Sir Sean Connery spent time underway aboard the U.S.S. Puffer (S.S.N. 652) preparing for his role. He was given Commander status, and allowed to give commands while underway (with the Captain beside him).
To help the audience quickly grasp which sub's interior they were seeing as the movie jumped from scene to scene and sub to sub, the filmmakers created a subtle lighting scheme: blue for Red October, green for the Alfa class "V.K. Konovalov", and red for Dallas.
After the release of Tom Clancy's novel "The Hunt for Red October", some members of Congress contacted the CIA, demanding to know why the Russians had invented a caterpillar drive before the U.S. Navy did. Although a result of good research, the caterpillar drive is pure fiction.
This movie starts out in Russian, then switches to English, in an early scene, as the political officer reads a passage from a book, which contains a quote from Robert Oppenheimer. The switch occurs on the word "Armageddon", which is the same in both languages, but pronounced differently.
The underwater model of the Red October has never been in the water. This effect was achieved using smoke on the "underwater" set and a few digital touch-ups. The sub was hung by twelve wires, from an overhead grid, which gave the ability to tilt and turn the model as needed.
The fighter crashing into the flight deck was stock footage of a F9F Panther test flight in 1951. This particular aircraft was piloted by official test pilot George Chamberlain Duncan (1917-1995). Duncan survived the crash with minor burns, and after a few months, he was back flying again.
During filming, several of the actors portraying U.S.S. Dallas crewmen took a cruise on a real submarine. To train for his role as the Dallas' commander, Scott Glenn was installed as a "co-commander" of the real sub. The real Commander ordered his crew to first give report to him, then give the same report to Glenn. Glenn was so impressed with the Commander, he basically played that man in this movie. Always giving orders in a calm quiet voice, even in tense situations.
Navy recruiters set up booths in some theater lobbies for people to sign up to join the service, or to at least look into it. The Pentagon hoped that this movie would do for the submarine service what Top Gun (1986) did for Naval aviation.
After being faxed the script, Sir Sean Connery initially turned the role down on the basis of the plot being unrealistic for the post-Cold War era. Whoever sent the fax neglected to include the foreword, explaining the movie as historical. Once he received the foreword, Connery accepted the role.
The scene where Jack Ryan is lowered onto the U.S.S. Dallas was filmed in the parking lot of the Mole Pier at Long Beach Naval Station on a beautiful sunny day. Editing made it look like it was the ocean.
Two of the submarine Captains in this movie have actual Navy experience. Sir Sean Connery was in the Royal Navy before becoming an actor. Scott Glenn spent three years in the United States Marine Corps, which falls under the Department of the Navy.
While under attack from the other Russian sub, Ramius asks Ryan which books he has written. Ryan describes one book about Admiral Halsey, to which Ramius replies "I know this book. Your conclusions were all wrong, Ryan. Halsey acted stupidly." No further explanation is given, but they are referring to the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944. The U.S. was about to invade the Phillipines and knew the Japanese Navy would counterattack, but didn't know where. Halsey's fleet was supposed to guard the northern approaches to the invasion beaches. The Japanese Navy sent a small fleet of their ships in one direction as a decoy. Halsey took the bait and sent his entire fleet after it, but without informing the rest of the U.S. Navy of what he was up to, leaving the north completely unguarded. (This action is what Ramius refers to when he says "Halsey acted stupidly.") The rest of the Japanese Navy was able to slip through unscathed and undetected. If not for the valiant action of destroyers and escort carriers, the Japanese fleet could have devastated the U.S. invasion fleet.
After consulting with the wardrobe and make-up departments behind John McTiernan's back, Sir Sean Connery arrived on-set for his first day of shoots with his hairpiece incorporating a ponytail. Several years later, once Connery's potential influence had greatly waned, McTiernan stated in an interview with Sight & Sound Magazine that he was "f---ing livid" with Connery, and that the Scottish actor tried to use his considerable heft with the studio, going over the director's head to pass the alteration with producers. It seemed as though Connery was to get his way until midway through the second day's shooting, when director of photography Jan De Bont started laughing while reviewing the dailies, remarking to Connery that his ponytail looked like "a limp, swinging d--k." This soon became a meme among the crew, and by the end of the second day, Connery was so upset at the mockery, he relented, having make-up remove the alteration and forcing the re-shoot of a key scene. McTiernan joked that the reported cost of the hairpiece, approximately $20,000, was mainly down to the cost of those subsequent re-shoots, and that the hair seen in the final movie was merely "a ten dollar bargain from a thrift shop."
The U.S. Naval Institute, a private nonprofit professional military association, located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has been publishing books and magazines related to naval strategy and maritime history since 1874. A copy of the Naval Institute's monthly magazine "Proceedings" is seen in Ryan's London apartment. In 1984, the U.S. Naval Institute published a work of fiction, for the first time in its history, Tom Clancy's novel "The Hunt for Red October".
When Ryan asks if the doors visible on the Red October could be used to launch an I.C.B.M. horizontally, Skip Styler responds with "Sure. Why would you want to?" This is not as unfeasible as it sounds. The UUM-44 SUBROC (SUBmarine ROCket), was a ballistic missile operational with the U.S. Navy at the time, specifically designed to be launched from a torpedo tube in order for the submarine to stay undetected for longer. The SUBROC, however, was a kiloton range anti-nuclear submarine depth charge, rather than a city levelling megaton range I.C.B.M. The size of the latter would bring with it significant additional technical challenges with limited gains, hence Skip's question.
Sir Sean Connery's conversation with Sam Neill in the Captain's quarters of the Red October has a similar feel as the conversation between Mr. Starbuck and Captain Ahab from Chapter 132 ("The Symphony") of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Ahab and Ramius both spent forty years at sea, and share the line "I widowed her the day I married her", concerning their wives.
During filming in 1989, the U.S.S. Houston, which doubled for the U.S.S. Dallas in the movie, snagged the tow cable between the commercial tugboat Barcona and a barge, sinking the tugboat ten miles off Long Beach, California. One crewman drowned, and two more were rescued.
Filming started in 1989, with the Cold War still in progress, but when it was released in 1990, the Soviet government announced that the Communist Party was no longer in charge of everything. Producers found this obstacle irrelevant, and went on with the release, but using a disclaimer, telling that the story takes place in 1984 (same year Tom Clancy's novel was published) during the Cold War.
For the purposes of filming the underwater model of the Red October, only the left side of the sub was detailed to appear as an authentic submarine. The effect of showing the right side of the boat was achieved by simply turning the frame and reversing the image.
Klaus Maria Brandauer was originally cast as Captain Marko Ramius, but broke his leg prior to filming. It was Brandauer who suggested his friend Sir Sean Connery for the role, having known him since they appeared in Never Say Never Again (1983). The same year this movie was released, they shared the screen in The Russia House (1990), another story set during the Cold War.
Several employees that designed and built submarines from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company (now known as Northrop/Grumman Newport News) were set design advisors for the submarine interiors on the Dallas and Red October. Some of the interiors actually contain real submarine items, mostly things like hatches, lights, et cetera, to add realism.
It is a manly movie: Gates McFadden with Louise Borras (as Jack Ryan's wife and daughter) and Denise E. James as a flight attendant have the only credited female speaking roles, and all of their dialogue scenes are over before the end of the opening credits. There is an uncredited female engineer speaking in the background at Skip Tyler's dry-dock, and another (non-speaking) flight attendant appears at the end, but apart from that, there are no other women in this movie.
John McTiernan replaced his original editor, Peter Zinner, because Zinner found McTiernan's shooting approach difficult with which to work, given his classical, more traditional movie background. However, Zinner has a bit part as a Soviet Admiral.
Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) and Captain Marko Ramius (Sir Sean Connery), despite being the protagonist and antagonist respectively, do not come face-to-face until over one hour and fifty minutes into this movie.
Two torpedoes are dropped from the air at the Red October. One from a Bear-Foxtrot bomber, and the other from a Seahawk helicopter. There was only one actual torpedo drop which was incorrectly reported here as: "filmed from two different angles for the attacks". By watching carefully, the two sequences, played at the same time, it can be easily seen that the splash pattern around the torpedo of the second sequence is just the mirror image of the first sequence.
This movie was released in March 1990, just as Major League Baseball was entering spring training. Lou Piniella and the rest of the Cincinnati Reds used this movie all season for motivation and swept the Oakland As in the World Series that October.
A U.S. Navy yard oiler was used to escort the sub at the beginning of the movie. It was in Long Beach, California, and the Red October was built to look like it submerged by using two articulated barges and flooding the front one while being towed.
John McTiernan was unable to direct Die Hard 2 (1990) due to schedule conflicts with filming this movie, but returned to the franchise to direct Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995). The motto of the U.S.S. Reuben James (F.F.G.-57) which appears and is mentioned by name is "Back With A Vengeance".
There was actually a fire aboard the flight deck of the real U.S.S. Enterprise. It occurred on January 14, 1969. The Enterprise was undergoing O.R.I. (Operational Readiness Inspections), prior to going to Vietnam. The fire took the lives of twenty-three men.
Jack Ryan mentions that he wrote a book about Admiral William F. Halsey. This is appropriate, as Ryan is also a Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, as shown in Patriot Games (1992).
The frigate shown when the Red October surfaces is not the real U.S.S. Reuben James, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate with hull number 57. U.S.S. Gary, hull number 51, portrayed Reuben James and also provided some of the engine room shots of Red October. The crew also participated on some scenes.
John McTiernan was unable to direct the sequel, Patriot Games (1992), because he was filming Medicine Man (1992) with Sir Sean Connery. This probably left McTiernan with a sense of being there before, as he was unable to direct Die Hard 2 (1990), due to working on The Hunt for Red October (1990).
Factual errors: The Typhoon is a N.A.T.O. designated name, so the Russians are unlikely to use it. The Russian name for the class is "Akula class". This is not to be confused with name "Akula class" that the N.A.T.O. used to designate the Russian Project 971 Shchuka-B class attack submarine. However, since this is a fictional movie based on a fictional novel, anything is possible.
The helicopter seen taking off from the flight deck of the U.S.S. Reuben James is a Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (Light) 43 (HSL-43) "Battlecats" Homeported at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California. For filming of this movie, a detachment was sent to, and operated out of, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, Washington.
When the U.S.S. Dallas first detects the Red October, sonar operator Petty Officer Jones (Courtney B. Vance) reports: "I'd say we had a boomer coming out of the barn. Could be a missile boat out of Polyarny." Both sentences are equivalent. The second sentence sounds different, obviously added later in case the audience did not understand the references to "boomer" and "barn".
Alec Baldwin stated that it was this role that effectively launched his big-time career. Although he had prior movie successes, most were in smaller roles or cult movies, and he was therefore a considerably lesser known actor before landing the role of Jack Ryan.
A brief, lightly digitally altered shot from it was used as a sight gag in an episode of the sitcom 30 Rock (2006), in which Alec Baldwin had a starring role. The premise of the joke was that Baldwin's character, Jack Donaghy, is trying to quell Tina Fey's character Liz Lemon's anxiety about hosting her own talk show for the first time. They perform a test with a high definition camera, which is unflattering or comical for most of the people who step in front of it: Lemon's minor facial flaws are severely exaggerated on the high-def monitor; downtrodden producer Pete appears to the camera as a naked man decades older than his actual age; and happy-go-lucky page Kenneth appears on the monitor as a Muppet. But Jack appears in high-def as a twenty-years-younger Alec Baldwin, thanks to several seconds of footage from this movie being broadcast on the monitor. To continue the "rock" theme, Sir Sean Connery also starred in The Rock (1996).
Mel Gibson, Michael Keaton, Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Val Kilmer, Bill Paxton, Patrick Swayze, Stephen Lang, Jeff Bridges, Ron Perlman, Richard Gere, Michael Nouri, and Christopher Lambert were considered to play Jack Ryan.
In the scene with the frigate "Ruben James", a second frigate was used during the filming. The U.S.S. Wadsworth (F.F.G.-9) was also used to depict the Ruben James. The Wadsworth's hull number 9 is clearly visible in a couple of scenes.
During the scene where Admiral Padorin receives the letter from Captain Ramius, he uses a cut-down sword as a letter opener. In the novel, it was stated to be his service knife, damaged while defending himself from a Nazi soldier after his gunboat sank.
When the Dallas is tracking the Red October, a Dallas crewman notes a "milliGal anomaly". At the time the movie was released this inadvertently revealed a classified US government program using gravity instruments aboard submarine as high-tech sensors. Gravimeters would enable subs to run silent, without sonar, if fully developed. The US government was thought to have spent close to a billion dollars on the gravity gradiometer project, run by Bell Aerospace. When the movie came out, Bell was forced to reveal the secret project. The technology ultimately was used in civilian projects, notably for oil exploration.
Besides the "title card" notice indicating that the story is set in November of 1984, the story is also dated by mention of "Premiere Chernenko". Konstantin Chernenko ascended to Soviet leadership in 1984, succeeding the recently deceased Yuri Andropov as the both General Secretary of the CPSU, and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Chernenko was himself seriously ill at the time of Andropov's death, reportedly struggling to read a eulogy at his predecessor's funeral. Chernenko died in March of 1985, meaning that his meeting with Admiral Padorin would have had to occur within that narrow time frame.
Gates McFadden only took the very small part of Cathy Ryan because she was told that in the sequel the role would be heavily expanded. This would come to pass in "Clear & Present Danger" but McFadden was replaced due to the fact that Alec Baldwin refused to reprise his role due to financial disagreements. Consequently, the producers wanted both characters played by new actors.
Tim Curry (Dr. Petrov) played the iconic evil clown "Pennywise" in Stephen King's It (1990). Coincidentally, Bill Skarsgård, the son of Stellan Skarsgård (Captain Tupolev) played Pennywise in It (2017) and It: Chapter Two (2019).
Gates McFadden is best known for her Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) role as a doctor aboard the fictional starship U.S.S. Enterprise. In this movie, she plays a doctor, whose husband is sent to the real U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Enterprise. The Captain of the Enterprise was played by Daniel Davis, who also appeared in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).
Captain Mancuso asks Sonarman Jones "How many Typhoons you got in the computer?" His reply is "6 , sir." This is true. Russia built and deployed only ( 6) Typhoon class submarines. A 7th was planned but never started as the USSR collapsed in 1989.
Typhoon class submarines were fully 25% bigger than their American counterparts, the "Ohio" class missile boats. As their missiles could be deployed from nearly anywhere in the world, both submarines had relatively simple jobs; put to sea and disappear. Typhoons were usually confined to activities in the Barents Sea. However, Ohio boats are well known to patrol into Russian waters, particularly the Baltic Sea which is fairly close to 3 major cities; Volgograd, St. Petersburg and Moscow, totalling nearly 20 million people.
"Lieutenant Commander Mike Hewitt" is the torpedo operator on the surface ship who calls out the range of the torpedo fired on the Red October, only for it to be remotely detonated by James Greer (James Earl Jones) just prior to impact. He is not referred to by name in the movie, but his character and the actor's name is listed in the credits. "Mike Hewitt" is a real person, although at the time of filming, he was Captain of the U.S.S. Fulton, a "sub-tender" ship stationed at the Naval Base in Groton, Connecticut). He was a technical advisor on this movie, and they gave his name to the character as a thank you.