According to Director Brett Ratner, this movie was the first movie to be released in the U.S. featuring Jackie Chan in an English-speaking role without any kind of dubbing. According to Ratner, before this movie, Chan always had his voice dubbed over in his English-speaking roles because of his uncertainty in speaking the language. For this movie, however, Ratner convinced him to forgo the dubbing, as it would lend to the authenticity of his character.
Brett Ratner was a big fan of Jackie Chan's Hong Kong movies. He felt that American audiences would not be familiar with the jokes in Jackie's other movies, and deliberately re-used some of his gags. For example, the scene where Inspector Lee accidentally grabs Johnson's (Elizabeth Peña's) breasts is a reference to Jackie Chan's film Mr. Nice Guy (1997).
Chris Tucker improvised much of his dialogue, as he normally does in his movies. According to Director Brett Ratner, during the scene at Grauman's where Detective Carter bribes Stucky for information, there was so much improvisation between Chris Tucker and John Hawkes, that they almost did not think they could edit it together as a coherent conversation. There are still continuity errors in the dialogue for this reason.
Elizabeth Peña played a prank on Director Brett Ratner in which she appeared on the set wearing nothing but her character's bomb squad vest. According to Peña, she thought Ratner would laugh, but instead, he was extremely nervous and embarrassed.
After Carter (Chris Tucker) shoots down Clive's (Chris Penn's) car, he starts dancing like Michael Jackson. Three years following the release of this movie, Tucker appeared with Jackson in the music video of his song, "You Rock My World", as well as performing more Michael Jackson impressions in Rush Hour's sequels.
After filming and editing was completed, a rough test cut was shown to audiences, who demanded more Jackie Chan action scenes. The crew went back for a few more filming days and added in the scene where Chan fights multiple bad guys during the closing confrontation, and the giant vase scene.
The original casting choices for the roles that ended up being Lee and Carter were Chris Farley and Martin Lawrence, and many news reports connected Farley's not making this movie to his tragic death in December 1997. In fact, Farley and the production for the movie had decided a few years earlier not to work together on the movie, as they were already leaning towards the ultimate casting choice for the two leads (one Asian actor and one black actor); Farley's downward spiral in real-life covered roughly the same time period that this movie was made.
This film inspired the creation of the website Rotten Tomatoes. Site founder Senh Duong is a big Jackie Chan fan and built the website to collect reviews for all of Chan's Hong Kong as they were being released in the United States. He coded the site in two weeks putting it up shortly before the release of this film. Rotten Tomatoes is now one of the most notable sources for movie reviews and its Tomameter rating is used to judge a film's success and used in advertising and award promotions.
This movie is considered to be a remake of Red Heat (1988). Both movies are about tough foreign policemen who go to the United States and partner up with cocky American policemen to take on a crime lord from the tough foreign policeman's country.