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Story Notes for Crimson Tide

Weeknights during prime time on AMC, you can catch Story Notes — real time trivia and facts about your favorite movies! Below is the online version of the Story Notes for Crimson Tide.

Award Note
Crimson Tide was nominated for a Best Sound and Best Sound Editing Oscar.

Biographical Note
Denzel Washington won his first Oscar for another military movie, 1989’s Glory.

Blooper Note
The Navy says a captain would never address his men in a rain storm like the one in the movie. That was added for dramatic effect.

Casting Notes
Gene Hackman had appeared in over 60 movies by the time he took this role in Crimson Tide. Screenwriter Michael Schiffer (Colors) wrote the part specifically with Hackman in mind.

Denzel Washington had just been in Philadelphia (1993). Producers said there weren’t many with his “acting firepower.”

Daniel von Bargen (Radchenko) plays George Costanza’s boss in four episodes of “Seinfeld” (1997-1998).

Viggo Mortensen was in five movies in 1995, including The Prophecy as Lucifer.

James Gandolfini was four years away from playing Tony Soprano in The Sopranos.

George Dzundza (Mr. Cob). He’s also been in Basic Instinct (1992) and Dangerous Minds (1995).

Matt Craven (Zimmer) plays the Secretary of the Navy on NCIS.

Steve Zahn (from the movie Sahara had just been in Reality Bites (1994).

Rocky Carroll plays Director Leon Vance on NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles.

Danny Nucci (Rivetti) appears in a season of Falcon Crest and in Titanic (1997).

Lillo Brancato, Jr. has appeared in A Bronx Tale and The Sopranos.

This is Ryan Phillippe’s first movie (he’s a background player).

Health Note
The Navy didn’t ban smoking on subs until 2011.

Historical Notes
In 1995, Russia was unstable and in the middle of fighting Chechen guerillas.

The USS Barbel (used in the movie) was decommissioned in 1989 and sunk for target practice in 2002.

Carl von Clausewitz was a 19th century Prussian military theorist and the author of On War.

Location Note
The flooding scene was shot in a swimming pool in Los Angeles.

Music Notes
“Eternal Father, Strong to Save” is a well-known Naval hymn.

“Nowhere To Run” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, 1965.

You can barely hear it, but at one point, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” plays in the background.

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, 1964.

Pop-Culture Notes
Crimson Tide (1995) is from the same team that made Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop 2, and Days of Thunder.

“Clear as a bell” is a pretty old saying. Shakespeare even used a variation of it in Much Ado About Nothing.

Some of the submarine footage was later reused in the Dolph Lundgren movie Agent Red (2000).

Press Notes
Variety says “This is a boy’s movie all the way.”

Time Out called this Gene Hackman’s “meatiest role” since he won an Oscar for Unforgiven (1992).

Quotation Notes
Director Tony Scott: “A fire on a submarine is the worst nightmare.”

Washington on his character’s emotion: “Everybody you know and love is probably going to be gone.”

The last 60 minutes of the movie is almost in real time. 60 minutes to launch, 60 minutes to the end credits.

Denzel Washington took this role so he would have an opportunity to “be in there jousting with a master.”

Clint Eastwood says Gene Hackman “can make an unsympathetic character sympathetic.”

Script Notes
Some scenes were added by Oscar winner Robert Towne (Chinatown) in an uncredited script rewrite.

An uncredited Quentin Tarantino wrote some scenes, after Scott directed his script True Romance.

The Navy didn’t like the idea of a mutiny, so they offered different plot suggestions to the filmmakers.

Set Notes
Director Tony Scott got shots of a sub submerging against the Navy’s wishes. They waited until a sub left the harbor and tailed it with cameras from a helicopter and boat.

Denzel Washington had been doing a lot of boxing before the movie. It was his idea to add the boxing montage.

The submarine set was built on a hydraulic lift that tilted the whole thing up to 30 degrees in any direction.

This submarine set was also used for scenes in Independence Day (1996).

Source Note
Crimson Tide isn’t based on real events, but the filmmakers say this situation could have happened.

Tech Note
The filmmakers blew up miniatures of subs underwater.

Trivia Notes
Border collies are the smartest dogs alive.

An ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) is a long-range missile with nuclear warheads that can travel over 5,000 km.

DEFCON’s range is between 1 and 5. The least severe is 5, the most severe is 1. DEFCON 4 means that the government strengthens its security measures and intelligence watches.

Submariners would never just drop down and do push-ups for an officer like they do in the movie. A real submariner explains: “That’s boot camp stuff.”

The weapons on the crew’s sub are 100 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

“Roll Tide” is the rally cry for the University of Alabama, also nicknamed the “Crimson Tide.”

The Alabama is in the biggest class of sub the U.S. has ever built. It’s 560 feet long and 6 stories tall.

To submerge, a submarine takes water on board to reach neutral buoyancy.

Luckily, actual subs are armed with automatic extinguishers to take care of flames.

A Navy report in 1987 discovered that 10% of submariners failed their fitness requirements. One of the only ways to exercise on a submarine is to literally run around the missiles.

Submariners have the highest divorce rate in the military.

EAMs would be sent digitally from the Pentagon in the event of a nuclear war. Submarines pick them up with a special antenna.

Nuclear subs can safely go to 1,500 feet below the surface. That’s five football fields.

The filmmakers worked with two technical advisors to make sure the submarine set was “excruciatingly accurate.”

It takes three keys turned by different people in different areas of the ship to launch a nuclear weapon.

Akula is Russian for “shark.” It is a real class of Russian nuclear submarine.

The Navy calls a submarine propeller a “screw.” It’s such a secretive piece of equipment that the Navy takes it off when a sub is above water.

“Zero bubble” means the sub is level in the water, so it’s not going up or down.

Communication with subs is hard because radio waves don’t travel well through salt water. A buoy would need to get just below the surface to receive a radio transmission.

Subs like the Alabama use a less reliable “passive” sonar because its transmission is very quiet. If two subs use “passive” sonar, they could both go undetected unless there was a loud noise.

As of 1995, no U.S. Trident submarine had ever been detected in the water by an enemy.

Some evasion devices use audio frequencies to mimic a sub and draw the torpedo away.

Missiles really do need time to prepare to launch. They’re warmed up by pumping in compressed gas.

According to Navy protocol, a message fragment doesn’t count as a real command.

Former sub captain and tech advisor Skip Beard says a real captain would have to be incapacitated or “go totally nuts” to be removed from command.

The chief of the boat is the highest ranking sailor on a sub who’s not an officer. He serves as an advisor to the captain.

600 yards is very close. In real combat a close fight is 10 miles.

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