Putting North Korean terrorists in the plot was widely viewed as prescient when real-world tensions between North Korea and the USA emerged in 2013. In an interview, director Antoine Fuqua said he did not want the film's villains to be from the Middle East because he felt other films had covered that, to the point of saturation. North Korea was interesting to him because it was completely closed off to the outside world, and no one really knew what it wanted or was capable of doing.
This was one of two movies released to cinemas in 2013 with the same premise, which is the garrisoning of the White House by criminals who hold the President hostage. The other was White House Down (2013).
One trailer, used in TV ads, included Emergency Alert System tones. They are used to alert TV viewers about real-life emergencies; using them outside of emergency broadcasts or tests violates federal law. In 2014, the FCC fined ESPN, Viacom, and NBC Universal $1.93 million for broadcasting Emergency Alert System tones in non-emergency broadcasts.
Morgan Freeman was filming the crisis room scenes in Louisiana at the height of his Internet death hoax. He began each day of filming by serenading the extras with old jazz songs, and endeared himself to the unsuspecting crew with pranks.
While filming the White House tourist scenes in Louisiana, the weather was so hot that the Humane Society representative insisted that the German Shepherds playing K-9 watchdogs stay in an air-conditioned van between shoots.
Gerard Butler was once in consideration to star as CIA operative Mitch Rapp in a proposed film adaptation of Vince Flynn's novels. One's plot is very similar to this film; terrorists seize control of the White House, and Rapp must get to the President in his bunker before the terrorists do.
For her more physically demanding scenes, Melissa Leo did step-ups on an apple box in between takes, to keep her heart-rate up. She also wore a brown wig, because she needed to keep her hair long while shooting Treme (2010).
The intruding aircraft is a modified Lockheed AC-130, itself a modified C-130 Hercules. In the movie, the plane has two GE M134 miniguns on each side. In real life, the aircraft only has air-to-ground armament on the left side to provide close air support to ground troops, among other high-risk tasks.
After the attack on the White House and kidnapping of the President and Vice President, Speaker Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) becomes Acting President of the United States. Freeman previously played the President of United States in Deep Impact (1998).
Whether it's coincidence or homage, Olympus Has Fallen contains a few allusions to the movie Die Hard (1988): The traitor who leads the North Koreans to the White House is ex-secret service agent Davey Forbes. Die Hard villain Hans Gruber mentions to Mr. Takagi that he read an article about his company's wealth on Forbes. In Olympus, the scene where Forbes finds Banning & casually smokes a cigarette before trying to kill him is similar to a Die Hard scene where McClane finds Hans in a storage area and has a cigarette with him before Hans tries to kill him. Also Banning plays a cat and mouse game with Kang in Olympus via radio, just like McClane plays a cat and mouse game with Hans in Die Hard via walkie talkie.