This movie came in two million dollars below its budget. Co-Producer Rhonda Tollefson credits this to Producer Sir Sean Connery's thrifty Scottish ways. Connery drove his own car, instead of hiring a driver, and flew on commercial planes, instead of using private ones, so that all of the money would show up on-screen.
The building used for exterior shots of Mac's safe house (Castle Duart on the Isle of Mull) was the ancestral home of the chief of the Clan MacLean, which is the maiden name of Sir Sean Connery's mother.
Ronald Bass' original screenplay contained numerous additional spectacular action sequences involving Mac, including a robbery taking place onboard a moving luxury train, but Twentieth Century Fox balked, when the initial budget for this script was estimated at over one hundred thirty million dollars. The final movie excised many of Bass' envisioned super-action scenes (keeping a handful for the theatrical release) and came in at a final budget of seventy million dollars.
While Antoine Fuqua was briefly attached to direct, he wanted to increase the action sequences. Fuqua envisioned a rather large, epic scale car chase for the scene where Gin and Mac escape from the shady antiques dealer, and the climactic heist was to feature more high-tech gadgets and a much more intricate escape. Sir Sean Connery was not happy about Fuqua's plans for the movie. In a 1999 issue of Premiere Magazine, he said that Fuqua tried to turn the movie into The Rock (1996), which Connery believed wouldn't have worked for the movie.
In the original script, the climactic events were set to take place the minute that Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule. However, Director Jon Amiel preferred to use something more timely, so the Millennium Eve became the catalyst event.
The street, on which Sir Sean Connery is parked, waiting for Catherine Zeta-Jones to leave the antiques shop is the same one that Hagrid and Harry walk down in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone (2001) when they are heading for the Leaky Cauldron.
Malaysia objected to the depiction of their country as a backwards one, when a shantytown in Malacca was superimposed over a tilt shot of the Petronas Towers. In reality, Malacca is nowhere near the Towers.
Pudu Station, where the protagonists meet at the end, is in fact Bukit Jalil Station, with all of the signs changed. Bukit Jalil is a much more attractive station than Pudu, but too far from central Kuala Lumpur to be feasible for the plot.
Director Jon Amiel reports that in the scene in the market in Kuala Lumpur, when Gin is confronted by Hector Cruz, a large rat ran right by her head, and Catherine Zeta-Jones freaked out, abruptly ending the first take.
An early scene, in which Gin sneaks into Mac's hotel room, and leaves the Time Magazine on his bed, was deleted, but can be found (without audio) on the DVD. Director Jon Amiel said test audiences thought the scene unnecessarily delayed the first encounter between Gin and Mac.
Some of the information in Mac's file includes D.O.B. (August 21, 1937); P.O.B. (Edinburgh, Scotland); Citizen (U.K.); Height (6'3"); Weight (210 lbs.); Race (Caucasian); Hair (Brown - graying); Eyes (Brown). This is almost identical to Connery, with the only differences being D.O.B (August 25, 1930) and Height (6'2"). Mac's file also states; family (Age 5 - father died, age 12 - mother died, no known siblings); Marital Status (Widowed 1955, Camilla Charles); Languages Spoken (English, Mandarin, Japanese, French, Malay); and Military Service (Royal Marines 1956-1962, Commando Unit, Malaysian police). This is very similar to the character of James Bond. Family (Age 11 - both parents died, no siblings); Marital Status (Widowed in the book "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"); Degree in Oriental Languages, fluent in French; Military Service (Commander in the Royal Navy).
During the swiping of the mask, Sir Sean Connery tells Catherine Zeta-Jones that she has only seventy-five seconds left. In The Great Train Robbery (1978), Connery told Donald Sutherland that he had only seventy-five seconds to steal a key impression.
During Gin's (Catherine Zeta-Jones') breakdown of the intensive security measures she and Mac (Sir Sean Connery) will encounter in the millenium heist, Rolf Saxon is continuously shown throughout the sequence as the director of the millenium compliance testing. He was introduced in a similar fashion, as C.I.A. Analyst William Donloe when Tom Cruise conducts the breakdown of the C.I.A. break-in at Langley, Virginia in Mission: Impossible (1996).
Gin shows Mac the Petronas Towers proclaiming them as the "tallest buildings in the world." This was true as they were the tallest buildings in the world from their topping out in 2008 until being surpassed by the Taipei 101 tower in 2014. They are still the tallest twin towers in the world.
In Ving Rhames' following movie, Mission: Impossible II (2000), the main protagonist, American spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), recruits professional thief Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton) to recover a stolen item, later revealed to be an engineered virus. Sir Sean Connery (Mac) is famous for playing British Secret Agent James Bond, and Rolf Saxon (Director) played C.I.A. Analyst William Donloe. Ving Rhames played I.M.F. operative and computer specialist Luther Stickell in the Mission: Impossible film franchise.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
This movie had a different original ending with Gin, not being the thief for whom the F.B.I. were looking. The undercover assignment was a set-up by Hector, with help from Mac, Aaron Thibadeaux, and Conrad Greene. These three staged the whole thing, to frame Gin for the theft of the mask, and the eight billion dollars. Hector is revealed as the thief, and that he made a deal with Mac, to help him frame Gin, in exchange for his freedom after the F.B.I. arrested him.