The film portrays the wave that struck New York City crashing over and around the towers of the World Trade Center, which were the only buildings barely above water at the end of the sequence, surviving the wave. After the events of the September 11 terrorist attacks, some television broadcasts of the film were edited to remove the buildings. The tidal wave also incorrectly comes from the west from New Jersey, and not from the south, from the Atlantic Ocean.
Morgan Freeman wanted his character (President Beck) to be wearing an earring. Director Mimi Leder turned him down. Later, we see the President addressing the nation from the oval office. His sleeves are rolled up, and one of Freeman's tattoos is showing. The director liked this. She felt it gave the President an everyman look.
After discovering the comet, one of the astronomers is killed in an automobile accident. This mirrors the real-life automobile accident death (July 18, 1997, in the Australian outback) of astronomer Eugene Shoemaker, who helped discover the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that collided with Jupiter in 1994 and was a source of inspiration for this film.
A line was edited in the President's press conference scene. President Beck stated "Life will go on, we will prevail." Originally, President Beck said "Life will go on, we will prevail...THIS IS NOT ARMAGEDDON!" The producers later realized that the movie was going to be in box-office competition with the movie Armageddon (1998).
During the school assembly, one student makes the observation "You're going to have more sex than anyone else in our class!" to Leo Biederman. This line was improvised by Jason Dohring, and the reactions from the other students are genuine.
The scene where Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni) first meets President Beck (Morgan Freeman), was filmed in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, where Senator Robert Francis Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, while campaigning for the Presidency of the United States.
The traffic jam scene was filmed on Virginia State Highway 234, a bypass that was under construction at the time. The roughly eighteen hundred vehicles used in the scene, came mostly from volunteers from the Washington, D.C. suburb of Manassas, Virginia. State Highway 234 is a primary state highway in Virginia. It runs from U.S. Highway 1 near Dumfries via Independent Hill, a bypass of Manassas, and Catharpin to U.S. Highway 15 near Woolsey.
The ship that goes to destroy the comet is called "The Messiah". This is not only an appropriate name, but also an inside joke. When the first space shuttle was being conceived, N.A.S.A. constructed a full-scale, wooden mock up of the S.T.S. Orbiter. It was nicknamed "The Messiah" because, according to Flight Controller Jerry Greene, everyone who walked into it said, "Jesus Christ!" in reference to its size.
A giant object from space struck the general area of the Eastern Seaboard where "Biederman" impacted in the film. Hitting the Norfolk, Virginia vicinity, it created the huge, now-buried, Chesapeake Bay impact crater.
One of the N.A.S.A. officials in the movie is played by Gerry Griffin, who is a former N.A.S.A. Flight Director. Griffin presided over the Apollo 12 mission, and later became Director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Director of Photography Dietrich Lohmann was very ill during the production phase of the film, and the cast and crew found out he was dying from leukemia. A special dedication to Lohmann was put in the movie's closing credits, as he passed away not long after the film was finished.
The first cut of of the film had more scenes with Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood) and Sarah Hotchner (Leelee Sobieski). However, in response to a poorly received sneak preview, these scenes were drastically reduced.
When Marcus Wolf (Charles Martin Smith) is trying to send an e-mail about the approaching comet, we see the first few entries in his e-mail inbox. Two of the messages are from "cshoemaker arizona.unv", one of which has the subject line "101 Mir jokes". Carolyn Shoemaker and Eugene Shoemaker are well-known comet experts, credited as "comet advisors" to the movie.
Just before the movie's release, astronomers announced that the asteroid 1997 XF11, about one mile across, will impact the Earth at a speed of over one hundred thousand miles (one hundred sixty-one thousand kilometers) per hour at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 26, 2028, greatly boosting ticket sales. Just after the movie's release, a new orbit (based on a sighting from many years before) predicted that 1997 XF11 will miss by six hundred thousand miles (nine hundred sixty-five thousand kilometers).
"Deep Impact" was a N.A.S.A. space probe designed to study the composition of the interior of the comet Tempel 1. On July 4, 2005, one section of the Deep Impact probe successfully impacted the comet's nucleus. This is coincidental, as the scientists behind the mission, and the creators of the movie, devised the name independently of each other, at around the same time.
The movie begins in 1998, where Leo and Sarah's Astronomy Club is on top of the hill, looking at stars, and where Dr. Wolf died in a car crash. A year passes, and it's 1999, the year when President Tom Beck announces to the world, that a comet would threaten to hit the Earth in one year on August 16. Therefore, the date of the Wolf-Beiderman impact was predicted to occur on August 16, 2000.
The story revolves around Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood), Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall), and Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni). Jenny has two scenes with President Beck (Morgan Freeman), but Leo doesn't have a scene with either of them. In the script, Leo was supposed to have a scene in the White House, watching the launch of Atlantis with President Beck.
In a 2016 interview with the New York Times, Lori McCreary (President of the PGA, and Morgan Freeman's producing partner) recounted that when Mimi Leder wanted to cast Freeman as the U.S. President, the studio objected, on the basis that it wasn't realistic to cast a black person as President. McCreary recalled that one studio executive said, "we're not making a science fiction movie. You can't have Morgan Freeman play the President." Aside from the obvious racism present in the notion that a black President is inherently unrealistic (just a decade after this movie's release, the United States did elect a black President), the executive was also mistaken about Deep Impact not being a science fiction movie. Basically, the "executive" was a racist moron.
The first movie to prominently place MSNBC as the primary media provider in the film. MSNBC is an American basic cable and satellite television network that provides news coverage and political commentary from NBC News on current events. MSNBC was launched on July 15, 1996.
Of the screenplay, one executive attached to the film said that John Wells "would take three pages and turn them into one, and it was a more compelling page". However, due to his work running the television series ER (1994), Wells was only able to help out for a few weeks, before leaving the project.
Jon Favreau said that it was so uncomfortable for the cast to film in the astronaut suits, that during breaks, they had to be hung on a rack in their suits and brought outside to get air. This led to some awkward moments whenever a studio tour bus came by.
As an Executive Producer, and the presumed Director, Steven Spielberg initially sought Bruce Joel Rubin as the Screenwriter, explaining the project as a remake of When Worlds Collide (1951). This film happened to have been very significant and influential in Rubin's life. When he saw it as a ten-year-old boy, "It was the beginning of the emergence of philosophy in my life", Rubin said in The Dialogue: An Interview with Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (2007). Immediately after he and a boyhood friend came out of the theater where they'd watched the film, they spent four hours talking about "the end of days".
In the "Making an Impact" featurette on the Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray, it is shown that a scene was storyboarded showing a ship crashing into the spire of the Chrysler Building in New York City during the tsunami sequence. However, it never made it past early CGI animation, and was not included in the final film.
Morgan Freeman played President Tom Beck, with James Cromwell portraying Treasury Secretary Alan Rittenhouse. In The Sum of All Fears (2002), Cromwell played President J. Robert Fowler, while Freeman portrayed C.I.A. Director William Cabot.
The Earth is, on average, ninety-three million miles, or a little more than eight light-minutes from the Sun. If the Sun suddenly went dark, or exploded, we wouldn't know for over eight minutes. As stated above, when the crew makes rendezvous with the comet, they are reported to have a twenty second delay in transmission of pictures to the ground. This is a distance of only 3,728,120 miles.
At one point, A character says "People knew about the Manhattan Project, you know, and they kept it a secret." "Manhattan Project" is also the name of one of the production companies that worked on the film.
Morgan Freeman portrayed the President in this movie. In Olympus Has Fallen (2013), he portrayed the Speaker of the House, and in London Has Fallen (2016), he portrayed the Vice President. He is reprising his role of Allan Trumbull in Angel Has Fallen (2018).
The movie came into being when Producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown proposed a remake of When Worlds Collide (1951) to Steven Spielberg, with whom they had worked on Jaws (1975). However, Spielberg had just optioned the 1993 novel "The Hammer of God" by Arthur C. Clarke, about an asteroid on a collision course for Earth, and humanity's attempts to stop it. They decided to merge the two projects together, and came up with this movie. Although the premise remained the same, the final screenplay for this movie was different enough from Clarke's novel, that he received no on-screen credit.
In the film's final trailer, the blue background used behind the text graphics, is a slightly altered version of the background used for the opening titles of Event Horizon (1997), another Paramount Pictures movie.
Maximilian Schell starred in The Black Hole (1979). One of that film's science fiction competitors in theaters was Meteor (1979), another movie about the Earth being threatened by an impact with an astronomical object.
Landmarks in New York City that are hit in the tsunami sequence are in chronological order: the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center, the Washington Square Arch, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Chrysler Building.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Jenny Lerner is looking up "ELE" on the Internet, the ad banners on the right-hand side of the screen foreshadow the tidal wave at the end of the film: "The Wave of the Future", "You've got some ocean coming", et cetera.
The Statue of Liberty's severed head is seen being washed into the streets of Manhattan by the tidal wave. Cloverfield (2008), another Paramount Pictures movie, also featured the Statue of Liberty's head in the streets of the city, this time knocked off by the creature.