seating of the two leads was crucial to certain scenes. For their more intimate exchanges, Cruise would sit directly behind Foxx, out of his peripheral vision, and therefore making him more vulnerable and uncertain of his opponent.
Jada Pinkett Smith spent an entire day with a couple that Michael Mann felt were quite similar to her character. She also spent a day shadowing a female prosecuting attorney, giving her ideas on how to dress and carry herself.
When Max and Vincent are driving to Club Fever, a coyote crosses the road in front of them. The native American Navajos have an omen that can also be considered as a taboo. They say that if a coyote crosses your path, turn back and do not continue your journey. If you keep traveling, something terrible will happen to you. You will be in an accident, hurt, or killed.
Mick Gould was hired to train Tom Cruise for the action sequences, including showing him how to fire live rounds. Michael Mann himself trained with various weapons, so he knew how to direct the action sequences to full effect.
This movie sat on DreamWorks development books for three years. Mimi Leder was initially attached to direct, it then passed on to Janusz Kaminski. It wasn't until Russell Crowe became interested in playing Vincent, the hitman, that the project started generating any heat. Crowe brought Michael Mann on-board, but the constant delays, meant that Crowe left the project. Mann immediately went to Tom Cruise, with the idea of him playing the hitman, and Adam Sandler as the cabbie.
In an interview in American Cinematographer, Michael Mann said that as far as he was aware, this was one of the first movies to attempt to make a "look" out of digital video, rather than trying to make digital video look like film. This approach meant the movie could be shot in the low-light scenes of urban desolation Mann wanted, because digital reacts much better to low light than film. The approximately twenty percent of the picture, that was shot on film, was mostly, according to Mann, the portion set in the "Fever" nightclub, because this is the scene with the brightest lighting states, a condition, in which digital video does not perform as well.
Stuart Beattie wanted the studio to cast Robert De Niro as Max (once again making him a taxi driver, though the exact opposite of Travis Bickle). However the studio refused, insisting they wanted a younger actor in the role.
Mark Ruffalo states that the scene where Fanning first discovers Ramon Ayala's disappearance; and proceeds to call for "S.I.D", that Michael Mann insisted on eighty or more takes. Ruffalo goes on to say that "you begin to lose your shit." Jamie Foxx and Barry Shabaka Henley confirmed that Mann did in fact, film a massive amount of takes. Foxx stated: "Oh yeah, that hurts, cuz Michael Mann can take some takes."
Stuart Beattie was waiting tables, when he ran into friend Julie Richardson, who he'd met in a U.C.L.A. Screenwriting Extension course. Richardson had become a producer on the lookout for good thriller scripts in particular. Beattie pitched her his screenplay "The Last Domino", and she liked it. Her boss, Frank Darabont, also liked it, and set up a meeting with HBO. They passed on the project after Beattie submitted another draft. He then begged his agent to set up a meeting at DreamWorks, where Executive Marc Haines read the script over a weekend. The studio bought the screenplay the following week.
While Annie is in Max's cab, the song "Hands of Time" by Groove Armada is heard on the radio. Annie asks Max to turn the volume up, to which Max responds "Like the classics?" The song "Hands of Time" appears on their 2002 album "Lovebox", released only two years before the movie.
James Newton Howard, who scored this film recorded more than an hour of music for this film, only to have it replaced with source music, and additional music by Antonio Pinto. This is a trademark of Michael Mann's films of this type.
Vincent's primary weapon of choice in the movie is a Heckler and Koch USP .45 caliber, as stated by Mann in the commentary. He also uses a Ruger MKII .22 caliber long-rifle handgun with integral sound suppressor, for the hit in the jazz club. For the final part of the film, he uses a 9mm Smith & Wesson 5906, that he takes from a security guard he kills.
If the viewer observes carefully during the scene where Max is being robbed by the long haired derelict, a small and faint swastika is visible on his upper left cheek. Just below his eye. It is worth noting that Michael Mann has also featured white supremacists in Heat (1995) and Miami Vice (2006).
Starting with the car crash sequence up to the film's finale and end credits, James Newton Howard's score lasts roughly around seventeen minutes, and was intended this way according to Michael Mann on his DVD commentary.
It's not often mentioned that Vincent is working for Felix (Javier Bardem). It is Jamie Foxx (Max), who speaks in person with him, because Vincent has never been seen by Felix. Tom Cruise and Bardem dated Penélope Cruz, with whom Javier married and has two children. Tom and Javier have remained good friends for many years.
Contrary to Michael Mann's interview with American Cinematographer, Paul Cameron, with whom he worked for the first three weeks of photography, claimed that the digital cameras used, lacked the ergonomics, color bandwidth and the standard camera lens support. These interviews and claims were brought to the attention of Panavision U.S.A., who subsequently developed the Genesis camera system based on that feedback, and its usage was pioneered in Superman Returns (2006).
Fernando Meirelles revealed on the BBC Radio 4 program "Front Row", that he turned down the chance to direct the film, because it would mean relocating from his home in Sao Paulo, Brazil to Los Angeles, California for eight months.
The song that plays in the Club Fever scene is called "Ready Steady Go" by Paul Oakenfold. This is the same song that was used during the car chase in The Bourne Identity (2002). (As a side note, the film's sequel, The Bourne Supremacy (2004) was released the same year as this film.
This idea was done in Mission: Impossible: The Killer (1970), with Robert Conrad as the killer, getting into the taxi of I.M.F. Agent Paris (Leonard Nimoy). The I.M.F. was commissioned to stop Eddie Lorca from killing an unknown target, within twenty-four hours.
Although Max refers to himself as "collateral" in the scene where he briefly stands up to Vincent after the hitman kills the jazz club owner, that's not where the movie got its title. The original script had Vincent's professional name as "Vincent Collateral", and there is a deleted scene that confirms this. The title was considered for a change after the unsuccessful release of the Arnold Schwarzenegger action film Collateral Damage (2002), but everyone agreed that they shouldn't avoid a title everyone liked, just because it echoed a movie that no one cared about.
Though Max's character's last name is only seen in print on his cab license, it can be deduced when Vincent meets his mother in the hospital and without being introduced to her by Max, he takes her hand and says, "It's an honor to meet you, Mrs. Durocher".
Dennis Farina was originally announced for the role of Pedrosa. Bruce McGill eventually played the role. Both actors have been frequently used by Michael Mann, and both had pivotal guest spots on Miami Vice (1984) during Mann's two-season stint as showrunner.
In the club scene, Vincent is using a Chris Reeve Sebenza folding knife. The Sebenza is a high quality knife made of Crucible S30V steel and titanium handle. Today, the company is using S35VN steel, but in 2004, S30V was used.
Towards the end of the movie, an ad on the subway reads "Life's too short for long names". It is interesting to note that both the key characters in the movie are known only by their first names, Vincent and Max (although the last name of Max is revealed indirectly in a couple of scenes).
When Max (Jamie Foxx) and Vincent (Tom Cruise) are in the hospital room visiting Max's mother, at one point after Max exits the frame, you can clearly see a photograph of Mischa Barton in the background next to other photos and get-well cards. Barton, at the time, was the star of the hit television show The O.C. (2003), and a few years earlier appeared in the cult supernatural film The Sixth Sense (1999), which may help explaining her photo cameo.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
If you look closely, you can see how Vincent, a trained killer, was unable to shoot Max, a normal cab driver. Max was firing wildly, but Vincent was using his signature precision shooting of two hits to the chest and one in the head. These shots hit the metal barrier in the middle of the door, and hence missed Max. You can see the bullet indentations in a few of the scenes. Max just got lucky with his random firing.
Vincent kills sixteen people in one night. 1) Ramone Ayala (fat guy) 2) Sylvester Clarke (penthouse guy) 3) and 4) Two hoods in the alley 5) Daniel (jazz guy) 6) and 7) Two of Felix's henchmen at Club Fever 8) through 13) Six security guards at Club Fever (one's neck broken, one's face bashed in, four shot) 14) Peter Lim (South Korean guy at club) 15) Detective Fanning 16) Security guard at the Department of Justice building.
Towards the end of the movie, a subway sign reads: "Today is January 25, 2004. The Time 5:40 A.M." The time is displayed, or referenced five times in the film. - 9:30 P.M. is displayed on Max's fare reader, before Vincent kills his second victim. - 10:00 P.M., when Agent Fanning is calling his partner from the morgue. - 2:20 A.M., in a brief shot from the interior of the F.B.I. Agents truck on their way to the club. - When Max is calling Annie from the top of the parking garage, from the cell phone, the time is 4:47 A.M. The subway train arrives at the station at 5:40 A.M.
The guns that Vincent carries, are a Heckler and Koch USP .45 caliber ACP, and a Ruger MK II .22 caliber long-rifle handgun, with integrated suppressor. Vincent didn't use a silenced USP Tactical or MK .23 caliber SOCOM as was previously suggested. The silenced pistol was a .22 caliber long-rifle Ruger MK II handgun, with the upper receiver and barrel replaced with a custom integral silencer. After killing the security guard at the Department of Justice building, Vincent uses a 9mm Smith & Wesson 5906.