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The preferred 3-hour cut of director Kevin Reynolds was drastically edited back to a 135-minute theatrical version by Kevin Costner and the studio, probably in an effort to recoup the film's inflated $175 million dollar budget (since Costner's previous 3-hour movie Wyatt Earp (1994) had been a box office bomb). ABC later broadcast an extended TV version that restored almost 40 minutes of deleted scenes, which explain more about the world, the people who live there, the Smokers' religious beliefs and their ability to refine crude oil. The additional scenes also tie up several loose ends in the theatrical release. Being a TV special, this version was also censored for violence and language. A fan-edit of the film, called 'Waterworld: The Ulysses Cut' (named after a restored scene at the end), was later made in an attempt to create the most complete version of the movie. It was compiled from several broadcast versions, containing all of the additional footage from the TV version while restoring the previously censored parts. In an unexpected turn, the original distributor officially sanctioned this fan-edit by releasing it in a box-set with the other two versions. This Ulysses Cut was remastered in high-definition though, created with original footage rather than lower-quality broadcast material.
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It is rumored that director Kevin Reynolds and Kevin Costner had a huge squabble over the film, resulting in Reynolds walking off the project, and leaving Costner to take over directing and oversee editing. Reynolds was quoted as saying that "Kevin Costner should only star in movies he directs. That way, he can work with his favorite actor and favorite director".
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The floating atoll set used up all the available steel in the Hawaiian Islands. When more was required, it had to be flown in from California. The runway at Kona Airport actually had to be extended by a quarter mile to accommodate the heavy planes that had to land there.
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Prior to Titanic (1997), this was the most expensive movie ever produced.
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Kevin Costner personally invested $22 million of his own money into the film.
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For the Japanese premiere, Kevin Costner had his private plane flown to Tokyo. He failed to get permission to store his plane at the airport for the duration of his trip. He asked the Navy if he could use their airport at Atsugi. They agreed, but only if Costner showed the movie there, and made a personal appearance.
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After Kevin Costner showed interest in the film, he insisted that his friend Kevin Reynolds be given the director's position, and Charles Gordon (with whom he had made Field of Dreams (1989)) be the producer. Reynolds initially refused because of major disagreements between him and Costner on the set of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Gordon had to bring Reynolds and Costner together and act as an intermediate before the two made amends (Gordon said that he literally locked the three of them inside a hotel room, and wouldn't let them out before they worked it out). Later, Costner had another falling out with Reynolds over the film's direction.
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Joss Whedon flew out to the set to do last-minute rewrites on the script's third act aboard the Smokers' ship, the 'Deez'. He later described it as "seven weeks of hell", stating that he did little more than taking notes from Kevin Costner and trying to work them in the script, because nobody listened to his ideas. In the end he "wrote a few puns, and a few scenes that I can't even sit through because they came out so bad."
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Where possible, sets were made largely of wood that was painted to make them look weathered and rusted. New sails were painted to look old and ragged. Since the sets had to be built on location as much as possible, the production added more than $35 million to the Hawaiian economy.
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Kevin Costner demanded the VFX crew hide his receding hairline digitally, which was not a cheap feat in 1995.
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Two locations were considered to accommodate construction and filming of the enormous sets: the southern coast of Australia, and Hawaii's Kona coast. The choice fell on Hawaii, since production was scheduled for a summer, when it is actually winter in Australia. Parts of the sea around Hawaii were also free from shipping lanes and had areas with 180 degrees of water with no land in sight. However, the studio didn't spend any money researching weather patterns off Kona coast. If they had, they would have learned that the area was subject to 45 mph winds and rain, which constantly blew the set out of position and ruined shots.
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Filming on water came with a lot of unforeseen problems. Scenes taking place inside the 2,204,622.62 pound floating atoll set could be filmed just off the coast, but for scenes taking place on open water, it took hours to bring the set and ships at least 2 miles off the coast to get a view that offered 270 degrees of open water. Turning the set or the trimaran so that the camera wouldn't pick up land was also very time-consuming. There was limited space on the sets for cameras and their operators to move, and they also had to compensate for the motion of the sea. Local weather conditions usually deteriorated in the afternoon, so most filming had to be stopped after 3 or 4 PM. To make matters worse, about 30 additional boats used by the cast and crew were needed for lighting, cameras, make up, catering, costumes etc., none of which had bathrooms. Filming had to stop repeatedly so people could be ferried to portable toilets on a barge anchored near the shore. All these limitations usually allowed for only 5 or 6 setups on each day of filming, significantly extending the shooting schedule.
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The sunken city visited by the Mariner and guest consists of elaborate miniature buildings shot in smoke to simulate the opacity of water. Shots of Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn were filmed separately inside a water tank used for astronaut training, and composited into the underwater shots; computer-generated images (CGI) were used to add water ripple effects and bubbles. One of the buildings was a miniature of a local donut shop, jokingly called 'Mike's Donuts' in honor of visual effects supervisor Michael J. McAlister (Mike), with a big life preserver on top instead of a donut. Another miniature is a sunken version of the 'Orca' from Jaws (1975). These miniatures were combined with backgrounds of a digitally edited Denver, Colorado. The "Norwest Building" (roughly shaped like a cash register) can be seen in one shot.
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Jeanne Tripplehorn refused to strip for this film, even though she had done nude scenes before (and would do them after this film). She insisted on choosing her body double, as she wanted the naked backside shown to resemble her own. She had the three finalists come into her trailer and drop their robes. She described it as such an odd experience that none of them could stop laughing. In between takes of the nude scene, Tripplehorn remained off-camera to offer a robe or towel to the double.
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Ginger Peterson, a Hawaii resident and the film's location manager, said local contractors, from catering to construction, demanded very high fees because they knew they were the only available option. Peterson moved out of Hawaii after filming wrapped.
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Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino nearly drowned on their first day of filming when the trimaran they were on sank, dragging them behind it.
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Filming shut down 3 times due to hurricane alerts.
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Though widely called a box office bomb upon its release, even nicknamed "Kevin's Gate" and "Fishtar" (after notorious historic flops Heaven's Gate (1980) and Ishtar (1987)), the film eventually turned a profit. The film cost $235 million to produce and market, and grossed $264 million worldwide in 1995, of which approximately 55% ($145 million) went to the studio and the remainder to theaters. As of 2013 the film had actually earned a profit of $8 million from video sales and television licensing. What annoyed producer Charles Gordon the most was that the entire press relentlessly ridiculed the movie before and after the release, but only one publication had actually taken the effort afterwards to acknowledge that it had been financially successful. The Universal theme park in LA even opened a Waterworld-inspired stunt show that was so successful that it was also opened in five additional parks.
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The language Kevin Costner speaks to the lime stealing drifter early in the movie is Hindi.
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Samuel L. Jackson turned down the role of Deacon in order to be in Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995).
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The boat Kevin Costner used in the movie was sold to Turkish businessman Hakan Uzan. After the Uzan family went bankrupt, the government confiscated and later auctioned the boat.
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Largely due to the input of several big parties (including production company Largo Entertainment, Universal Studios, and star Kevin Costner), the script underwent 36 different drafts, involving six different writers. Original writer Peter Rader had already written seven drafts before he was replaced, and the script was constantly being rewritten during filming.
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Director Kevin Reynolds asked Steven Spielberg for counsel, as he had experience with filming on water while making Jaws (1975). Spielberg gave him one simple advice: do not shoot on open water. Jaws had a production that was almost as troubled as Waterworld's would be, due to Spielberg's insistence to shoot on the ocean rather than a water tank or lake. The inability to control the elements on the open sea caused Jaws' shoot to infamously balloon from a scheduled 55 days to over 155.
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Kevin Costner was on the set 157 days, working 6 days a week.
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The cost of the massive Atoll floating set, 1,000 tonnes and a quarter of a mile in length, was $22m.
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If the icecaps melted, the oceans would only rise a few hundred feet; not enough to flood civilization into a floating oblivion. Writer Peter Rader was aware of this, but decided to ignore this fact to make the premise more intriguing.
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Tina Majorino was nicknamed "Jellyfish Candy" by the crew after she was stung three different times during production.
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LOGO GIMMICK: The Universal Studios logo, the planet Earth, was given a close-up, and as it got closer, the continents began to fade away until there was nothing left... but water. This inevitably takes the viewer into the action, along with the involving accompanying narrative of what's happened to the earth.
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Although the exact year that the film takes place is never mentioned, production designer Dennis Gassner has suggested it's set in 2500. This is mentioned Janine Pourroy's "The Making of Waterworld," published by Boulevard Books in 1995.
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The atoll set was over 1/4 mile in circumference, the size of a football stadium, and contained a million tonnes of steel. When producer Charles Gordon saw the model and heard how big the real set had to be, he initially thought that the production designers were pranking him. However, it had to accommodate the size of the Mariner's trimaran, as both objects had to be in a correct proportion. The crew constructed it in sections, working 24/7 over three months, and each section required four cranes to lift it into the water. The full set was built on a rotating platform, so that when filming just off the Hawaiian coast, the camera could always film toward the open sea; however, for scenes on the open ocean, it had to be towed miles away from land, which was extremely time- and resource-consuming.
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Kevin Costner nearly died when he got caught in a squall while tied to the mast of his trimaran. The ship was rocking dangerously, and the crew had to navigate it to calmer waters before they could attempt to get Costner safely down the mast.
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Jeanne Tripplehorn couldn't bear to go near a swimming pool for months after completing the lengthy shoot.
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The child's name, Enola, is "alone" spelled backwards.
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One script (later rejected) called for a second moon to appear in the sky, intimating that the cataclysm which created Waterworld was gravity-related, rather than warming.
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The original screenplay by Peter Rader was pitched as a children's adventure film, when he was looking for a project he could direct himself. One producer working under Roger Corman said he could get a South-African investor to help with funding if Rader could come up with a good Mad Max (1979) rip-off. Rader then conceived of an apocalyptic story set on the sea, with a lot of mythic and religious overtones. In Rader's screenplay, the Mariner was a human and the chief defender of the Atoll, whose embarrassing secret was that he enjoyed painting pictures of seahorses; Helen had two of her own children along with the adopted Enola, and the Deacon was called Neptune, a campy, silly villain who dressed up like King Trident and sat atop a throne on the Exxon Valdez. He would command a group of subordinates who had all sorts of mutations, like lobster claws, and he punished them by slapping them around the face with a wet fish. Also, Enola's tattoo would give instructions on how to find Water's End (as Dryland was called in his script) by looking for the mountain's outline as a shadow on the moon during a lunar eclipse. When the script was toted around Hollywood, more and more parties became interested, and subsequent rewrites by David Twohy and Joss Whedon turned the original script into a much more serious action-adventure film.
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Mark Isham was initially hired to compose the score, but it was not recorded and only demos were completed for approximately 25% of the film, when it was reportedly rejected by Kevin Costner because it was "too ethnic and bleak", contrasting the film's futuristic and adventurous tone. Isham offered to try again, but was not given the chance, and was replaced by James Newton Howard who approached the film as a swashbuckling adventure. Because Howard came aboard so late into the film's production, fellow composer Hans Zimmer gave him access to his sample library because he was a fan of Howard's work.
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Stunt coordinator Norman Howell got hit with decompression sickness during filming of an underwater scene and was rushed to a hospital in Honolulu via helicopter. He recovered fairly quickly from the potentially life-threatening sickness and returned to the set a couple days later.
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In an interview with David Letterman shortly before the film was released, Kevin Costner said that one of the worst aspects of the production was that his character had to look "wet" during the shoot. To achieve the effect, Costner was required to be doused with buckets of water between takes while wearing the Mariner's costume. Costner said that while he recognized that the crew were only doing their job and they were friends of his, getting hit with water every few minutes really tried his patience with them.
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Kevin Costner's stunt double was washed out to sea and several extras nearly drowned.
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Kevin Costner and Kim Coates became good friends after this movie and later worked together on Open Range (2003) which was directed by Costner.
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The entire slaver faction was written out when the set was destroyed.
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The film originally started out as a low-budget apocalyptic film for the studio of Roger Corman, but as soon as the decision was made to situate it mainly on sea, Corman had to pull out due to budget concerns. It got picked up as a mid-budget film by production company Largo Entertainment, who attempted to bring down costs by re-using old costumes and sets; Universal Studios would handle the film's distribution. However, once Kevin Costner got attached to the project, the script was rewritten towards a big blockbuster film, and it became too costly for Largo alone, so Universal stepped in as a producer and funder as well. However, Universal and Costner had even bigger ambitions regarding the movie's scope, and this addition of ideas, producers and funders caused the project to quickly grow out of proportion. Additional expenses came from costly delays and productional disasters, which locked the producers in a near-constant battle with the studio for more money. All these setbacks ultimately pushed the budget from its intended $60 million to an estimated $175 million.
The trimaran used in the movie had to be custom-made, because although it was based on existing trimarans, no such ship with extensive built-in mechanics existed in real life. Kevin Costner felt that it had to give off a Swiss Family Robinson (1960) feeling. He sailed on it for three weeks before filming to give it a lived-in feeling, and to get comfortable with the ship's layout and controls.
The cast had to be spray-tanned before each day of filming, because their characters were supposed to be in the sun the entire day.
Kevin Costner was trained by an Olympic swim champion for his underwater swimming scenes, and Laird Hamilton, the famous big wave rider, was Costner's double for many water scenes.
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The Mariner wears a piece of a printed circuit board as a necklace.
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The film had a tie-in video game released on the Nintendo Virtual Boy, although it sold poorly due to the system being considered a commercial failure. This is the only game released on the Virtual Boy based on a feature film.
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The major problem during the shoot was the cast and crew becoming seasick all the time. Almost every remedy was tried, including dermal patches. In the end, they found out that ginger snaps worked quite well for a majority of the people, so an enormous amount was eventually consumed.
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Gary Oldman told GQ magazine that he rejected the Deacon role for one reason: he flicked a coin and took a role in The Scarlet Letter (1995) instead.
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Kevin Costner was going through a bitter divorce during filming, which Kevin Reynolds felt probably added to his grim and somewhat unsympathetic portrayal of the Mariner.
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The teaser trailer, narrated by James Earl Jones, was hastily compiled so it could appear before Street Fighter (1994). It consisted mainly of footage from the atoll and the battle on it, because due to production delays, that was all that cast and crew had been able to shoot at that time.
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The four-machine gun chassis in the atoll assault scene is called a Maxon Mount. It is comprised of four .50 caliber Browning machine guns and was used as an anti-aircraft battery during World War II. It also came in a two gun mount which was used up to & in the Vietnam War as a Point Defense Weapon.
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When Charles Gordon and Lawrence Gordon took the film into production under their production company Largo Entertainment, they were eyeing Norwegian filmmaker Nils Gaup as director. After Kevin Costner showed interest, he suggested Kevin Reynolds. When Universal studio got involved, their choices for director were Robert Zemeckis or Lawrence Kasdan over Reynolds. Reynolds went on to do Rapa Nui (1994) first, and got the job afterwards when neither Zemeckis nor Kasdan had committed. Reynolds insisted that the cause of all the flooding was a man-made disaster as he wanted an environmental message. He first asked David Webb Peoples to do rewrites, but when Peoples was unavailable, David Twohy was hired.
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The most remembered line from the film, "Dryland is not a myth; I have seen it", is never spoken in the film itself.
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Because Kevin Costner was on bare feet all the time, moleskin was attached to the soles of his feet to protect him from sharp object and edges. It did not save him from stubbing his toes on parts of the set, however.
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According to the producers, the continuous stream of bad press took a huge toll on the film. Almost $60 million had been spent when the press got wind that the film was already over budget before shooting had even started. When the press was banned from the set out of fear of more negative publicity, they started a relentless attack on the movie. At one point, an adverse weather condition had caused a dangerous situation for two camera men, which was resolved without further incident. However, the next day, director Kevin Reynolds was contacted by journalists who had erroneously been informed by an anonymous source that the two crew members had actually died. Producer Charles Gordon stated that although the film did well in cinemas, he estimated that the bad word of mouth caused by the press may have cost the film about $50 million in box office.
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A French science fiction graphic novel called Aquablue, created in 1988 by writer Thierry Cailleteau, explores very similar themes as this movie, although it's set in the future where mankind can traverse space, and it takes place not on Earth, but on a hostile water planet called Aquablue where a survivor from a crashed space cruiser and his robot must survive.
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It has been reported that Roger Corman passed on making this film because he felt it could not be made for less than $5 million.
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Computer-generated imagery (CGI) was still prohibitively expensive at the time, and could be used only sparingly. Scenes had to be shot on the open sea as much as possible to prevent land from appearing in the background, and most of the stunts were done practically. Special effects scenes (such as the scenes with the diving bell and the air balloon) were mainly done by photo-optically combining separate shots together (which shows in certain scenes). CGI was mainly used by Digital Domain to create the water in the scenes with the Smokers' ship, and for touch-up in other scenes. The large water monster caught by the Mariner (nicknamed the 'whalefin') nearly didn't make the finished movie, but the producers successfully negotiated with the studio for budget to digitally animate the creature.
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Jack Nicholson was considered for The Deacon, but was deemed too expensive. Nicholson's friend Dennis Hopper was cast in the role. Nicholson and Hopper were in Easy Rider (1969) together, also directed by Hopper.
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Writer Peter Rader shelved his original screenplay after a fellow screenwriter read it and made several disparaging remarks about it. He directed a few films himself, then dusted it off and sent it around Hollywood. While walking around a studio, he coincidentally heard a few executives talking about his script, and was surprised to hear that it had already made its way to Kevin Costner who was interested in starring.
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Inspired by racing trimarans built by Jeanneau Advanced Technologies' multi-hull division Lagoon; a custom 60 foot (18 m) yacht was designed by Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot-Prevost and built in France by Lagoon. Two versions were built, a relatively standard racing trimaran for distance shots, and an effects-laden transforming trimaran for closeup shots. The first trimaran was launched on 2 April 1994, and surpassed 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) in September of that year. The transforming version was first seen in the film as a sort of raft with a three-bladed egg-beater windmill. When needed, levers could be triggered that would flatten the windmill blades while raising a hidden mast to full racing height. A boom emerged, previously hidden in the hull, and the two sails were automatically unfurled. Once the transformation was complete this version could actually sail, although not as well as the dedicated racer. The transforming version is in private hands in San Diego, California. For many years, the racing version was kept in a lake at Universal Studios Florida, before being restored for use as a racing trimaran named Loe Real, which was being offered for sale in San Diego.
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Costume designer John Bloomfield estimated that over 2000 costumes were made.
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Kevin Costner would later star in another post-apocalyptic flick in which he would also play a nameless drifter who becomes an unlikely hero - The Postman (1997).
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Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino would later go on to star together in the HBO series Big Love (2006).
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Seventeen years after their falling out and after this movie was released, Kevin Costner and Kevin Reynolds made amends and worked on Hatfields & McCoys (2012).
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Screenwriters Peter Rader and David Twohy acknowledged that George Miller's Mad Max trilogy was a huge influence behind the film, especially Mad Max 2 (1981).
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A PC game based on the film Waterworld: The Quest for Dry Land was released in 1997. The only actors from the film to return for the PC Game are R.D. Call as Enforcer, Jack Kehler as Tallyman and Zakes Mokae as Elder.
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Sets were destroyed by hurricanes. Rebuilding them doubled the budget of the movie.
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The Hydro that The Mariner, Nord and some other characters drink in the movie is purified fresh water. This was one of the elements from Peter Rader's original script to survive all the major re-writes, although in his version, the purifying device was much grosser, and even contained a kidney-like organ.
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This is the second of three films starring Kevin Costner, that James Newton Howard has composed music for; the first film was Wyatt Earp (1994) and the third film was The Postman (1997).
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The movie is considered to be a futuristic pirate flick. The Smokers are pirates. Instead of treasure, The Smokers are searching for Dryland. Deacon loses his eye in the Atoll battle and dresses up as a pirate when he addresses the Smokers after capturing Enola and is introduced by Doctor as "Deacon of the Deez".
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Before Deacon fires his rifle at the Mariner, he first wets the front sights of the rifle like the real-life hero in Sergeant York (1941).
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Screenwriter David Twohy later went on to write and direct the Riddick films starring Vin Diesel as the title anti-hero Richard B. Riddick which were produced and released by Universal Pictures which was the production company that produced and released Waterworld (1995).
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When viewed from the air, the outline of the Atoll resembles a Horseshoe crab.
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Kevin Costner and Christian Slater - who appeared together in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) (also directed by Kevin Reynolds) - would go on to co-star with Dennis Hopper; Costner in this film and Swing Vote (2008), and Slater in True Romance (1993).
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The harpoon gun (Greener light harpoon gun) used by the Mariner is the same model used by Quint in Jaws.
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The map tattoo on Enola's back is in Chinese traditional characters (or Japanese Kanji). The characters in the middle surrounding the arrow are actual coordinates for longitude and latitude. While one number is not quite readable, the others give almost exact coordinates for Mount Everest, which is Latitude 27° 59' N Longitude 86° 56' E. The movie coordinates give: Latitude 27 or 28° 58' N Longitude 86° 56' E.
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Although it is never confirmed in the theatrical cut that Dryland is actually Mount Everest, the numbers on the tattoo on Enola's back actually give Everest's exact coordinates. In the longer Ulysses Cut of the film, it is made explicit: as Helen and Enola wave goodbye to the Mariner from a mountain top, they find a plaque that commemorates the first explorers (Hillary and Norgay) setting foot on Mount Everest's summit in 1953.
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When the Smokers' boat the 'Deez' sinks, it is revealed to be the 'Exxon Valdez' (the name is clearly visible on the stern). The portrait on the wall that Deacon calls "Old Saint Joe" is Joseph Hazelwood, who crashed the Exxon Valdez oil tanker into a reef off of Alaska's southern coast, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. At the time of filming, the disaster was still quite controversial: the crew couldn't get the original Valdez' blueprints to recreate the ship (they used plans of a sister ship instead), and the final decision to put the name on the stern was taken on the day of filming. The real Exxon Valdez was repaired and renamed several times, changed hands several times, and briefly hauled oil across the Mediterranean Sea. In 2012 it was officially decommissioned by the Chinese company that owned it. It was taken to the ship-breaking yards of Alang, Gujarat, India where it was broken down and sold for scrap.
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In the original ending of the film, it was explained that The Mariner isn't leaving simply because he is freaked out over Dryland or that he feels he truly belongs on the open waters of Waterworld. He reveals to Helen that there may be other mutants like himself out there and that he must find them to tell them about Dryland and Helen. This ending was restored in the extended Ulysses Cut of the film.
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The 'Deez' (Exxon Valdez) was realized on screen in several ways. The upper deck was built full-scale on a studio back lot, and surrounded by greenscreens which would be replaced by digitally animated water for high shots. The inside on the ship was constructed and filmed inside a studio. A 112-foot model of the ship was built at the Mojave Airport airplane scrapyard for full shots of the ship, as well as the explosion and sinking sequence; again, the water was animated digitally. The miniature was abandoned until August 2015, when it was partially stripped to be re-purposed as set decoration for Wasteland Weekend.
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In the extended cut of the film (the Ulysses Cut), at the end when The Mariner is about to set sail and leave Dryland, Helen tells The Mariner about the Greek legend of Ulysses (from the Odyssey), which is Helen's farewell gift to The Mariner, which he will need on his journey and that she is suggesting that Ulysses should be his name. Helen herself was named after Helen of Troy, from the Illiad and the Odyssey.
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Kevin Costner did much of the stunts featuring the Mariner on the zipline himself, much to the dismay of producer Charles Gordon. However, he was actually safely attached to the zipline with a body harness, and there was a built-in brake to slow him down at the end. Director Kevin Reynolds did the stunt himself first to demonstrate its safety. Of course, great care had to be taken with the timing of the explosions as Costner slid by. For the shot where Mariner throws a hook on the plane, that is Costner himself doing it: a pontoon and a camera were attached to a crane that was moved with high speed over the real Costner as he hooked it (the set had to be reinforced to accommodate the heavy crane). The plane's subsequent crash was filmed on a real tarmac that was dressed up as the deck of the Deez.
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