The spray can that John Clark (Liev Schreiber) uses to cut through the chain-link fence is supposed to be a real-life CIA chemical spray known as "Ice Piss". When asked if a real can of Ice Piss could be acquired for the scene, the technical advisor said "I don't want to go to prison!"
Director Phil Alden Robinson changed the villains from Islamic extremists (in the novel) to Neo-Nazis. This was done because, prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, he did not believe Arab terrorists could plausibly accomplish all that was necessary for the plot to work on film. After 9/11, the production staff had to review how to present the movie to the public.
When Ben Affleck first arrived on the set, he told director Phil Alden Robinson, "Nice working with you again." Robinson said, "What do you mean 'again'?" Affleck explained that when Robinson was filming the scene in Boston's Fenway Park for Field of Dreams (1989), he and Matt Damon were amongst the thousands of extras.
The title is paraphrased from a Sir Winston Churchill speech; "Why, you can take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman, or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together, what do you get? The sum of their fears."
Real U.S. Marines, along with two Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, were used for the sequence of rescuing President Fowler (James Cromwell) from the wrecked motorcade. The mission conducted by the Marines in this scene, is what to expect when executing a T.R.A.P. (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and/or Personnel). T.R.A.P. missions are most likely to be assigned to a Marine Expeditionary Unit. All Phil Alden Robinson had to do was point at the overturned limo and say "The President is in that car!"
The nuclear bunker into which President Fowler (James Cromwell) and DCI William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) walk at the beginning of the movie is a real nuclear bunker. The scene was shot at a real bunker in Carp, Ontario. This bunker was designated as the one in which members of the Canadian government, including the Prime Minister, would be housed during a nuclear attack. The bunker was in operation from 1961 until the mid 1980s, and was known as the "Diefenbunker", in honor of former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who was Prime Minister during its initial construction.
During the opening, a nuclear bomb is shown being rolled out to be loaded onto an Israeli A-4 Skyhawk. However, the bomb designed for the scene could not be physically carried by the A-4, so the subsequent scenes of the plane had to have a CGI bomb attached in post-production.
This movie is a prequel to the others in the Jack Ryan film franchise. The Harrison Ford movies are direct follow-ups to The Hunt for Red October (1990), despite the re-casting of Alec Baldwin's role. Nevertheless, in this movie, we see Jack Ryan meet John Clark, something which also happened in Clear and Present Danger (1994). Therefore, this movie might be best understood as a reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise.
In the scene at the beginning, Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) and Mary Pat Foley (Lee Garlington) are talking about Elena Rhyzkov. Garlington played Dr. Elena Rhyzkov, who was working with Dr. Gunter Janek, in Sneakers (1992).
The facility on which they zoom in the satellite shot near the beginning of the movie is the actual Mt. Weather "continuity of government" bunker, which was constructed in the 1950s. The town of Frogtown, Virginia lies just to the west.
California property master Russell Bobbitt also played the Israeli pilot in the opening scene. The prop picture in his fighter plane is that of real-life daughter Jordan Lynn, and was chosen before he was cast as the pilot.
According to the DVD director's commentary, the brief scene of intimacy between Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) and Dr. Cathy Muller (Bridget Moynahan), where they are in bed and play footsie, ended up being one of the first scenes shot of the two together.
The U.S. aircraft carrier shown in the movie is CVN-74, the U.S.S. John C. Stennis, identified by the large white "74" on the side of the ship. The carrier was one used by Tom Clancy in his 1994 book Debt of Honor.
Dr. Elena Rhyzkov, a character mentioned in an early scene set in the CIA offices, was also a character in director Phil Alden Robinson's Sneakers (1992), in which Rhyzkov was played by Lee Garlington, who also appeared as Mary Pat Foley in this movie.
After having bought the 12-type fission bomb for $400 from the Arab digger (a nominal sum, for the digger's dead son rather than the "worthless" device), Olson e-mails his contact. On the television in the background, an episode of the BBC television series Antiques Roadshow (1997) is playing. This is a show that tours the U.K. (and occasionally other parts of the world) assessing and valuing items that the general public have found, just like the digger did, and often surprising people with their value.
The shot of the crippled aircraft carrier was originally intended to be an establishing shot before the attack. This explains why there is no crew visible, despite the fact that crew and pilots were seen racing for the fighters a few moments before.
The sequence where the aircraft carrier U.S.S. John C. Stennis (CVN-74) is attacked and crippled by Russian Tu-22 Backfire bombers with missiles, is a composite of at least two of Tom Clancy's novels. The overall sequence of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier being almost sunk by Backfire-launched missiles, is from "Red Storm Rising", though the aircraft carrier in question, was the U.S.S. Nimitz (CVN-68) rather than the Stennis. The Stennis, however, does appear and gets damaged in a later book, "Debt of Honor", although not to the extent shown in this movie. (As a side note, "Red Storm Rising" is one of Clancy's few novels not to be set in the Jack Ryan universe).
The Super Bowl scene takes place in Baltimore. The two teams playing in the game are portrayed by the Toronto Argonauts and the Montreal Alouettes. The Montreal Alouettes used to be known as the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League. The Baltimore Stallions were part of the failed American expansion of the CFL, and relocated to Montreal in 1996. However, the CFL doesn't recognize Baltimore's franchise history or records as part of Montreal's official team history, but that the Alouettes are a continuation of Montreal's continuing history with the CFL since 1946, with operations being suspended between 1987 until their return in 1996.
Jack's tickets to the White House Correspondents Dinner are held under the name John Clark. Clark is put on a plane under orders immediately after Jack is gifted the tickets, implying that before being put on assignment, Clark was expecting to attend the dinner himself.
In this film, James Cromwell plays the President of the United States. He played fictitious President Newman in The West Wing (2004), as well as real life U.S. Presidents Lyndon Johnson in RFK (2002) and George H.W. Bush in W. (2008).
Morgan Freeman worked with three Batmans in his career. In Clean and Sober (1988), he appeared with Michael Keaton, who played Batman in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). In this movie, he co-starred with Ben Affleck, who portrays Batman in the DC Extended Universe movies. He also co-starred as Lucius Fox alongside Christian Bale, who portrayed Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
(At around forty-four minutes) In a scene with his conspirators, Dressler (Sir Alan Bates) holds up a cigarette and says "I'm told these things can kill you." At the end of the movie, he is killed by a bomb triggered by his use of the cigarette lighter in his car to light a cigarette.
The film's climax takes place (partly) at the Super Bowl. Bridget Moynahan, who plays Kathy, was previously in a serious relationship with 6x Super Bowl champion, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Ben Affleck, a Boston native, is a vocal Patriots fan.