Regarding the film's premise, Ben Affleck asked Director Michael Bay, "Wouldn't it be easier for N.A.S.A. to train astronauts how to drill rather than training drillers to be astronauts?" Bay told Affleck to shut up. Besides, the reasoning behind sending drillers, rather than training astronauts, is explained in the movie.
Steve Buscemi claimed that the role of Rockhound was pitched to him as a heroic geologist, which he eagerly accepted, wanting a change from the lowlifes, as whom he had been typecast. He noted that after he had been cast in the role, Rockhound's sleazy characteristics were written into the script.
Rockhound's line about sitting on a million pounds of fuel in a rocket built by the lowest bidder is a variation of an actual radio transmission by Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, just prior to lift-off.
Because of the patriotic nature of the script, and the success of using Top Gun (1986) as recruitment material, the producers persuaded N.A.S.A. to allow Director Michael Bay and company to shoot in the normally restricted space agency. This included the neutral buoyancy lab, a sixty-five-million-gallon, forty-foot-deep pool used to train astronauts for weightlessness, and the use of two ten-million-dollar space suits. The crew was also allowed to shoot in the historic launch pad that went out of service after the Apollo 1 disaster, and parts of the movie were filmed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The shuttle launches were filmed for real. Disney (Touchstone Pictures) was allowed to put cameras (about sixteen of them) all over the place. The camera on the launch pad was shaken so hard (25G) that all the screws fell out of the lens, and it had to be returned to Panavision in a box of pieces (which they put back together).
The film crew was also allowed to shoot sequences at the top of a real launch pad, with an actual space shuttle docked to it. The only condition was that they not step into the shuttle itself. Ben Affleck admitted to stepping inside the orbiter for a brief moment, before N.A.S.A. technicians ordered him out of the spacecraft.
Bruce Willis came to the film after he decided a comedy he was filming called "Broadway Brawler" could not be salvaged, and sought a way to exit the project. Disney's then-head Joe Roth worked out a deal where Willis would star in Armageddon and two future films for the studio, and in exchange, Disney would absorb the failed project's costs as an advance against his initial salary. The two films Willis later made under this deal were The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2000).
Michael Bay thinks Armageddon is his worst film. "I will apologize for Armageddon, because we had to do the whole movie in sixteen weeks", he told The Miami Herald in 2013. "It was a massive undertaking. That was not fair to the movie. I would redo the entire third act if I could."
Billy Bob Thornton told Michael Bay that his backstory for Truman was that he was on track to join N.A.S.A. as an astronaut, but suffered crippling nerve damage as a young man, and was only able to serve as an administrator. Bay loved the idea, and had a scene written that refers to this by showing a metal brace on Truman's leg.
According to the Criterion Collection commentary, many of the errors found in the film were acknowledged by the director, and known even during filming and production and were left in deliberately (such as fire in space). Michael Bay said, "It's a movie and not many people know about it", so they were kept in for entertainment value.
The convenient existence of a fault plane passing right through the asteroid is not unrealistic. Several asteroids are now believed to be "contact binaries", each apparently consisting of two separate lumps of rock that are just sitting on each other.
Critics jumped on the line from Truman where he told the President that the asteroid was "the size of Texas" and said it was ridiculous. However, those critics were embarrassed when fans of the film in the Washington, D.C. area pointed out that the National Air and Space Museum contained an exhibit about the history of asteroids which included a visual from one that hit the Earth millions of years ago, and was roughly the size of the modern state of Texas.
The original script did not include the romantic subplot between A.J. (Ben Affleck) and Grace (Liv Tyler), and instead had more emphasis on Truman. It was added after the success of Titanic (1997) with teenage girls. Most of the romantic scenes were written by Scott Rosenberg and were filmed late in production.
Michael Bay said in a magazine interview that the solution in the movie for dealing with the asteroid was very clever, but not realistic, but that one idea for countering the threat was in line with actual N.A.S.A. research (anti-gravity systems). He also said that a problem with a film like this, was that it would make Americans erroneously think that if a situation like the movie actually occurred, then there was anything that could be done about it.
This film and Deep Impact (1998) had an unfriendly back and forth, as both projects were green-lit, and filmed through 1997 and 1998. Michael Bay insulted Paramount's project by comparing Téa Leoni's star power to Bruce Willis', leading to Leoni saying that statement was "so Michael" and that it was not clear how firing guns would defeat an asteroid. When Deep Impact (1998) opened strongly at the box-office in May 1998, Paramount then pointed out all the problems that their rival film was having, leading to Willis accidentally revealing that this film was filming new scenes in Europe and Asia.
Michael Clarke Duncan was almost replaced by a different actor after the first days of shooting. Duncan had been very happy when he was selected to play Bear after a successful audition, but soon started to feel insecure, and his performance was suffering as a result. In a final effort, Michael Bay and Bruce Willis took him aside, and told him that they really needed to see the vibrant and enthusiastic personality that he had displayed in his audition, otherwise they would have to look for a replacement. Duncan's performance improved remarkably after that.
On the Criterion Collection DVD, then Disney Chairman Michael Eisner makes a surprise appearance on the space shuttle set to jokingly tell Bruce Willis that he has been fired and replaced with Kevin Costner.
The famous rock in the logo of Touchstone Pictures (one of the production companies) has the same shape as the asteroid that hits the Earth in the first scene, causing global destruction sixty-five million years ago.
During the training of the mission team, an Aerosmith song ("Sweet Emotion") is playing in the background with vocals by Liv Tyler's father, Steven Tyler, who also sings the theme song "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing". The two Tylers appear in the Armageddon music video.
Footage from this film (namely the destruction of the Atlantis space shuttle) was utilized in a hoax which purportedly featured actual satellite photographs of the February 1, 2003 destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia.
Unbeknownst to most Americans at the time, the U.S. Air Force did have a partnership with N.A.S.A. in the 1980s to produce and launch a special version of the Space Shuttle stack, similar to the "classified" experimental shuttles depicted in the film. The U.S. Air Force built a completely independent shuttle launch complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, intended for missions during which the shuttles would place military and intelligence agencies' spy satellites into polar orbits around Earth. The government also funded and developed special, lightweight "Filament-Wound" Solid Rocket Boosters for these proposed missions, being lighter in weight, thus more powerful than the standard shuttle stack's SRBs, able to place heavier payloads into more distant orbits. The "military shuttle" program was cancelled soon after the Challenger disaster in 1986.
Though some posters of this film state that the characters have thirty-three days. Apparently, this film is set only roughly twenty days in a summer, and at the time the asteroid is discovered, they have just eighteen days till it hits Earth.
Max (Ken Hudson Campbell) says to the doctor that is about to inject him with a needle. "I'll stab you in the heart with it. Have you ever seen Pulp Fiction?" Bruce Willis and Steve Buscemi appeared in Pulp Fiction (1994). Bruce played Butch Coolidge, and Steve played a waiter.
Michael Bay says on the commentary that this was one of perhaps two or so films a year that shot over a million feet of Kodak film. He says that in these cases, the production company is sent a gift of six bottles of Korbel (Champagne) at around ten dollars per bottle. This may be down to limits on the value of "business gifts" that can be freely given.
This movie features scenes showing the now destroyed World Trade Center towers. The opening medorite shower strikes the towers muliple times leaving gaping holes in them and they don't collapse, but on 9/11 two planes cause them collapse.
The film features a scene in which the crew are evaluated for their medical fitness for the journey to space. The scene features the song "Pusherman" by Curtis Mayfield. Two years prior, Owen Wilson played a supporting role in The Cable Guy (1996), and was assaulted in a scene set to the same track.
When the Thunderbirds fly over in the final scenes, the formation they are supposed to be flying in is known as the "Missing Man" formation. However, the missing man formation is flown with only four jets, and the #3 jet pulls straight up without using afterburner while the rest of the formation flies in their original positions. This was obviously done for Stamper. It is an extraordinary honor to have this formation flown during a funeral or, in this case, after a mission, equivalent to the riderless horse. The Thunderbirds later flew this maneuver in air shows out of respect for U.S. Military personnel lost in the War on Terror.
Ben Affleck came up with the idea for scenes of A.J. and Grace's wedding to be filmed on Super 8. His personal Super 8 camera was used for the shoot, and he held and operated it for all the shots in which he wasn't acting. The cake fight was improvised, and the cast threw most of it at Michael Bay.
At one point of the movie, Harry Stamper and the rest of the crew visit the Mir, inadvertently causing a failure in its system and its subsequent destruction. Mir was a space station launched in February 19, 1986 from Baikonur's Cosmodrome (former U.S.S.R., actual Kazakhstan), being the top of the Soviet space program, as the first place out from planet Earth permanently inhabited. It was used as an experimental and investigation laboratory. It was marked as a five year program, but was extended to thirteen years, remaining in outer space until its final destruction, when it crashed into the Pacific Ocean on March 23, 2001. In that time, Mir travelled more than 3.6 billion kilometers (2.25 billion miles) orbiting the planet. "Mir" is a Russian word that means "peace" or "world".