In an interview with Movieline magazine, Barry Pepper said that the food provided on the set wasn't great and that John Travolta decided to summon his personal chef to the movie's Canada location to feed the cast and crew.
The investor, Intertainment, sued producer Franchise Pictures for fraud. Franchise claimed the budget was $75 million instead of the actual budget of $44 million. Franchise was ordered by the court to pay Intertainment $121.7 million in damages, and went bankrupt. Intertainment only financed the film because it came as a package deal with The Art of War (2000) and The Whole Nine Yards (2000).
John Travolta's contract had him take a large up-front pay cut from his usual fee, to around $10 million, with incentives that would have paid him about $15 million more when and if the movie met standards at the North American box office. Unfortunately, for him, it didn't.
Until I Know Who Killed Me (2007) exceeded their record by winning eight Razzies in 2008, this was tied with Showgirls (1995) for the most Golden Raspberry Award wins in a year: seven. While "Showgirls" received almost twice as many Razzie nominations, this film "won" in every single category in which it was nominated at the 2001 Awards. Forest Whitaker was the only nominee to escape without a Razzie (for Worst Supporting Actor; Barry Pepper won). This film also went on to win special Razzies for Worst Drama of Our First 25 Years (2005) and Worst Picture of the Decade (2010).
When the book was first written, John Travolta wanted to make the movie and star as Johnny Goodboy, the young hero; however, he could get no investors to back him because of the project's association with Scientology. By the time the movie was made he was too old to play the part of the hero and, instead, opted to play the part of the villain, Terl.
John Travolta's theatrical agency William Morris was also said to be unenthusiastic about the film, reportedly leading to Travolta threatening to leave them if they did not help him to set up the film.
There are similarities between what happens to Terl in L. Ron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth" and the imprisonment of Xenu that members of Hubbard's religion "Scientology" are taught about when they reach the level "OT III".
In a somewhat controversial means of promoting this film, star John Travolta made the usual publicity rounds but, instead of discussing the film in interviews, he signed copies of L. Ron Hubbard's book.
The initial version of the screenplay by J.D. Shapiro was less serious and a much looser adaptation of the original novel. The producers, and John Travolta in particular, wanted a more faithful version than Shapiro had written (in addition to more action scenes), and he soon left the project. Corey Mandell was then hired and delivered a screenplay much more along the lines of what the producers were asking for, and most of the advertising materials credited Mandell alone for the screenplay, although Shapiro was later awarded joint credit by the WGA.
The film was reported to have been the most expensive production shot in Canada up to that point. It was also reported that production costs would have been twice as high had the film been shot in the US.
It was Barry Pepper's idea that Johnnie insist that everyone eat after the prison fight. Originally, he was going to give food to his beaten opponent. Pepper felt the scene as originally written was cliched.
Originally, the film was going to be made in the early 1980s and was going to be made into two films with John Travolta playing Jonnie Goodboy Tyler and the first film was planned to be released in 1983. However, the project was canceled due to rising costs.