Director John McTiernan didn't make another movie after Basic for more than thirteen years. This was due to legal troubles related to illegally wiretapping a business associate and an ex-wife, which eventually led to 12 months of incarceration and the forced liquidation of his assets.
Director John McTiernan really enjoyed working with John Travolta and Connie Nielsen on the fight scene. McTiernan said of this: "Take two cats, get a nice, dark closet, throw them in, and slam the door closed."
In order to give Roselyn Sanchez the proper posture, Director John McTiernan had her wear a fifty-pound bag of sand on the front of her belt, while at the same time, told her to imagine herself as a Las Vegas showgirl.
For Director John McTiernan, the movie satisfied all the definitions of a true thriller. He said: "Something potentially horrific happened to a group of people who have completely vanished, and you follow a couple of people who are trying to figure it out, and it just keeps getting more and more dangerous, until, eventually, the whole thing turns upside down, and nothing that you thought was going on, was actually true."
James Vanderbilt said of this film's screenplay: "I always loved mysteries when I was a kid. I knew that someday I wanted to write one that had many twists, and had the audience guessing up until the last minute."
The events of this movie take place on November 1 and 2, 1999, as evidenced by the opening title cards and the fact that the base is mentioned to be closing. Fort Clayton, where the movie took place closed on December 31, 1999.
Producer Mike Medavoy's choice of director was John McTiernan, which was based on McTiernan's adept use of the camera as a narrative presence in his films. It was particularly apt for this story in which incidents are told and retold from differing points of view. McTiernan said: "In this kind of story, the camera has to be active and comment on what's going on. The approach and the angles change, depending on whose version of the story we're watching. A soldier, who is a dumb innocent in his version, becomes the mastermind in another character's retelling of the story. So the narrative style, has to subtly shift every time. It's like you're moving deeper and deeper into the jungle, if you will. It all has to accelerate, intensify, and play at a higher voltage as you go forward."
James Vanderbilt made good on the promise of a story with lots of twists and turns, said Producer Mike Medavoy, Chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures. He said: "When I read the script for Basic (2003), I was captivated. It is packed with dark, Hitchcockian twists and turns. The story is told by several characters whose versions conflict with one another, which keeps the audience guessing as to what happened that day in the jungle, and why. It all leads up to a surprise ending that you never see coming."
When John McTiernan was approached to direct, John Travolta had already been signed to portray the pivotal character of Tom Hardy, an ex-Ranger and D.E.A. Agent, who has been suspended amidst allegations of taking bribes.
The film is book-ended with the music of Maurice Ravel's "Bolero". The choice is not random. The piece, which is just under 16 minutes, begins sedately and slowly builds over time, adding more instruments as it goes. In this way it parallels the story of Basic, which also builds over time. As with the film, it continues to build in a certain direction, reaches an apex, and then suddenly it all falls apart, providing a surprise ending.
Co-Executive Producer Bradley J. Fischer and Vice-President of Production for Phoenix Pictures, brought James Vanderbilt's screenplay to Mike Medavoy, who said: "What really sets this story apart, is the way it builds on the twists and turns, of successful military movies. You think you're getting a typical military thriller, like The General's Daughter (1999) or A Few Good Men (1992), and then it totally derails you, turns you on your ear. It's incredibly satisfying when, as an audience member, you're outsmarted, only to realize that the truth was in front of your eyes throughout the entire journey."
Basic (2003), and The Tailor of Panama (2001) are movies of intrigue, and both predominantly set in Panama, and include scenes in the region of the Panama Canal. Basic (2003) did a small amount of filming in Panama, whereas The Tailor of Panama (2001) did a much larger amount of filming there. At least five crew, and technician personnel, worked on both pictures.
The main production company, producing this film, was Phoenix Pictures. Giovanni Ribisi, who plays Second Lieutenant Levi Kendall in this movie, later appeared in Flight of the Phoenix (2004). At least three crew members - First Assistant Director Julian Wall, Art Department Coordinator Bruce Bisbey, and Second Assistant Director Douglas Plasse - worked on both movies.
When John Travolta's character first comes onto the Army Base, he says in reference to his friend's not becoming a General "F--- 'em if they can't take a joke." Which is the same line he uses in Broken Arrow.