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Trivia / Apollo 13

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The film:

  • Actor-Shared Background:
    • The real Jim Lovell appears as a captain at the end of the movie. The filmmakers originally thought it would be nice to make his character an admiral but Lovell insisted he be a captain as that was his final rank before retirement. In fact, Lovell was wearing his old uniform for the scene.
    • Although 19 years apart, Ken Mattingly (March 17, 1936) and Gary Sinise (March 17, 1955) were both born on Saint Patrick's Day.
  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Lovell's actual observation was, "Houston, we've had a problem." It is hard to tell the difference between the two phrases in the recording and Ron Howard states it was deliberately changed to present-tense "have" because the original quote of "had" implied that the problem was over.
  • Blooper:
    • Moments after the explosion (and after Haise returns from the LM), Lovell orders Swigert to seal the docking tunnel in case the LM was depressurizing. In the moment just before the audience sees Swigert giving up on the hatch, the audience can easily see one of the production cameras wedged inside the tunnel. It's arguably the only error in the film that might pull an audience member out of the otherworldly suspense.
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    • There's an editing error seconds before the craft has its accidents. Just before Jack reaches to stir the tanks, Sy Liebergot is seen looking at his monitor and reacting to something wrong on it. It can be see at around 30 seconds into this video. It's clearly a scene that should've been played after the accident and Sy's monitor beings to print out ratty data.
    • The tunnel was shown open as Jim was changing out of his spacesuit, just before they were going to dock with the LM.
    • Swigert's NO note actually is briefly visible a few moments BEFORE he is shown taping it to the button.
    • Looking carefully at the bottom leg of Lovell's moon suit during his dream of walking there, the gap of the suit costume to the boot, exposing his leg, is a bit too visible.
    • Lovell's dream shows him taking a few steps on the moon in a rather awkward-looking effect. Hanks makes up for this later in From the Earth to the Moon, where the moonwalk sequences are eerily realistic. Justified because Lovell never actually set foot on the Moon and had no actual experience with what it would feel like during the dream sequence.
  • Doing It for the Art: The research, period detail and accuracy were highly praised by the people who had been there.
    • Many of the makers, including Ron Howard, mention that part of their motivation for being so accurate was the likelihood that by the time of the next trip to the moon, most people who experienced the Apollo Program first-hand will have passed on, meaning that Apollo 13 may be the closest thing to a moon landing several generations get to see.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Many of the weightless scenes were filmed in actual weightlessness aboard NASA's venerable Vomit Comet, despite the fact that each zero-g run could only produce a few seconds of usable footagenote  while everyone was doped up to the gills on super powerful anti-nausea medication. Other scenes were filmed in one gravity, using camera tricks, on a sound stage that was chilled to 34 degrees Fahrenheit so the actors' breathing would fog visibly.
  • Enforced Method Acting: See above. Bill Paxton didn't have to pretend to shiver when Haise developed a fever; it really was that cold on the set.
  • Life Imitates Art:
    Ken Mattingly: They're gonna need all these systems, John!
    • Jack Swigert, in his hurry to get ready for the mission, has forgotten to file his income tax return. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Frank Poole is concerned with a financial issue that needs to be straightened up back on Earth, too.
  • Reality Subtext:
    • The last thing Jim tells Marilyn before the mission, "You can't live without me...", was, in fact, the first thing he said to her upon getting home.
    • During the TV broadcast, when Jack admits to having forgotten to file his 1040 return, EECOM (Clint Howard) jumps in with "That's no joke - they'll jump on him for that!" Clint had a history of trouble with the IRS.
  • Real-Life Relative: Ron Howard's brother Clint, as usual in Ron Howard movies. ("Gene, the Odyssey is dying.") Additionally, Howard's mother Jean plays Jim Lovell's mother Blanche, Howard's father Rance appears as the minister watching Apollo 13's splashdown from the Lovell house, and Howard's then fourteen-year-old daughter Bryce Dallas Howard is an extra in the scene in which the astronauts were visiting with family members and other well-wishers down the road from the launchpad on the night before liftoff.
    • Behind the scenes, associate producer Michael Bostick is the son of Jerry Bostick, the flight dynamics officer (FIDO) played by Ray McKinnon. The real Bostick also served as a technical advisor.
  • Technology Marches On:
    • Lampshaded when Jim Lovell shows off to some VIPs visiting Cape Canaveral "a computer that can fit inside a single room." NASA pioneered the first computers that could fit into spacecraft—the first microcomputers.
    • Ron Howard also makes sure to show the engineers in Mission Control busting out slide rules as they try to figure out what's happening. Artistic License here, as slide rules only multiply and divide. The action depicted was addition, as this website's fan pointed out.
    • The new instructions for the CO2 adapter and the powerup checklist were physically brought to flight control, and they were hand-written. They were read out to the flight crew. No e-mail or uploading here. By comparison, even the Skylab spacecraft just a few years later was equipped with a teleprinter to directly receive text documents.
  • Throw It In!:
    • Fred Haise's line "I could eat the ass out of a dead rhinoceros" was suggested by Gary Busey, who was visiting the set during filming.
    • After Jack Swigert admitted to not filing his taxes before leaving for the Moon, Clint Howard ad-libbed his follow-up line, "That's no joke. They'll jump on him!" (Clint Howard has a history of trouble with the IRS.)
    • Tom Hanks flubbed his line at one point while reeling off a huge list of numbers but managed to stay in character and do what an astronaut would do in the same situation: follow up with a correction ("One, six, seven-eight... uh, correction: that's one, six, seven POINT seven-eight...") Even better, given that he's asking the ground to check his math because he's not confident about it, it sounds right for the situation.
  • Uncredited Role: John Sayles was an uncredited script doctor for the screenplay.
  • What Could Have Been:

  • The argument scene involving the re-entry plan and the numbers for the LEM resources actually didn't happen, it was added for dramatic effect. Ditto the anger about Ken being bumped. They were naturally saddened about it, but Lovell didn't really complain about Jack as Hanks did onscreen.
  • The cracked wires that caused the explosion weren't actually a defect as the movie said; they were caused by an accident. The thermostat was wrong; the spacecraft had been slightly modified from earlier versions, and the tanks were originally intended for another spacecraft. When they were switched, the thermostat wasn't swapped out. It couldn't handle the current that went through it during ground testing, and there was also a problem with a crooked vent tube due to the tanks being dropped during the shift. This normally wasn't a big problem, because the liquid oxygen would just be burned off after the ground tests and refilled before the flight. During the burn-off, however, having the wrong thermostat resulted in the device being fused shut when the heat got too high, and the heat never went off like it should have. The heat climbed high enough to melt the coating on the wires, but as long as the tank was filled with liquid oxygen, it was too cold to cause a problem. By the time of the explosion, enough oxygen had been used to expose the wires and allow the spark.
  • At one point in the film, Fred Haise (played by Bill Paxton) wonders what the gender of his unborn child would be. It was a boy, Thomas J., born on July 6, 1970.
  • Although Fred Haise didn't fly in space again, he did fly the test space shuttle, Enterprise, during approach and landing tests. He later narrowly escaped dying when a vintage plane he was flying crashed and he was badly burned.
  • In the movie, Hanks's Lovell says that Alan Shephard's ear infection flared up again. In reality, it was just the opposite. Shepard got surgery for his Meniere's disease, and it was cured. He petitioned Deke Slayton for a moon mission and was assigned 13 along with Stu Roosa and Ed Mitchell. NASA rejected it, though, insisting that Lovell's crew take 13 and Shepard wait for 14 and get further training, due to Shepard having not even been in space since 1961. This account would be properly described in Hanks's later series, From The Earth to the Moon.
  • It's thought that the order not to make any more waste dumps was a miscommunication; that NASA actually intended for them to hold off only for a long enough time to get some readings, not the entire rest of the mission.
  • The Apollo 13 crew still holds the record for the furthest human beings have ever been from Earth, likely because they'd originally left the free-return trajectory earlier missions flew and their swing around the Moon was just to slingshot them home, not to land on it.
  • Aquarius's fuel cask was targeted so it would splash down somewhere in the Mariana Trench, one of the deepest ocean points on Earth, to avoid the radioactive fuel (used for one of their unused lunar experiments) landing near any populated areas.
  • The first two Moon crews were guaranteed later flights if their flights failed. 13 was the first one not to have that guarantee. This is alluded to in the scene where Lovell is giving a VIP tour of the Vertical Assembly Building at the Cape, and a senator (in a cameo by Roger Corman) is questioning why the government is still funding the Apollo program now that the Space Race has been won.
  • The conversation between Jim and Marilyn about changing the destination of their Easter vacation from Acapulco to the Moon really happened, but at a different date. The Lovell family had been planning to go on vacation for Christmas 1968, until Jim Lovell was assigned to the crew of Apollo 8, which was to orbit the Moon on Christmas Day.

The pinball machine:

  • Real Song Theme Tune: Aside from using James Horner's theme song for its main play, Apollo 13 uses Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" for its Jackpot theme.


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