When Gattaca was first released, as part of a marketing campaign there were adverts for people to call and have their children genetically engineered. Thousands of people called, wanting to have their offspring genetically engineered.
Jude Law's character asks to be called by his middle name, Eugene. "Eugene" comes from the Greek for "well born," which he is. "Eugenics" (the science of improving the hereditary qualities of a race or breed) is the central theme of the film.
Many of the "futuristic" buildings in the film are actually quite old. Many of these represent a type of postmodern architecture called "brutalism", which was popular in the 1950s. The two massive arches seen behind Jerome and Irene during their talk are actually the spillway of the Sepulveda Dam in Los Angeles, which was built in the 1930s.
While it has been identified that "GATTACA" uses the four DNA nucleotide abbreviations of G,A,T,C, more specifically, when identifying genetic markers, the tests measure "short tandem repeats" at specific DNA marker locations. These are known as "GATA or CA" repeats - hence GATTACA.
Uma Thurman's character is named Irene Cassini. Cassini is the surname of the seventeenth century Italian astronomer, Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who discovered the prominent gap in Saturn's main rings, as well as the icy moons, Iapetus, Dione, Rhea, and Tethys. The space mission, in this film, is destined for Saturn. In 1997, NASA launched the Cassini space probe, bound for Saturn. It carried the Huygens space probe, which was dropped into Titan in early 2005, and discovered ground under the clouds.
The film was shot under the title "The Eighth Day". This was a reference to the Biblical creation story, which states that the earth was created in six days and on the seventh day, God rested. The original title implies the tampering of man with what God has already made, and "The Eighth Day" is still the name of the center in the movie where the children are engineered, as noted on the DVD deleted scenes. By the time the much-delayed release of the film came around, the same title had been used by the Belgian film The Eighth Day (1996). Because of this, writer-director Andrew Niccol was forced to choose a new title for his film. "The Eighth Day of Creation" is also a history of molecular biology, written by Horace Judson in 1979 and updated in 1996. The coincidence of the second edition may also have forced reconsideration.
The FBI Agents are called "Hoovers," a reference to legendary top G-man J. Edgar Hoover, but also a clever reference to a vacuum cleaner brand. There are numerous shots of vacuums being used to gather DNA evidence.
As Vincent explains at the beginning of the film, "I was conceived in the Riviera. Not the French Riviera, the Detroit variety." He narrates over the shot of his parents laying in the oddly shaped, rear windshield of a Riviera - a 1971 Buick Riviera.
Some interiors and exteriors of the Gattaca building belong, in reality, to the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, California. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957. The largest Wright design ever constructed, it was largely built after his death in 1959. The central dome (prominent in the roof-cleaning scene) contains the county library.
The most sci-fi part of the movie "genome editing" seems possible with CRISPR-Cas9 which was invented by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna in 2012. For this they were awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 2020.
The cars driven by the "Hoovers" are Rover P6's (sometimes called the Rover 2000), built in Britain from 1963 until 1976. They were extremely popular with the police force in Britain, where the 3.5 litre V8-engined model was used as a high speed interceptor. Three of the four P6 Rovers in the movie, were North American market 3500S versions of the 3.5 litre V8 with triple hood scoops. The fourth was a North American 2000TC with triple hood scoops added by Columbia Pictures. All four of the vehicles had triple hood scoops.
Many character names are symbolic. "Vincent" = "He shall conquer," which is what a "Freeman" does. Detective Hugo Coldspring = Human Genome Organization, which operates out of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Caesar" = Julius Caesar, who suffered from epilepsy. Ernest Borgnine typically plays strong leader roles, but here is limited to being a cleaner. "Cassini" = Cassini's division in the rings of Saturn, the destination of Vincent' flight. "Josef" = Josef Mengele, an SS doctor responsible for 'medical experiments' (Might this be a mistake for 'Gregor' = Gregor Mendel, Father of Genetics). "Eugene" = Eugenics, a program to 'improve' humans by selective breeding. "Flatfoot", used as an insult for a policeman, is also a genetically influenced condition. When Marie and Antonio consult the genetic counselor, they specify 'blue eyes, brown hair, and fair skin." The dark-eyed, head-shaved black counselor repeats these back, with a slight smile of condescension.
As Irene and Anton drive up at Vincent and Jerome's home at 01:20:29, a 1956/57 Continental Mark II coupe is parked in the background. It is a very rare classic car that was exceptionally expensive when new, almost $10,000. Already loaded with every conceivable standard feature of the time, the only option offered was air conditioning for about $800. It was made by the short-lived Continental division of the Ford Motor Company.
The icons used to denote a Valid versus an In-Valid have significant meaning. On the scanners, an infinity symbol appears next a Valid's name, denoting their "infinite potential." Next to an In-Valid's name, a dagger appears. In taxonomy, a dagger next to a taxon indicates extinction. In addition, the dagger symbol resembles a cross, a reference to In-Valids being referred to as "God Children" (As Irene states when Vincent reveals his true identity to her).
One of two late 90s films, the other being The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), in which a piece of photo ID featuring Jude Law's picture is repeatedly used by another actor without getting caught. Ethan Hawke and Matt Damon are the two actors who manage this feat of identity fraud.