The expression "the hurt locker" is a preexisting slang term for a situation involving trouble or pain, which can be traced back to the Vietnam War. According to the movie's website, it is soldier vernacular in Iraq to speak of explosions as sending you to "the hurt locker."
It was James Cameron who convinced his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow to direct this film. She originally had planned on doing another project and wasn't sure about doing this film. Cameron read it and told her to do this film, and it ended up earning her an Oscar nomination and award for Best Director. In fact, the film was nominated in nine categories against Cameron's Avatar (2009), and won six awards, including Best Picture. Cameron himself had said, "I wouldn't bet against her."
During filming, three, four or more hand-held super 16mm cameras were used to film scenes in documentary style. Nearly two hundred hours of footage was shot at an eye-popping 100:1 shooting ratio (a higher ratio of expended film than the notorious Francis Ford Coppola epic, Apocalypse Now (1979)).
With a small $12 million domestic box office gross, this is the lowest grossing Best Picture winner ever since box office results were regularly counted even without adjusting for inflation. Best picture winners from the 1960s have even out grossed The Hurt Locker (2008) quite significantly. The film had actually closed by the time of the Oscars, which tend to boost the film's numbers. It was the use of DVD screeners, rentals and significant campaigning that lead to its win for the prize over the highest grossing film of all time Avatar (2009).
The robot featured in the first scene is an HD-1 ANDROS, built by the Remotec division of Northrup Grumman for counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Device) missions. Several of the shots in the first scene are video from the HD-1's camera.
Jordan is such a safe location that the actors didn't want to have bodyguards, as was first intended. There was no Jordanian military acting as security for the film. Security, set dressing and onset, was provided by a private company.
James Cameron said about ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow's film, "I think this could be the Platoon (1986) for the Iraq War." Subsequently, the film became the first modern-war film since Platoon to win Best Picture.
Producer Nicolas Chartier caused a controversy in February 2010 by sending out emails to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members, requesting that they vote for this film for the Best Picture Academy Award, "not a '$500 million film,'" an obvious reference to Avatar (2009), another frontrunner for Best Picture. AMPAS rules prohibit members from sending mailings disparaging competing films. In the end, the Academy stopped short of denying Chartier from winning an Oscar, and instead revoked his invitation to the awards ceremony; he received his Best Picture Oscar afterwards.
First dramatic feature film about the Iraq War to win an Academy Award. First post-Vietnam War movie about a modern war to win the Best Picture Academy Award. First war movie to win the Best Picture Academy Award since The English Patient (1996). First war movie to win a Best Director Academy Award since Roman Polanski's The Pianist (2002).
Kathryn Bigelow's Best Director Oscar statuette was presented to her by Barbra Streisand (7 March 2010 at the Kodak Theatre). After reading the nominees and opening the envelope, Streisand, aware of the result's historical significance, remarked, "Well, the time has come," before triumphantly announcing Bigelow as the winner.
Several key American crew members were stopped and questioned and/or had their baggage rummaged through by American airport security prior to going and/or coming back from Jordan. Even one of the producers was held for questioning upon returning to Los Angeles.
A production bus full of Iraqi refugees (hired as extras) overturned on a road heading to production. Nobody was seriously injured. A few people suffered bruises and one person was reported to have a broken nose.
The crew members were American, Jordanian, Lebanese, English, Irish, German, Moroccan, Danish, Tunisian, Canadian, South African, Icelandic, Iraqi, Libyan, Circassian, Palestinian, Armenian, Swedish, Australian, and New Zealanders.
The three songs in the film by Ministry (Fear (Is A Big Business), Palestina, Khyber Pass) are from their tenth album, the politically driven Rio Grande Blood, which criticizes the war in Iraq and former President George W. Bush.
The 2014 Broadway revival of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" contains a running joke about how the stage and set were previously occupied by "The Hurt Locker: The Musical," which was so terrible that it closed after only one night. The director was kind enough to loan Hedwig and her band the stage for one night only, before they packed it up. Later in the show, Hedwig gets a piece of paper stuck in her foot, which turns out to be sheet music for a song titled "When Love Explodes," which is the love theme for "The Hurt Locker: The Musical." She makes her husband Yitzhak perform it, but cuts him off before he can hit the last note as she is intimidated by his natural talent.
This film is generally disliked by American Military Service Members and Veterans for it's unrealistic depiction of war (particularly the war in Iraq), it's sloppy research (incorrect uniforms and equipment), and it's disrespectful portrayal of Soldiers, particularly Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel.