Oliver Stone and Tom Cruise both expressed interest in using a nerve agent to cause genuine paralysis in Cruise's legs, but they were unable to find a substance that was safe enough to guarantee no permanent damage.
The actor who played young Ron Kovic, Bryan Larkin, was originally from Massapequa, New York, the town the character he was playing was from, and where the bulk of the movie takes place. Of course, most of the movie was filmed in Texas, including the young Ron Kovic scenes. Ironically, Bryan Larkin left his hometown of Massapequa for Texas to film scenes that are meant to be in Massapequa.
Oliver Stone's then wife Elizabeth is mentioned in the closing credit roll as Naijo No Ko. This Japanese term means "with the help of my wife" or, more colloquially, "I owe my success to my better half".
This film represents one of the rare instances where Oliver Stone was able to cast his very first choice for a starring role in one of his motion pictures. Tom Cruise was Stone's definite preference for the role of Ron Kovic, a casting decision that Kovic ultimately stood by.
During the demonstration, one of the speakers says that the Bronze Star and Purple Heart honors he earned in Vietnam mean nothing. These are the same two honors that Oliver Stone and the real Ron Kovic received after serving in Vietnam.
A copy of "Johnny Got His Gun," a popular anti-war novel about World War I, is visible on Ron's hospital bed when he learns he will never walk again. In the novel, the main character is a soldier who is mutilated beyond recognition in a war; he has lost both of his arms and legs as well as his sight and hearing.
While shooting the initial bar scenes (purported to be in Mexico, but actually in a historic town of Philippines called Vigan), Oliver Stone and Tom Cruise stayed in an old colonial B&B called "Villa Angela". The B&B has preserved the day-shoot roster of the film and this can be found displayed in its walls on the first floor. The room where Tom Cruise stayed during the shoots, is called Cuarto del Señor (Room of the Master), and has a framed photo of Tom Cruise during the shoot.
When this project was initially being assembled in 1979, original director William Friedkin dropped out. Daniel Petrie was then tapped to direct. According to Oliver Stone, Al Pacino, who was originally to play Kovic, had his reservations, but Stone considered him to be a competent director. Locations had been scouted and Pacino rehearsed, but money dried up that was promised by producer Martin Bregman. Although Stone felt crushed. He decided if he gained some clout in the industry, he would return to the project, which he did ten years later, as writer and director.
Raymond J. Barry and Caroline Kava, who play Mr. and Mrs. Kovic, parents to Ron Kovic, previously appeared together in Year of the Dragon (1985), a movie which was also co-written by Oliver Stone. In that movie, it's Raymond J. Barry who's plays a Vietnam veteran.
On Prom Night in the movie, Ronnie's father laments that Vietnam is a long way to go to fight a war. Since Hanoi is twelve time zones away from Massapequa, it is literally the other side of the globe, making it the absolute farthest you could go.