Instead of using post-production CGI, the UI that the actors interacted with on various computers and machines was developed on a gaming engine, Unity, displayed on touch-based tablets and actually worked.
The bar room is inspired by the bar room from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980). In both films, the bartenders are dressed in red tuxedos, carry themselves in a sophisticated manner, have a strange friendship with the lead male, are not concerned with payment and are unable to leave. In addition, the primary light source in the bar and lounge shines from below rather than above. Finally, a variation on the iconic orange and red carpet design from Overlook Hotel hallways can be seen in the seating area.
According to a news article by The Hollywood Reporter, both leads will be pulling down double digit millions: Chris Pratt will be paid $12 Million while Jennifer Lawrence is looking at $20 Million against 30% of the profits.
The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2007 Blacklist, a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year. That version of the screenplay had a totally different ending (see below in the Spoilers section). Screenwriter Jon Spaihts's voice was used as the Autodoc voice in the final film.
Similar to the technique used in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), scenes where the characters had to walk inside the centrifuge were shot hamster-wheel style. The set spun underneath them as they stepped forward.
The Starship Avalon shares its name with the mythical location where King Arthur is taken to recover from his wounds - the place whence he would one day return. As such, the bartender Arthur is aptly named.
The story and screenplay for "Passengers" were developed at Keanu Reeves and Stephen Hamel's production company, Company Films. Reeves and Rachel McAdams were at one time attached to star, with Brian Kirk attached to direct. Hamel went on to produce the film in the end.
The bar's art deco design - a vast departure from the futuristic layout everywhere else on the ship - was an aesthetic choice based on a classic New York bar, intended to bring a feeling of familiarity to the film's audience.
In Jim's room you can see the brand sign (logo) of Village Roadshow Pictures as part of the decorations inside the room. Specifically, the stairway leading to his bed is vaguely in the shape of the logo.
The Avalon is similar in many ways to the Axiom in WALL·E (2008). The ships are designed to house and provide life support to thousands of humans and the interiors are also very similar. Both ships also have 'service bots'.
When Jim and Aurora first have a drink in the bar, the bartender--a robot or hologram--there's only the upper half of him, says, "I cried because I had no trousers, but then I saw I had no legs!" is a reference to an old folk saying, "I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet" - a caution to express gratitude, regardless of one's circumstances.
The information panel on Jim's hibernation pod, seen briefly at the beginning, says he's from Denver, Colorado (in a deleted scene, he tells Aurora himself that he's from Denver). In the scene where Jim makes Aurora guess who other passengers are, the two panels that are shown read: "Walter Crewe - Cardiff, Wales - Gardener" and "Madison Humphries - Santa Fe, New Mexico - Rancher".
The actress who played Aurora's unnamed best friend is named Aurora (Aurora Perrineau). In September 2018, the UK's Office for National Statistics reported that in 2017, Aurora had entered the list of top 100 girl baby names.
"Aurora" is also the name of a Kim Stanley Robinson novel, also featuring a female (if not always sympathetic) protagonist, a charismatic AI, realistic interstellar travel, hibernauts, and something going spectacularly wrong.
Composer Thomas Newman, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, and set decorator Gene Serdena received their latest Academy Award nominations for their work on this film (fourteenth, second, and second, respectively). None of them has won even once so far, however.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Regarding the ethical implications of the hero's choice early in the film, director Morten Tyldum said, "I think most of us, faced with the same choice, would have done the same thing. Making a movie that leaves people room to argue about what they would have done - or could have forgiven - makes for fascinating storytelling."
The third act of the movie is quite different from the original screenplay written by Jon Spaihts, in which a moribund Gus commits suicide by shooting himself into space, then Jim and Aurora have to contain the ship's damage. Jim never dies, but the 5,000 hibernation pods are ejected (Jim explains: "The hibernation system rebooted. It thinks the ship's in port. It's ejecting the empty pods." Aurora, horrified: "They're not empty"). In the final scene, the ship arrives in Homestead II 88 years later and Jim and Aurora's descendants come out of it.
Jennifer Lawrence claimed that she was extremely nervous performing her sex scene with Chris Pratt since it was not only her first sex scene, but the first time she had to kiss an actor who was married, and that she drank alcohol to fortify herself the day of filming the scene. (The claim that it was her first sex scene was actually untrue as she previously had sex scenes in Like Crazy (2011) with Anton Yelchin and Serena (2014) alongside Bradley Cooper.)
Jerry Sohl's 1956 short story "Death in Transit" features a ship captain who feels lonely a year into a ten-year voyage and wakes a passenger he selects by looking at her profile, deciding she would be the perfect companion for him during the journey.
The metallic model of a skyscraper that Jim makes for Aurora is a model of the Chrysler Building in New York City, completed in 1930. Earlier in the movie, Jim hears Aurora saying in her profile video, "Yeah, I'll miss New York City. Give me a cup of coffee and a view of the Chrysler Building, and I can write all day". By giving Aurora the model, Jim is giving her a "view" of the Chrysler building to write by. It also suggests that the building has survived into the distant future.
There are only four actors appearing in shot in almost the entire film (Andy Garcia, billed fifth, has approximately fifteen seconds of screen time, and no lines whatsoever). Despite this, the makeup department consisted of 9 people, including Chris Pratt's and Jennifer Lawrence's personal makeup artists and Pratt's hairstylist. Both Pratt and Lawrence also had personal costumers.
"Mostly Harmless", the last book in the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series by Douglas Adams, also describes the plight of an interstellar spaceship that's been damaged by meteors; its onboard malfunctioning computer; and how its crew and passengers, once awakened from stasis, deal with the situation.
After Jim wakes up, as he is checking himself out in the mirror, the background music is Bob Dylan singing "Like A Rolling Stone". A large stone is what crashed through the ship's shields and caused the damage that woke Jim up prematurely. Second, when Jim first enters the bar, the background music is Bobby Darin singing "Call Me Irresponsible". Jim was very irresponsible in opening Aurora's hibernation pod for his own sake, and he shared this secret with the bartender.