In one scene, Beni is shown with a sackful of gold which he is trying to load onto a camel, and Beni pulls the camel by the reins but the camel doesn't budge; the camels all, for some reason, hated Kevin J. O'Connor.
The opening voice-over was originally intended to be read by Imhotep. Director Stephen Sommers later realized that Imhotep wouldn't be able to speak English, and gave the voice-over to Ardeth Bay instead.
"Imhotep" was actually the name of the architect who developed the first pyramids in ancient Egypt, most notably the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara around 2600 BC. His ability was such that he was later said to have descended from the gods. His name means "one who comes in peace". However, as far as anyone knows, he was not a despised villain as portrayed in the movie, but much more likely revered as the architect and physician he was.
When King Tutankhamen's tomb was found on November 4, 1922, the person in charge was Howard Carter employed & funded by George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon. His daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert accompanied him to Egypt to view the discovery. Rachel Weisz's character is named Evelyn Carnahan. Originally, her character was meant to be Evelyn Carnarvon. She and her brother were to be the children of the "cursed" Lord Carnarvon. The only evidence of this left in the film is in the line where Evelyn tells O'Connell that her father was a "very, very famous explorer". The Mummy novelization goes into a bit more detail on her back story.
In 2004, Universal Studios theme parks (Hollywood and Orlando) opened their "Revenge of the Mummy" rides based on both this movie and The Mummy Returns (2001). The rides became so popular, the lines would stretch into the main park with riders waiting for hours in the hot California or Florida sun. To alleviate the stress of waiting, when the lines would move, fans of the movie would wearily chant "Im-ho-tep. Im-ho-tep. Im-ho-tep." as the hypnotized townspeople do halfway through the movie.
Leonardo DiCaprio was rumored to have been offered the role of Rick O'Connell. It's believed DiCaprio was said to have loved the script and wanted to be in the film, however, he had already agreed to star in The Beach (2000). It's also been said that DiCaprio asked if The Beach could be delayed so he could film The Mummy, but producers refused. However, filming of The Beach was delayed anyway.
The production had the official support of the Moroccan army, and the cast members had kidnapping insurance taken out on them, a fact Stephen Sommers disclosed to the cast only after shooting had finished.
Brendan Fraser was cast due to the success of George of the Jungle (1997). Stephen Sommers also commented that he felt Fraser fit the Errol Flynn swashbuckling character he had envisioned perfectly. The actor understood that his character "doesn't take himself too seriously, otherwise the audience can't go on that journey with him".
Ardeth Bay, an anagram of Death By Ra, is the name of a sworn protector of mankind from the mummy Imhotep. However, in The Mummy (1932), Ardath Bey is the alter-ego of the mummy Imhotep (played by Boris Karloff) when he attempts to pass for a modern Egyptian (note the difference in the spelling of both names).
To avoid dehydration in the scorching heat of the Sahara, the production's medical team created a drink that the cast and crew had to consume every two hours. Sandstorms were daily inconveniences. Snakes, spiders and scorpions were a major problem, with many crew members having to be airlifted out after being bitten.
In some scenes, characters who speak Arabic can be heard saying the same lines with different subtitles. This isn't as much a mistake as it is a throwback to the hero movies of old, in which foreign characters would say their lines in a different language to put up the illusion that they were speaking in that language.
The presence of living scarabs after centuries of isolation from food sources was better explained in an early version of the script; Imhotep was cursed to live forever when some of the sacred scarabs force themselves down his throat; and by eating him, the scarabs themselves were also cursed with everlasting life.
To create the Mummy, John Andrew Berton Jr. used a combination of live action and computer graphics. Then, he matched the digital prosthetic make-up pieces on Arnold Vosloo's face during filming. Berton said, "When you see his film image, that's him. When he turns his head and half of his face is missing and you can see right through on to his teeth, that's really his face. And that's why it was so hard to do." Vosloo described the filming as a "whole new thing" for him; "They had to put these little red tracking lights all over my face so they could map in the special effects. A lot of the time I was walking around the set looking like a Christmas tree."
When Jonathan accidentally brings the military mummies to life and they go after O'Connell, Brendan Fraser runs across skeletons that are floating in water to get away from the mummies while making the same sort of noise that his character George makes from George of the Jungle (1997).
Arnold Vosloo understood the approach that Stephen Sommers was going for in his screenplay, but only agreed to take on the role of Imhotep "if I could do it absolutely straight. From Imhotep's point of view, this is a skewed version of 'Romeo and Juliet'."
The plastic dummies used as dessicated corpses in the film to represent the Mummy's victims are the same as those used in the cult 1980s sci-fi film Lifeforce (1985). One character even refers to the Mummy sucking the 'lifeforce' out of people.
Although the American O'Connell could certainly serve in the French Foreign Legion he could not be a Lieutenant as depicted in the movie. Officers in the Legion are required to be French nationals. As an American, O'Connell would not be eligible for a commission.
When Clive Barker was attached to the project, the film was intended to be a low budget horror film. Barker's vision for the film was violent, with the story revolving around the head of a contemporary art museum who turns out to be a cultist trying to reanimate mummies. George A. Romero was brought in with a vision of a zombie-style horror movie similar to Night of the Living Dead (1968), but this was considered too scary.
The locusts shown in the scene at Hamunaptra were mostly computer-generated, but a number of live grasshoppers were used for the shot; the grasshoppers were chilled in a refrigerator to make them more sluggish and easy to film.
Stephen Sommers toyed with the idea of opening the film with the old Universal film logo, which would dissolve into the desert sun. He'd later use that opening for Van Helsing (2004) (though the logo would turn into the flame from a torch instead).
In the scene on the riverboat, Beni is thrown overboard and into the river by O'Connell; during filming, Kevin J. O'Connor helped Brendan Fraser to appear as though he was throwing him overboard by jumping up.
Production designer Allan Cameron found a dormant volcano near Erfoud where the entire set for Hamunaptra could be constructed. Stephen Sommers liked the location because, "A city hidden in the crater of an extinct volcano made perfect sense. Out in the middle of the desert you would never see it. You would never think of entering the crater unless you knew what was inside that volcano." A survey of the volcano was conducted so that an accurate model and scale models of the columns and statues could be replicated back at Shepperton Studios, where all of the scenes involving the underground passageways of the City of the Dead were shot. These sets took 16 weeks to build, and included fiberglass columns rigged with special effects for the movie's final scenes. Another large set was constructed in the United Kingdom on the dockyard at Chatham which doubled for the Giza Port on the River Nile. This set was 600 feet (183 m) in length and featured "a steam train, an Ajax traction engine, three cranes, an open two-horse carriage, four horse-drawn carts, five dressing horses and grooms, nine pack donkeys and mules, as well as market stalls, Arab-clad vendors and room for 300 costumed extras".
A different take of Ardeth Bay's introduction scene on top of the mountain was used later in the film when O'Connell and crew are crossing the desert at night. This time, the lighting was adjusted accordingly.
The novelization gives some details that probably would have been difficult to convey in the movie, such as some of the Carnahans' backstory and the cause and effect of their parents' deaths. Among other things, pouring the scarabs into Imhotep's sarcophagus wasn't just to torture him further; it's an essential part of the ritual that they would eat his flesh, and when he became desperate he would eat them, and this would continue for years. This dark mockery of the cycle of life was an important aspect of making him immortal so that he would suffer forever. There was a lot more detail in the original script that was cut for pacing, including an expansion on Imhotep's backstory, the rest of the plagues, and tidbit explanations on minor issues
The bronze sword that Rick wields during the climax of the movie, as well as the bronze khopesh used by the soldier mummies, are considerably bigger and longer than their historical counterparts. Not only would a bronze sword like that be absurdly heavy, a sword that long would easily bend during battle.
when Rick jumps off the boat after telling the Egyptian warden "Wait here! I'll go get help!" was added at the last minute after Stephen Sommers realized he didn't write how the warden was supposed to get off the boat.
The Book of the Dead and the Book of Amun-Ra are both made to look like a bunch of black stone and gold (respectively) tablets bound together in a form resembling a codex (a modern-day book). The Ancient Egyptians would have written their books on papyrus scrolls. Even if they could make the books the way they're depicted, the Book of Amun-Ra would never have been made out of pure gold--it would have been obscenely heavy.
George A. Romero's version was a vision of a zombie-style horror movie similar to Night of the Living Dead (1968), but which also relied heavily upon elements of tragic romance and ambivalence of identity. Romero completed a draft in October 1994, cowritten with Alan Ormsby and John Sayles, that revolved around female archaeologist Helen Grover and her discovery in Abydos of the tomb of Imhotep, an Egyptian general who lived in the time of Ramesses II. Unfolding in a nameless American city in modern times, events are set into motion when Imhotep inadvertently awakens as a result of his preserved cadaver having been exposed to rays from an MRI scan in a high-tech forensic archaeology lab. The script then progresses to a fish-out-of-water story when Imhotep, having regained his youthful appearance, recognizes the need to adapt to a contemporary society that is three thousand years removed from the one he came from. Assuming at first that he is a representative from the Bureau of Antiquities, Helen finds herself drawn into a tentative relationship with Imhotep while also experiencing clairvoyant flashbacks to a previous life in Nineteenth Dynasty Egypt as a priestess of Isis. Summoning mystical powers through incantation, Imhotep later resurrects the mummy of Karis, a loyal slave whose body had been resting alongside his master's in the same tomb but is now held in the local museum. After escaping into the city sewer system, Karis embarks on a vengeful rampage against the various criminal fences and high society antiquarians who had acquired stolen relics from his tomb. Romero's script was considered too dark and violent by James Jacks and the studio, who wanted a more accessible picture. Compounding the issue was the fact that Romero was unable to extricate from a contract for a different film project he had in negotiation at the time with MGM, and so his involvement with the film was severed and the development of an entirely new script was commissioned to other writers.
Jonathan identifies the plague of boils as the final plague. Biblically, the final plague was the death of the firstborn sons, which never happens in the movie. Given that the death of the firstborn is controversial even within some parts of the Christian Church, it was probably cut for not being family friendly.
Joe Dante's version would have cast Daniel Day-Lewis as the mummy. This version (co-written by John Sayles) was set in contemporary times and focused on reincarnation with elements of a love story. It came close to being made with some elements, like the flesh-eating scarabs, making it to the final product. However, at that point, the studio wanted a film with a budget of $15 million and rejected Dante's version.
Rick tells Evelyn that his military garrison reached Hamunaptra in 1923 by marching across Libya. The name Libya is historically inaccurate. In 1923 (and in 1926 when Rick talks to Evelyn), that territory was known as Italian North Africa. The Italian government would not give it the name "Libya" until 1934.
Terence Bey refers to the plagues of Egypt when scolding Evy for destroying the library, and she herself later refers to them about an hour into the film when telling the others about the Hom Dai. Imhotep brought these plagues back with him when he was resurrected.
Kevin J. O'Connor, who plays Beni, previously appeared in Law & Order: The Troubles (1991), in Law & Order's first season. That episode, like this movie, features a character named O'Connell who is generally addressed by surname only.
While Evie is fighting Anuk-Su-Namun, Jonathan is trying to read the spell and gets hung up on the symbol of a stork. Evie tells him it means "Amenophus." (A similar scene also plays out in the sequel, "The Mummy Returns" (2001).) In the original "The Mummy" (1932) upon which this was based, Amenophus was the name of Anuk-Su-Namun's father, making her the Pharoah's daughter instead of his wife-to-be. (In the 1932 version, the names are pronounced differently; "Amenophus" is pronounced "AH-men-AH-foos", and "Anuk-Su-Namun" is pronounced "ah-NOK-soo-NAH-moon.")
The scene where O'Connell saves Evelyn from the sacrificial slab was filmed with Brendan Fraser fighting against invisible mummies. He meticulously choreographed his every movement, and all mummies were later added to the shot with computer-generated imagery, matching his moves.
A scene deleted from the film showed Rick, Evelyn and Jonathan crossing a field full of skeletons (belonging to Rick's fellow soldiers from the foreign legion and other fortune-seekers) before entering Hamunaptra. Another sequence that was cut occurred while Rick and Jonathan are trying to pry the chest containing the Book of Amun-Ra from the statue of Horus: suddenly, several mummies break through the floor and attack, but they quickly turn their attention to the chest. They open it and are immediately doused by pressurized acid. This scene explains why a hole in the floor suddenly appears between shots in the movie.
The lever-triggered slowly settling stone megaliths with sand pouring out like water, from which the characters must escape or be entombed alive, are based upon Howard Hawks' Land of the Pharaohs (1955), where Pharaoh Cheops's tomb is constructed to be sealed in this manner after he is placed within. Historically no such sophisticated engineering technology was ever employed.
The location shown in the scene where Imhotep and his minions corner the protagonists was an actual entrance to a thirteenth-century graveyard in Marrakesh. In the shots of the graveyard entrance, a manhole cover was used for the surviving protagonists to escape; the manhole was constructed for the film and had a large pad inside so that the actors would land on the pad and not hurt themselves.
In the original script, Jonathan's attempts to read the Book of the Dead unwittingly caused the huge statue of Anubis to come to life and start attacking Rick. This was rejected for being too expensive to realize on-screen, and replaced by having Jonathan unwittingly re-animate the Pharoah's guards instead.
Anck-Su-Namun's second death is shot almost exactly like her first; her shadow is cast upon the wall while she doubles up as a weapon is driven into her stomach. Only this time, instead of killing herself, she's being stabbed and then hacked to pieces by the mummy guards.
In the beginning, during the French Foreign Legion battle, Beni cowardly runs and closes the door on Rick mirrors the ending when Beni tries to escape and Rick tries to help him but the walls close in between them trapping Beni and leaving him to his fate being eaten by the scarab beetles.
The prison warden showing awe at the scarabs and wondering what they are sets up how Jonathan, while helping Rick and Ardeth to rescue Evy, will later do the same. The warden dies, but Jonathan survives.
When Evy and Jonathan show Terence Bey the map, lines of dialogue from Jonathan refer to the treasure chamber at Hamunaptra and how the city would sink into the ground at the flip of a switch. This is seen and goes on to happen at the end of the film.
After Jonathan gains control of the remaining mummified soldiers and sics them on Anck-Su-Namun, Imhotep conveniently forgets that he has God-like powers and could have easily dispatched them to save her, but instead tries to take the Golden Book from Jonathan in an attempt to reverse the spell. However, he is not fast enough, and Anck-Su-Namun is killed (again).
At 1hr 36mins) Evie says to Beni at Hamunaptra, "You know, nasty little fellows such as yourself always get their comeuppance.", To which Beni replies "they do?" to which Evie assures him by saying, "yes, always" foreshadows Beni's death at the end when he gets eaten alive by hundreds of scarab beetles.
Rick's forced kiss to Evy while imprisoned early on sets up how the two will end up together at the end of the film and the sequels, as does the later scene of Evy nearly falling asleep on Rick's shoulder while riding camels and when Evy is very drunk and passes out before she can kiss Rick.