Richard Dreyfuss stated his disappointment with the film in an appearance on The View (1997). He said it was "6/8 of a good film" and called Oliver Stone "a fascist". Stone retorted in an interview that working with Dreyfuss "was the single worst experience I've ever had with an actor in my life".
Josh Brolin prepared for his role as George W. Bush by telephoning hotels and talking to the people simply to hear the accent. He also watched videos of Bush to try and get the style of his walk right.
When W. tells his father about the Yale football game over the phone, he mentions "Hill" and "Dowling." These are Yale football running back Calvin Hill and quarterback Brian Dowling, who were the stars of the undefeated 1968 Yale team. Hill, a fraternity brother of Bush's, went on to a career in professional football and now consults with several NFL teams; he married Janet Hill, who had been Hillary Rodham Clinton's college roommate. Their son, Grant Hill, is an NBA player. Dowling also had a stint in the NFL, albeit a briefer one than Hill's. Dowling is now best known as the inspiration for the "Doonesbury" comic strip character B.D., which cartoonist Garry Trudeau started while he, Dowling, and Bush were all Yale students.
When reciting the names of the fraternity brothers during his hazing at Yale, the second and third surnames of people he names are "Hill" and "Hotchkiss." Both Oliver Stone and James Cromwell attended the Pennsylvania-based boarding school for boys The Hill School, and one of the Hill's rival preparatory schools is indeed Hotchkiss.
During the scene in which Bush is seen flying a naval jet on board the Aircraft Carrier, the show that broadcasts his incident is a political commentary program titled "Spin-Ball" which received both a Conservative and Liberal prospective. The show is actually a 'spoof' of the two highly rated and well known political commentary programs, The O'Reilly Factor (1996) on Fox News (hosted by Bill O'Reilly, known for his 'No Spin Zone" which broadcasts a more conservative viewpoint); and MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews (1997), which demonstrates a more liberal viewpoint. In particular, it is a spoof of Chris Matthews' and Ann Coulter's coverage of the aircraft landing, in which the two commentators focused on Bush's appearance.
When asked in an interview with Playboy Magazine prior to the 2004 Presidential Elections whether he would consider making a movie about George W. Bush, Oliver Stone responded "It's too soon. You need some historical perspective. We had to wait 20 years to do Nixon. As a dramatist, you have to wait. Right now Bush is in full play. It's not time for a biography."
The White House speechwriter named "Mike" played by Colin Hanks is based on two real speechwriters for George W. Bush, David Frum who wrote the "Axis of Evil" speech, and Michael Gerson who was Bush's chief speechwriter from 2001 to 2006.