Initially estimated to have a 2007 release date, this film was abruptly green-lighted in mid-August 2004 for a 2005 release, when director Steven Spielberg and star Tom Cruise happened to become available when other projects stalled.
Director Trademark: [Steven Spielberg] [Music] score by John Williams.
During the filming of the underwater scenes (where the ferry capsizes) Steven Spielberg played a prank on Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning by playing the dramatic music from Jaws (also one of Spielberg’s films) through the massive underwater speakers on the sound stage.
According to an interview with Miranda Otto, she originally turned down the part offered by Steven Spielberg as she was newly pregnant. However, Spielberg wanted her to play the part and changed the script to incorporate her pregnancy into the role.
In the cellar, note the multi-colored lights just prior to the probe entering. This references the red, blue and green lights from the probe in the 1953 version of the film, The War of the Worlds, though no part of the probe in this film emits any of those colors.
When the aliens are investigating the junk in the basement, one of them plays with a bicycle wheel. This is tied to the original book when the main character observes that, with all the advanced technology the aliens possess, they don’t use any wheels, and wonders if the alien life form had skipped the invention of the wheel.
The race of invading aliens is never actually stated to be Martians. The word “alien” is never used in the whole movie either.
Some army troops used were from the 29th Division (Maryland Army National Guard), known as “The Blue and the Gray” from their yin-yang looking shoulder patch (visible when the day convoy went by the Ferrier’s and the son was getting splashed).
Some of the troops used in the military sequences are from the 10th Mountain Division.
There is a Jaws movie poster hanging on one of the walls in Ray’s house at the beginning of the film.
When Ray (Tom Cruise) first encounters the aliens, there is a street sign behind him displaying “Van Buren”. Van Buren was the surname of Ann Robinson’s character in the The War of the Worlds.
Gene Barry and Ann Robinson (from the 1953 original The War of the Worlds) play the Grandparents.
Tim Robbins’s line, “It’s not a war any more than it’s a war between men and maggots”, is a slightly modified quote from the original novel, substituting “maggots” for “ants”. The line was also used in the infamous 1939 Orson Welles radio broadcast. In addition, the news reporter’s line, “Once they begin to move, no more news comes out of that area”, is taken directly from The War of the Worlds. Also taken from the original film were the scenes with the probe examining the basement, followed by the inquisitive aliens. Tom Cruise chops the head off the probe with an axe, just as Gene Barry did in the original. Also, the shot of the dying alien’s arm coming down the ramp is a reference to a similar shot in the original film.
Tim Robbins’ character is a combination of three different characters from the H.G. Wells novel: is named Ogilvy after a friend to the Narrator; the Curate who gets trapped in the ruined house with the main character, and the Artilleryman, whose behavior and dialog is the main basis for the film’s character.
The lullaby sung by Rachel is “Hushabye Mountain” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
This is one of the first movies to show The United States Marine Corps new MARPAT digital camouflage uniforms, as well as the Interceptor body armor vests used by all branches of the US military.
The tripod design for the alien machines is based on H.G. Wells’ original description from his book, including the heat rays at the ends of arms. The “red weed” is also from the novel, as is the alien “need” for humans.
An actual out-of-use Boeing 747 was bought to be used as the crashed plane.
The movie was shipped to some theaters under the title “Uncle Sam” and to others under the name “Party in Fresno”.
The wide shot of the bridge exploding, followed by a tanker crashing into a group of houses as the minivan escapes, was conceived of, and shot, only one month prior to its footage premiering during the SuperBowl spot, effects ready and all.
Ray drives a rare 1966 Shelby Mustang GT-350H, black with gold stripes. 1,001 were produced in total, with around 800 being produced in the black and gold color scheme. Also known as the “Rent-A-Racer”, it was available for rent at Hertz for $17 per day and 17 cents per mile. An original example sold at auction in 2006 for $180,900, and since a crane driver would be unlikely to own such a valuable car, it is probably one of the many replicas which have subsequently been made, worth a fraction of that.
While filming in Bayonne, New Jersey, studio Paramount Pictures offered quick cash to residents who lived on First Street and Pointview Terrace to move their cars off the block, between a Tuesday and Friday. This was in order for the film crew to resume shooting.
The crew started filming only seven months prior to its release. In order to finish all 500+ CGI effects, Steven Spielberg did all the big action scenes in the early stages of shooting.
While scenes were being shot at the riverbank on Connecticut River in Windsor, Connecticut, two life-sized mannequins being used as extras had gotten free and drifted into the river. The production’s water-safety crew performed a search but weren’t able to recover the mannequins. Police departments along the river were notified of the missing mannequins, according to Windsor police Lt. Shannon Haynes, who said, “We just wanted them to know that if they got any calls about bodies floating in the river.”
The voiceover monologue from the first trailer for the film paraphrases and updates the first paragraph from H.G. Wells’s novel. For example, “19th century” is changed to “21st century”.
This is the third incarnation of The War of the Worlds story that Ann Robinson has appeared in, having played Sylvia Van Buren in the original 1953 film The War of the Worlds and then reprising her role for three episodes in the TV series, War of the Worlds.
Had a 72-day shooting schedule. This was the same amount of time used for Steven Spielberg’s previous movies, Schindler’s List and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
There were rumors of the movie’s title being changed to “Out of the Night”, but was thought to produce a negative fan reaction. The title was also believed to be used as an alias to keep unwanted people away from the set.
Steven Spielberg owns one of the last copies of the Orson Welles radio script, which he purchased at an auction. The director wanted to make the film years ago, but decided against it when Independence Day was released. However, the director wanted to work with Tom Cruise again after Minority Report and picked War of the Worlds as their next project.
When filming on a residential street in Howell, New Jersey, the actors took refuge in the garages of near-by homes for warmth.
Director Trademark: [Steven Spielberg] [rear-view mirror] important image seen in rear-view mirror.
While filming nearby, Tom Cruise, along with a 20-member entourage, including Steven Spielberg, visited a Lexington, Virginia, Dairy Queen. Cruise saw a jar on the counter with a photo of Ashley Flint and her story. Flint was in a go-cart accident a few months earlier, leaving her family with a mountain of hospital bills. Cruise put $5000 cash into the jar.
Tom Cruise’s sixth consecutive film to break the $100m barrier domestically since 2000 and his 13th movie to break that barrier in total.
There are very few panoramic images in this movie. Almost all shots, also during the tripod attacks, were filmed with the camera set at a person’s eye-sight. This manner of filming was influenced by the amateur footage of the terrorist attacks on New York City of 11 September 2001.
The “Ulla” war cry the Tripods made, was made with a didgeridoo and computer effects.
Shots that were seen in the trailer were not in the finished theatrical release. The most notable of these is named “camelot” for its ethereal lighting design where Robbie, Ray and Rachel encounter a roving battalion of tripods in a deserted Massachusetts neighborhood. They watch from behind a SUV as a tripod pulls people out of a building with its tentacles.
Rachel has a poster of The Saddle Club in her room.
WILHELM SCREAM: Near the end of the movie, an alien tripod ship comes crashing down and it, as well as rubble, crushes a soldier, the soldier screams.
The organism seen in the opening sequence is known as the Paramecium, being a unicellular pond water protozoan that is a eukaryote, shown complete with cilia, oral groove, macro nucleus and central vacuole.
One scene shows Ray running out of the house to find Robbie, while dozens of people are right outside his house photographing the lightning storm. To film the scene, producers hired people on the street to come to the street at the time of shooting with a camera and film so they could get pictures of Tom Cruise for free.
According to an interview George Lucas gave time.com (“A Conversation with George Lucas”, posted Tuesday, Mar. 14, 2006), War of the Worlds is the first movie where Steven Spielberg turned away from traditional storyboarding and used a Pre-Vis system. He also stated that he had introduced Spielberg to Pre-Vis on Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
After Ray and the kids reach dry land when the ferry is attacked and sunk, air raid sirens go off. On the day of extras casting in Athens, New York, the air raid sirens were tested, causing jokes among the extras that the Martians were coming too soon before the cameras.
Right before the Hudson Ferry scene, Ray and his children watch in horror as a locomotive speeds by on fire, and out of control. The train is part of the MTA Metro-North Railroad, which runs in New York, New Jersey, and Conneticut. It can be identified by the paint scheme on the side.
This is the first major motion picture to use real M1 Abrams tanks instead of other tanks dressed up to resemble them.
A segment of a scene early in the film, in which people are seen fleeing from a tripod (panic-stricken crowd running along a street while buildings are being destroyed by a tripod in the background), recreates the subject-matter of the painting “Panic in the Streets” by Geoff Taylor, a print of which was included in the booklet accompanying the 1978 release of “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds”.
The gun that the man puts to Ray’s head is a SIG-Sauer P226.