In order to give Roselyn Sanchez the proper posture, director John McTiernan had her wear a fifty-pound bag of sand on the front of her belt, while at the same time, told her to imagine herself as a Las Vegas showgirl.
The reason John McTiernan didn't make another movie, for more than thirteen years, since Basic (2003), was because of numerous legal troubles, criminal charges, a felony conviction, and ultimately, his incarceration in Federal Prison Camp, Yankton until February 25, 2014. McTiernan served the remainder of his twelve-month prison sentence under house arrest at his ranch house in Wyoming, until April 4, 2014.
For John McTiernan, the movie satisfied all the definitions of a true thriller. He said: "Something potentially horrific happened to a group of people who have completely vanished, and you follow a couple of people who are trying to figure it out, and it just keeps getting more and more dangerous, until, eventually, the whole thing turns upside down, and nothing that you thought was going on, was actually true."
Producer Mike Medavoy's choice of director was John McTiernan which was based on the director's adept use of the camera as a narrative presence in his films. It was particularly apt for this story in which incidents are told and retold from differing points of view. McTiernan said: "In this kind of story, the camera has to be active and comment on what's going on. The approach and the angles change, depending on whose version of the story we're watching. A soldier who is a dumb innocent in his version, becomes the mastermind in another character's retelling of the story. So the narrative style, has to subtly shift every time. It's like you're moving deeper and deeper into the jungle, if you will. It all has to accelerate, intensify, and play at a higher voltage as you go forward."
James Vanderbilt said of this film's screenplay: "I always loved mysteries when I was a kid. I knew that someday I wanted to write one that had many twists, and had the audience guessing up until the last minute."
The film is book-ended with the music of Maurice Ravel's "Bolero". The first scene after the credits, and the film's closing shot, were both filmed in Panama during a rainstorm. Most of the movie, though, was filmed in Florida.
When John McTiernan was approached to direct, John Travolta had already been signed to portray the pivotal character of Tom Hardy, an ex-Ranger and DEA Agent, who has been suspended amidst allegations of taking bribes.
James Vanderbilt made good on the promise of a story with lots of twists and turns, said producer Mike Medavoy, Chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures. He said: "When I read the script for Basic (2003), I was captivated. It is packed with dark, Hitchcockian twists and turns. The story is told by several characters whose versions conflict with one another, which keeps the audience guessing as to what happened that day in the jungle, and why. It all leads up to a surprise ending that you never see coming."
Bradley J. Fischer, co-Executive Producer on this movie, and Vice-President of Production for Phoenix Pictures, brought James Vanderbilt's screenplay to Mike Medavoy, who said: "What really sets this story apart, is the way it builds on the twists and turns, of successful military movies. You think you're getting a typical military thriller like The General's Daughter (1999) or A Few Good Men (1992), and then it totally derails you . . . turns you on your ear. It's incredibly satisfying when, as an audience member, you're outsmarted, only to realize that the truth was in front of your eyes throughout the entire journey."
The events of the film take place on November 1 and 2, 1999; as evidenced by the opening title cards and the fact that the base is mentioned to be closing. Fort Clayton, where the movie takes place closed on December 31, 1999.
The main production company, producing this film, was Phoenix Pictures. Giovanni Ribisi, who plays Second Lieutenant Levi Kendall in this movie, later appeared in Flight of the Phoenix (2004). At least three crew members - First Assistant Director Julian Wall, Art Department Coordinator Bruce Bisbey, and Second Assistant Director Douglas Plasse - worked on both movies.
Basic (2003), and The Tailor of Panama (2001) are movies of intrigue, and both predominantly set in Panama, and include scenes in the region of the Panama Canal. Basic (2003) did a small amount of filming in Panama, whereas The Tailor of Panama (2001) did a much larger amount of filming there. At least five crew, and technician personnel, worked on both pictures.