Two electric-powered Mini Coopers and one Mini Cooper S had to be specially built for the film, since gasoline-powered vehicles are not allowed to operate in Los Angeles' all-electric subway system for safety reasons.
In interviews, Jason Statham said that in addition to the stunt driving course they all received, he got two days' driving tuition from Damon Hill, the British ex-world champion Formula 1 driver. However, all of the cast members acknowledged that Charlize Theron was easily the best driver among them.
During production, Charlize Theron got two speeding tickets while driving in her own car, both for going more than 40 miles per hour over the speed limit. She said that after filming driving so fast, she just couldn't get her speed down to drive home.
Lyle (Seth Green) claims he was the creator of Napster, the first online file-sharing service for music, and that it was stolen by his college roommate, Shawn Fanning. In the flashback of Lyle sleeping and his roommate taking a disk out of the PC that has Napster on it, his roommate is portrayed by the real Shawn Fanning, the legitimate creator of Napster. When Fanning steals the disk in the scene, the bottom of a Metallica poster can be seen on the wall. Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich was famously a very vocal critic of Napster, and Metallica filed a lawsuit against the service for copyright infringement and racketeering.
The Metro tunnel set was so huge that it wouldn't fit in any soundstage in Los Angeles. It was built in the hangar where the first Space Shuttle was assembled. They used every inch available in that hangar.
Edward Norton made it clear that his participation in this film was a result of contractual obligation, not choice. He had signed a three-movie deal with Paramount, of which Primal Fear (1996), his breakthrough movie, was the first. He kept dismissing scripts for the other two films of the deal, until Paramount coerced him into accepting a role in this film. Norton did not hide his misery on the set, clashing with the crew throughout it, and when the producer handed out gifts to the cast over the movie's surprisingly strong box office performance, Norton returned the gift with a note stating "Give this to someone you actually like - or someone who actually likes you."
When the film performed surprisingly well at the box office, there were rumors of a sequel while the film was still showing in theaters. An early script had it set in Brazil and it was called "The Brazilian Job" with Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, and Seth Green attached to reprise their roles, but the sequel fell apart after key people at Paramount Pictures left by the end of 2004, and rough drafts of the script proved unsatisfactory. However, Wahlberg said as recently as 2015 that a sequel was still a possibility.
The principal actors in the movie did most of the stunt driving themselves. While all of the principals needed stunt driving lessons, Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def, who is from New York City, needed a little more work because he didn't have a driver's license at the onset of production.
A Mini Cooper with two steering wheels was used for some of the shooting, in order for a stunt driver to actually drive the car while one of the actors performed in front of the camera. This unusual car is now a part of the Mini factory tour in Cowley, Oxfordshire, England.
Paramount was generally happy with the film's box office performance on its first run but had the release expanded from only 64 screens to well over 1,400 of them in late August 2003 because it wanted the movie to cross the $100 million "blockbuster" mark; within a few weeks, the nine-figure mark was attained and Paramount then began scaling back the release for the rest of September, with it leaving theaters altogether by October.
The red Mini Cooper driven by Stella at the beginning of the film is a nod to the red Mini Coopers used in the original The Italian Job (1969). It is a vastly different model to the one featured in the original, though, being a late Rover-produced model made in the late-1990s, not an Austin Mini Cooper Mk1, as was used in the original film.
Filming on location posed some challenges. The opening heist sequence in Venice, Italy, was strictly monitored by the local authorities, due to the high speeds at which the boats were driven (which were over the legal speed limit). The frigid temperatures at Passo Fedaia, in the Italian Alps, created problems during production: "The guns would jam, and if you could imagine not being able to walk 40 feet with a bottle of water without it freezing, those are the conditions in which we had to work," F. Gary Gray remarked. Pedestrians had to be allowed to use the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard between takes. Also, scenes which took place on freeways and city streets, were only filmed on weekends.
After the crew have stolen the gold in Venice, and are discussing their shopping lists, Handsome Rob says he is going to buy an Aston Martin Vanquish. Although Steve has a Vanquish (The Green car in the courtyard of his house when Stella goes to repair the television), Handsome Rob actually drives an Aston Martin DB7 Volante at the end of the movie, an older and totally different car to the Vanquish.
Screenwriters Donna Powers and Wayne Powers hadn't seen the original The Italian Job (1969) before agreeing to write the script for the remake. After that, they only watched it once. This was on purpose, because they didn't want to copy the movie but wanted to make their own, albeit inspired by the original one.
The value of the stolen gold is repeatedly listed as $35 million. In 2003, when the film was released, gold prices ranged from around $320 to $420 per ounce. At an average price of $370 per ounce, $35 million in gold would weigh just shy of three tons at 5,912 pounds.
During the final chase scene, there are two parts where Stella's red Mini is absent. This is explained by the deleted scene in which Stella drives off to lead a police car away from the main chase, which is available on the DVD.
Mark Wahlberg's character is named Charlie Croker, the same as Sir Michael Caine's character in the original The Italian Job (1969). Charlize Theron's character Stella Bridger has the family name of Bridger, the same as Noël Coward's character in the original.
Though Donald Sutherland and Charlize Theron play father and daughter, they actually never filmed any scenes together. Their only scene together on screen is them talking on the phone, which was shot separately and edited together.
Kings Island (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Canada's Wonderland (Toronto, Ontario) opened "The Italian Job: Stunt Track" attraction in May 2005. Kings Dominion (Doswell, Virginia) added the ride in summer 2006. The ride is based on the chase sequence of the 2003 film. The ride is a heavily themed roller coaster, in which the coaster trains are scaled Mini Cooper S convertible models.
James Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade wrote the first draft of the original screenplay, a fairly faithful remake of the original The Italian Job (1969), with a prologue set in World War II, in which Charlie Croker's father tries and fails to recover the gold (tying the film in with Kelly's Heroes (1970), the other heist film of Troy Kennedy-Martin, who wrote the 1969 version). A new story was commissioned from writing team Donna Powers and Wayne Powers, that relocated most of the action to Los Angeles. Early posters and the trailer still credited Purvis and Wade as co-writers.
F. Gary Gray and cinematographer Wally Pfister worked together to develop a visual style for the film before production began. They viewed car commercials and magazine photographs, as well as chase sequences from The French Connection (1971), Ronin (1998), and The Bourne Identity (2002) as visual references. Pfister wanted "dark textures and undertones and strong contrast"; he collaborated with production designer Charlie Wood on the color palette, and the two would confer with Gray on their ideas.
The second unit, under director Alexander Witt and cinematographer Josh Bleibtreu, filmed establishing shots, the Venice Canal chase sequence, and the Los Angeles chase sequence over a period of 40 days.
The white Mini used in the film was custom painted "Pepper White" (off white) with a matching roof, which was not a color combination available for the car at the time. From 2001-04, you could only buy Minis with white roofs. It wasn't until 2005 that you could get a white, black or body-colored roof.
This was Wally Pfister's first experience using the Super 35 format since Paramount preferred that the film not be shot in the anamorphic format, despite his wishes to do so. However, F. Gary Gray still wanted a widescreen aspect ratio, just like the original, so they chose to shoot the film in the Super 35 format for a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
There was a ride available at Paramount Kings Island available to promote the film's release. But when Cedar Fair purchased the park from Paramount, the name was changed with a different title called the Backlot Stunt Coaster. The same thing happened with Top Gun, a roller coaster based on the Paramount film Top Gun (1986), at Carowinds.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Originally, the getaway was a much longer sequence, in which a bullet-wounded Handsome Rob reluctantly hands over the driving to Left Ear, despite the fact that Left Ear can't drive a stick shift. After narrowly avoiding pedestrians at the Staples Center, getting stuck in traffic in downtown Los Angeles, and driving into a shop window, Rob takes over the driving. Some footage from this sequence appears as deleted scenes on the DVD. There is also proof of this sequence still in the movie. At 1 hour 50 minutes and 32 seconds, you can see the spot of blood on the right sleeve of Handsome Rob's coat. Also, when he's turning the car back around, after taking out the second motorcycle, he's only using his left hand to steer.
After stealing the gold back from Steve, Handsome Rob buys an Aston Martin. After being released from prison in The Italian Job (1969), Charlie Croker (Sir Michael Caine) picks up an Aston Martin from a parking garage.
When Stella (Charlize Theron) is cracking the safe after the chase scene, she writes out the combination in grease pencil. The first two digits of the combination are 7-17, a nod to Donald Sutherland, who played her late father in the film, who was born on July 17th (7-17).